interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘FCC’

Responsibly against Internet Throttling *and* UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on February 3, 2011

or, Why David Eaves Is Wrong about Usage Based Billing

David Eaves is a smart guy. The problem is that there is so much misinformation about Usage Based Billing,  like so many others, he is terribly misinformed:

“One thing that has bothered me about these complaints is that they have generally come from people who also seem to oppose internet service providers throttling internet access. It’s unclear to me that you can have it both ways – you can’t (responsibly) be against both internet throttling and usage-based billing. “

—David Eaves, Why the CRTC was right on Usage-Based Billing

It’s understandable, really. UBB is difficult to understand, describe and explain. Because it’s so complex.
For instance, try explaining that Bell is a backbone carrier as well as an Internet service provider competing with their own wholesale customers.
It’s kind of like a song i heard when I was a kid, something about being your own grandpa….

First, the jargon is so new, much of it isn’t even in Wikipedia.

That’s one of the things I struggled to address when I started this blog. But it gets worse. Bell doesn’t use the words of jargon the same way other ISPs in other parts of the world do.

Let’s look at “throttling”:

The short version is that Bell’s version of “throttling” consists of deliberately impeding traffic, which actually artificially inflates bandwidth consumption. Worse, they use DPI to discriminate against specific traffic. When you add UBB to throttling, the result looks very much like fraud. Which is why the American ISP Comcast was slapped down by the FCC when they did it.

Understanding Bell Throttling, excerpt from C: Deep Packet Inspection

POLICING

Policing

Policing traffic above a certain rate simply consists of allowing dropped packets when there is Internet congestion. Using the infamously overused highway analogy, if there were two westbound lanes of traffic and the lead car in the fast lane has a blow-out and slams on the brakes and skids to a stop, the other cars in the fast lane can either rear-end this car or overflow the highway into the center ditch. Or both. The traffic in the slow lane just keeps moving along and none of it is lost.

So if the Internet truly is congested, some of it will go through fine but whatever doesn’t fit will simply be discarded, and become “lost” or “dropped” packets. The traffic that is not dropped moves as smoothly as ever. Without an acknowledgment of receipt, the dropped packets will eventually be resent when the recipient system places a “resend” request after the congestion has cleared up. Because this method of clearing up Internet congestion does not target any particular type of Internet traffic, it does not require the invasive deep packet inspection process.

Traffic Management: Forced Through A Bottleneck

Traffic Shaping or Throttling

The practice known as “Traffic Shaping” can also be called “throttling”.

Traffic Shaping is applied to Internet congestion by forcing all the traffic to slow down and conform to a certain speed by pushing it through a bottleneck.

In this process, no traffic is lost, it is simply delayed in a huge queue. Your computer’s packets will take longer to cross the Internet, and generally your computer will slow down its demands until the congestion is cleared. Revisiting the highway analogy, if we funnel four lanes of traffic into one, everyone gets to where they’re going, but the trip might take an hour instead of fifteen minutes.

This process called interchangeably Traffic Shaping or Throttling does not require the invasive Deep Packet Inspection process either, again for the same reason: it is not targeting a specific type of traffic, it slows down everything.

“ ‘Policing’ drops packets when a bandwidth threshold is exceeded, while ‘traffic shaping’ queues packets during high bandwidth use and releases them when bandwidth use reduces. No data is lost with ‘traffic shaping’. (Cisco, Comparing Traffic Policing and Traffic Shaping for Bandwidth Limiting)

‘Policing’ and ‘traffic shaping’ are protocol agnostic; all traffic is equally affected. Neither ‘policing’ nor ‘traffic shaping’ requires DPI.

Bell Canada’s throttling does neither.”

–Bob Jonkman, Sobac Microcomputer Services

What Bell Canada calls “throttling” is not the same thing as what the rest of the world calls “throttling”.

What Bell Canada means by “Throttling”

“ Bell uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to identify peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic (CRTC filing), and most likely the Bittorrent protocol in particular. Bell Canada uses Sandvine’s equipment for DPI and throttling. With throttling, a forged reset is sent to the client for a percentage of transmitted packets. The client needs to re-establish the connection, as well as re-transmit the lost data (Robb Topolski first discovered the use of forged reset packets). Since Bittorrent transmits as much data as it receives, the re-transmission costs are significant.

BELL Logo

In the US, this practice was ruled illegal by the FCC .

‘Policing’ and ‘Traffic Shaping’ sound like industry weasel words to make it sound like they’re doing a good thing. ‘Policing’, ‘traffic shaping’ and ‘throttling’ all degrade service for the party being policed, shaped or throttled. Of the three, Bell has chosen to use ‘throttling’, the technique that’s most disruptive to its customers.”

–Bob Jonkman, Sobac Microcomputer Services

RESET

Bell Canada gets to decide the fate of our packets.

In 2008 Bell Canada acquired Sandvine‘s Deep Packet Inspection equipment with the intention of charging their own customers for their bandwidth usage. Using the DPI process to peel back the packet layers, Bell Canada is able to acquire a lot of information from the packets that make up our Internet traffic. Unfortunately, DPI also shows the Carrier what the content is, unless the content is encrypted. If the content IS encrypted, DPI lets Bell Canada know it’s encrypted. Essentially Deep Packet Inspection gives Bell Canada the capability of reading any unencrypted packets we send across the Internet.

The original application of DPI was to allow Bell Canada to keep track of their customers’ bandwidth use. This necessarily requires information about both senders and recipients, because you can’t reasonably charge Usage Based Billing without knowing which customers used what amount of bandwidth. Bell Canada did not require permission to do this to their own retail customers, because the CRTC does not set Internet pricing. The CRTC allows the ISPs freedom to charge what they want, since the CRTC believes Canada enjoys competition. The idea here is that customers who are dissatisfied with the price or the service terms they are getting are able to change ISPs.

Interestingly enough, at the same time that Bell was busily “throttling” customers, it seems that Bell Canada had begun a new business enterprise: The Globe and Mail: Bell launches video download store. Although customers using Peer to Peer file sharing protocols for downloading were being throttled, it seems subscribers to Bell Canada’s own download service were not.

The problem began when Bell Canada took things too far. After deploying their Deep Packet Inspection package, it wasn’t long until Bell Canada took it a step further– Bell Canada began to use DPI to “throttle” their wholesale customers’ Internet traffic as well.

Congestion

Certainly there is congestion. If you were using a 15 year old computer you would find it much slower than the one you’re using now.

The Canadian Internet infrastructure seems to be rather like that. At the beginning, Bell infrastructure was state of the art. It isn’t state of the art any more. This isn’t because of anything Bell has done, it seems to be what Bell has not done. It’s the same infrastructure they had back then.

Is that the fault of consumers? No. We pay some of the highest Internet rates in the world.

Non-discriminatory traffic shaping (slowing everything down, rather than singling out the traffic you don’t like) is the accepted practice in parts of the world where citizen privacy and equality is valued. DPI is illegal in many parts of the world because of its capacity for abuse.

Artificial Scarcity

The Internet is NOT full. The technology is not getting more expensive. Far from being a genuinely scarce resource, technology is getting faster and storage capacity is increasing while costs drop. Had Bell upgraded the infrastructure to leading edge five years ago it would have much cost far more more than it would cost today. And it would only be half as good.

I remember when my sister’s 2 gigabyte hard drive was unimaginably large. Today you can get a 2 Terabyte drive for around $100 and a 2 GB flash drive is barely adequate for my kid’s school work.

Canadians have been paying inflated costs all along that more than pay for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, yet if there has been any of the latter I’ve not heard a peep about it. So long as the CRTC allows Bell to charge the customers of their competition UBB there certainly is no incentive for Bell to increase capacity.

People Don’t Understand Bandwidth

What is bandwidth? How much are you using? How can you reduce it?

The first thing to realize is that we are paying for our Internet connection. I pay TekSavvy, my ISP, the agreed rate. My ISP pays the Carrier, Bell, the agreed rate. UBB is an additional cost added to an already profit generating price structure. It over rides contracts.

When TekSavvy buys bandwidth from Bell, they have bandwidth they can redistribute at their discretion.

If you buy a basket of apples from a Farmer, and then give one apple to Tom, three apples to Dick, and 14 apples to Harry, the farmer can’t charge more because Harry took too many apples.

Yet one of the most persistent fallacies floating around is the idea of “bandwidth hogs.”

hogwash

Hogwash

Actual usage costs range from less than a Canadian penny a gigabyte to possibly as high as three cents/GB.

Yet the big telcos want to charge a range from one to five dollars per gigabyte.

The Independent ISPs have contracted for finite blocks of bandwidth. They pay Bell what they have contacted — prices set by Bell — to pay for these blocks of bandwidth. UBB is a bonus that will be paid to Bell in exchange for providing zero in additional value. Without, say, having to upgrade.

Ultimately, unlike paying for a glass of water, Canadians don’t even know what bandwidth is. The CRTC claims that they support choice. Yet when the Internet first opened up, Canadians chose not to get involved. Originally, the Internet was all Usage Based Billing all the time, charged by the minute. Aside from Technophiles and the rich, Canadians stayed offline. It wasn’t until we could get the Internet at flat rates that Canadians jumped on board with enthusiasm.

Even Bell can’t reliably offer more than a “range” of what some internet activity will actually cost.
There is no meter we can see. Right now I could walk outside and wade through the snow and write down the numbers on my hydro meter. The federal government guarantees the accuracy of the equipment.

Yet there is absolutely no oversight for UBB.
Bell could pull figures out of the air, and consumers have no recourse.
Nor does Bell actually undertake to deliver speeds that they claim to offer.

And the CRTC allows this, instead of looking out for the best interests of consumers.

It’s not over yet.

Regulating Canada into the last century will not help our digital economy survive in this one.
We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 13974 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.
Because Usage Based Billing will harm not only Canadians, but our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

Heritage Minister James Moore – email: Moore.J@parl.gc.ca

Industry Minister Tony Clement – email: Clemet1@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email: Harper.S@parl.gc.ca

After all, they work for us, don’t they?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The FCC, the CRTC and NetFlix

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 19, 2010

No Usage Based Billing

[Seems the Stop Usage Based Billing blog has been getting traffic from The Consumerist, so I put together the following comment to try and clear up/boil it down for their audience. Except it’s being held for moderation. Since its a nutshell version of the situation I thought I’d post it here whilst I get back to writing my 2010 !NaNoWriMo novel.]

The US has the FCC; in Canada we have the CRTC.

Our backbone telephone carrier Bell does the throttling here in Canada, (in much the same way Comcast “throttled” and got slapped down by your FCC. The difference here is that when Bell got caught throttling they were given *permission* to throttle from our CRTC.)

The same Bell has asked the CRTC for Usage Based Billing.

Thing is, the CRTC has said they can throttle, cap or UBB their own ISP customers as much as they like. And they are. They do it already. They don’t need CRTC permission to do that.

But, you see, Bell has been losing customers to the Independent ISPs (especially when these customers discover that Bell is throttling etc ) In Canada it is the Indie ISPs who have challenged Bell’s right to throttle. And who have been fighting for net neutrality.

The thing about both Bell’s Canadian throttling and UBB is that Bell is doing both to the customers of the Independent ISPs.

Because as well as being a backbone carrier, Bell also happens to be an ISP that competes with the Independent ISPs. (I think in the US this would be called an “anti-trust” issue.)

Bell had to ask the CRTC permission to charge UBB to their competitors customers.

Netflix logo
So Bell wants to charge UBB — an additional price structure — to the customers of the Independent ISPs. I thought this was unreasonable when I first learned about this and felt compelled to start this public service blog to try to raise awareness of the issue.

More than a year later I still can’t get my mind around the idea that Bell would even ask our government telecommunications regulator to charge Usage Based Billing to their competitors customers. This is just… inconceivable.

The most incredible thing is that the CRTC gave this permission.

Interesting that it happened just as Netflix rolled out in Canada.

Stop Usage Based Billing



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11344 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.
Because Usage Based Billing will harm not only Canadians, but our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

Heritage Minister James Moore – email: Moore.J@parl.gc.ca

Industry Minister Tony Clement – email: Clement1@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email: Harper.S@parl.gc.ca

After all, they work for us, don’t they?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

C: Deep Packet Inspection

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on October 28, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

[The First Part of this series was <<A: Open Source. The Second Part of this series was <<B: Packets and the Internet. Apologies for the protracted delay….I didn’t think this would be so difficult to write and get right… added to the breaking news of the spyware bill followed closely by the CRTC’s supposed Net Neutrality decision (which advised everything but) … needless to say getting this online took longer than planned. This is the third installment of my Stop Usage Based Billing alphabet series. The fourth part will be >>D: BitTorrent]

NOTE: There were some problems with the latter portion of this article that have been brought to my attention.  It seemed important to rework the ending for clarity, beginning at “A Piece of the Action“.   –llr

“Canadians are paying some of the highest costs for some of the lowest speeds. A small cabal of cable giants have been allowed to squeeze out competition and slow down innovation while dinging the consumer for third-rate service…

“The United States is enshrining net neutrality principles as a fundamental principle for economic restructuring. The Europeans are setting benchmarks for open access to high speed. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are giving the cable giants a free pass to gouge consumers.”

— Charlie Angus, New Democrat MP

what is Deep Packet Inspection?

Bell Canada is currently using Deep Packet Inspection or DPI equipment to “throttle” Canadian Internet use.  Explaining DPI in Canadian English is actually pretty difficult for a variety of reasons.

jargon

[Special thanks to Ed and Bob for explaining these terms well enough for me to get it.]

The newness of the technology added to the flexible use of jargon have erected barriers to understanding just what is going on. Since the jargon is not standardized the jargon doesn’t always mean the same thing.  Although Bell Canada utilizes words of jargon that are used elsewhere, Bell Canada assigns its very own “Bell Canada” meanings.   Whether this is deliberate or a simply happy accident, the upshot is that it makes it extraordinarily easy to be misled into thinking that Bell Canada means one thing when they are talking about something completely different.

POLICING

Policing

Policing traffic above a certain rate simply consists of allowing dropped packets when there is Internet congestion.  Using the infamously overused highway analogy, if there were two westbound lanes of traffic and the lead car in the fast lane has a blow-out and slams on the brakes and skids to a stop, the other cars in the fast lane can either rear-end this car or overflow the highway into the center ditch. Or both. The traffic in the slow lane just keeps moving along and none of it is lost.

So if the Internet truly is congested, some of it will go through fine but whatever doesn’t fit will simply be discarded, and become “lost” or “dropped” packets. The traffic that is not dropped moves as smoothly as ever. Without an acknowledgment of receipt, the dropped packets will eventually be resent when the recipient system places a “resend” request after the congestion has cleared up. Because this method of clearing up Internet congestion does not target any particular type of Internet traffic, it does not require the invasive deep packet inspection process.

Traffic Management: Forced Through A Bottleneck

Traffic Shaping or Throttling

The practice known as “Traffic Shaping” can also be called “throttling”.

Traffic Shaping is applied to Internet congestion by forcing all the traffic to slow down and conform to a certain speed by pushing it through a bottleneck.

In this process, no traffic is lost, it is simply delayed in a huge queue. Your computer’s packets will take longer to cross the Internet, and generally your computer will slow down its demands until the congestion is cleared. Revisiting the highway analogy, if we funnel four lanes of traffic into one, everyone gets to where they’re going, but the trip might take an hour instead of fifteen minutes.

This process called interchangably Traffic Shaping or Throttling does not require the invasive Deep Packet Inspection process either, again for the same reason: it is not targetting a specific type of traffic, it slows down everything.

“ ‘Policing’ drops packets when a bandwidth threshold is exceeded, while ‘traffic shaping’ queues packets during high bandwidth use and releases them when bandwidth use reduces. No data is lost with ‘traffic shaping’. (Cisco, Comparing Traffic Policing and Traffic Shaping for Bandwidth Limiting)

‘Policing’ and ‘traffic shaping’ are protocol agnostic; all traffic is equally affected. Neither ‘policing’ nor ‘traffic shaping’ requires DPI.

Bell Canada’s throttling does neither.”

–Bob Jonkman, Sobac Microcomputer Services

What Bell Canada calls “throttling” is not the same thing as what the rest of the world calls “throttling”.

What Bell Canada means by “Throttling”

“ Bell uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to identify peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic (CRTC filing), and most likely the Bittorrent protocol in particular. Bell Canada uses Sandvine’s equipment for DPI and throttling. With throttling, a forged reset is sent to the client for a percentage of transmitted packets. The client needs to re-establish the connection, as well as re-transmit the lost data (Robb Topolski first discovered the use of forged reset packets). Since Bittorrent transmits as much data as it receives, the re-transmission costs are significant.

BELL Logo

Bell Canada

In the US, this practice was ruled illegal by the FCC .

‘Policing’ and ‘Traffic Shaping’ sound like industry weasel words to make it sound like they’re doing a good thing. ‘Policing’, ‘traffic shaping’ and ‘throttling’ all degrade service for the party being policed, shaped or throttled. Of the three, Bell has chosen to use ‘throttling’, the technique that’s most disruptive to its customers.”

–Bob Jonkman, Sobac Microcomputer Services

In 2008 Bell Canada acquired Sandvine‘s Deep Packet Inspection equipment with the intention of charging their own customers for their bandwidth usage. Using the DPI process to peel back the packet layers, Bell Canada is able to acquire a lot of information from the packets that make up our Internet traffic. Unfortunately, DPI also shows the Carrier what the content is, unless the content is encrypted. If the content IS encrypted, DPI lets Bell Canada know it’s encrypted. Essentially Deep Packet Inspection gives Bell Canada the capability of reading any unencrypted packets we send across the Internet.

The original application of DPI was to allow Bell Canada to keep track of their customers’ bandwidth use. This necessarily requires information about both senders and recipients, because you can’t reasonably charge Usage Based Billing without knowing which customers used what amount of bandwidth. Bell Canada did not require permission to do this to their own retail customers, because the CRTC does not set Internet pricing. The CRTC allows the ISPs freedom to charge what they want, since the CRTC believes Canada enjoys competition. The idea here is that customers who are dissatisfied with the price or the service terms they are getting are able to change ISPs.

Interestingly enough, at the same time that Bell was busily “throttling” customers, it seems that Bell Canada had begun a new business enterprise: The Globe and Mail: Bell launches video download store. Although customers using Peer to Peer file sharing protocols for downloading were being throttled, it seems subscribers to Bell Canada’s own download service were not.

The problem began when Bell Canada took things too far. After deploying their Deep Packet Inspection package, it wasn’t long until Bell Canada took it a step further– Bell Canada began to use DPI to “throttle” their wholesale customers’ Internet traffic as well.

RESET

Bell Canada gets to decide the fate of our packets.

It is important to understand that the only reason Bell Canada offers wholesale bandwidth is because they have been compelled to do so by the Canadian Government. Left to their own devices, Bell Canada would never have done this, because these wholesale Customers compete directly with Bell’s own Sympatico Internet Service. But the Canadian government thought (and rightly so) that Canadians need the ability to access modern technology at reasonable prices if we are going to be able to successfully complete in the global economy. So the Canadian government opened the market to Independent Service providers who would access the Internet through Bell Canada’s Gateway Access Service (GAS).

It is also important to understand that the reason Canada has an existing infrastructure of Internet Carriers is because these Carriers were given both Canadian government protection and assistance to allow their establishment starting with the special act of the Canadian Parliament which incorporated Bell Canada in 1880. One of the key reasons Internet Carriers exist today are government granted easements which allow them to run their equipment and wires across privately held Canadian property– not just the property of their customers. Every Canadian landowner can refer to their deed to find the portion of their land which offers access to these and other utilities. It doesn’t matter if the property owner does not use these services, the Canadian Government has enforced these easements across Canada in the name of the public good.

When Bell Canada and the other Internet Carriers take the Independent ISPs to task for not running their own wires directly to customers’ homes, bear in mind that these Internet Carriers conveniently neglect to mention their own preferential status in the matter of easements. After all, the only reason they are in a position to offer Internet or phone service is because the Canadian government has graciously allowed their wires and equipment to occupy our soil, for the public good.

It is critical to understand that Bell Canada’s wholesale customers are Bell Sympatico’s direct competition, the Independent ISPs. These Independent ISPs purchase bulk blocks of bandwidth from Bell Canada then repackage and apportion out this bandwidth as they see fit in order to offer Internet Sevice to Canadian retail customers.

Bell Canada’s Secret “Throttling” Exposed

CRTC

CRTC

As I understand it, customer complaints about a sudden drop in efficiency first alerted the Independent ISPs that there was a serious problem with Canadian Internet service. The Independent ISPs investigation into the matter discovered that Bell Canada was interfering with their retail customer’s Internet traffic.

The concerned Independent ISPs took their complaint to the CRTC.

Having been caught in the act, Bell Canada admitted to “throttling” and I believe it was also the first time that Bell Canada came up with the excuse that they had to “throttle” customers because the Internet was congested. Bell Canada claimed that they were only “throttling” for the good of the Internet.

Because Bell Canada talked about “Traffic Shaping” and “throttling”, they gave the impression that they were simply following the standard network maintenance operating procedures described above. Bell Canada convinced the CRTC that there was too much traffic on the Internet, although to date have not offered proof of this allegation. Once Bell Canada had the CRTC convinced there was a problem, they explained that “throttling” was necessary in order to clear the congestion. Bell Canada was given the CRTC’s blessing to “throttle” Internet speeds by artificially slowing certain traffic during peak usage hours.

Does the CRTC believe whatever Bell Canada tells them?

Of course the practice Bell Canada calls “throttling” actually adds packets to the Internet, so instead of clearing congestion, it slows the traffic by adding to the congestion. Bell Canada neglected to mention any of this when they asked the CRTC to condone their practice.

If the CRTC doesn’t understand something technical, isn’t it their business to find out?

Bell Canada’s friends at the CRTC gave them permission to “throttle” the customers of the Independent ISPs who were in direct competition with Bell Sympatico. Since we know that Bell Canada’s kind of “throttling” doesn’t clear up Internet congestion, it adds to it, is this a sign of CRTC incompetence or just another indication of CRTC disregard for the rights of Canadian consumers?

License to Discriminate

Bell Canada has indicated that they aren’t going to “throttle” everything, just the heavy users (BitTorrent traffic from P2P sites). This is why Bell Canada needs to use Deep Packet Inspection, so they only interfere with specific Internet traffic that Bell Canada doesn’t like. The CRTC has given Bell Canada permission to discriminate against Canadians based on the contents of their Internet packets.

Adding injury to insult, CRTC gave permission to deliberately degrade the quality of the access these Canadian citizens are paying for. Bell Canada claims that this is necessary because these heavy users are using more than their fair share of Internet bandwidth. Never mind the fact that these Internet Users are paying for this access– in many cases these Internet users are paying a premium for a larger slice of bandwidth precisely because they are heavy users.

The Bell Video Store did not prove successful and has since gone out of business. However, the practice of “Throttling” can still be profitable since Bell Canada will still be able to charge Internet customers for the deliberately inflated bandwidth.

In order to achieve this legal discrimination, the Deep Packet Inspection software has to look inside the packets so Bell Canada can decide which packets to interfere with.

what about the issue of privacy?

“What would you think if you wrote a letter and it could be opened up by a postal or a courier service before it reaches its destination? What would you think if that happened to your online communication? It’s not necessarily a hypothetical question.”

–CRTC Public Consultation on Internet Traffic Management Practices, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The Privacy Commissioner’s question isn’t hypothetical anymore.

Bell Canada says that they need to use Deep Packet Inspection to identify the traffic they wish to throttle.

The CRTC has given Bell Canada permission to look inside the packets. Everything on the Internet is packed in packets. Every email, every instant message, every web page, every transaction we make is now available to Bell Canada scrutiny.

The CRTC doesn’t seem to think this is a bad thing. Of course, its my privacy they are putting at risk, and yours, not their own. Its easy for them to be magnanimous with my privacy.

“One issue that has been the focus of much debate is the use of deep packet inspection (DPI) to shape/control traffic. So, what is the privacy issue? Well, there is the potential for DPI technology to peek into an individual’s entire on-line activity, which may include sensitive personal information. When DPI is used, it is also seemingly “invisible” to individual users. It is important that we are made aware of DPI’s potential use to manage our activities on the Internet.”

–CRTC Public Consultation on Internet Traffic Management Practices, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

moneyI’m curious if the CRTC members would be so eager to pass out copies of their own personal house keys to the same Bell Canada employees who will have access to our Internet privacy. Oh, I’m sure that a clear majority of Bell Canada employees are completely ethical and wouldn’t dream of invading anyone’s privacy. It’s just the one that isn’t trustworthy that worries me.

Bell Canada is a corporation. A corporation does not have ethics, it has a bottom line.

Even if the people at the corporation’s helm may choose not to abuse this extraordinarily broad power today, their successors of tomorrow may not.

The CRTC may trust Bell Canada to behave ethically but I don’t. What’s more I shouldn’t have to since Bell Canada is not my ISP.

Bell Canada has no business peeking in my packets.

4I don’t have any business relationship with Bell Canada at all. I’m not even using Bell Canada telephone service anymore. I cancelled my Bell land line and switched to Teksavvy. If nothing else it’ll save me a bit of money which I can put toward future Internet use when Usage Based Billing is implemented.

Bell Canada’s only relationship to me is an arms length one: Bell Canada is merely the Internet Carrier — a utility company — to the Independent ISP where I get my Internet service. The electric company I get my power from doesn’t try to tell me what appliances I can run. They may suggest it would be better not to use an air conditioner on a hot day, but if I do they don’t slow down the current I receive or drop me off the grid. If all the electric customers choose to use their air conditioners anyway, the entire system might crash. But the electric company does not deliberately sabotage their customers.

In anticipation of the possibility of power power failure, the electric company has been constantly improving the way that they run the power grid over the years. The electric company doesn’t try to force their customers to slow down, they work hard to find ways to keep ahead of the demand. They are always searching for new ways of doing things that will allow them to continue to provide the valuable commodity they offer.

How can the CRTC give Bell Canada permission to bill non-customers?

5This is the big question that I just can’t get my head around. The Internet service I subscribe to is Teksavvy’s.  I do NOT subscribe to Bell Canada’s Sympatico service. Teksavvy is an independent ISP.   Teksavvy is Bell Sympatico’s direct competition.

First the CRTC gave Bell Canada the right to “throttle” me, even though I am not a Bell Canada customer. (How can they DO that?)

Now the CRTC is adding injury to insult by allowing the implementation of Usage Based Billing. The CRTC has given Bell Canada the right to charge me an additional sum of money for the exact same service I am currently paying for, even though I am not a Bell Canada customer.

The CRTC has actually given Bell Canada the right to interfere in my business relationship with a competitor.

What gives the CRTC the right to do this at all?

A Piece of the Action

3Maybe its time for the electric company to petition the CRTC for the right to institute an additional Internet fee structure specifically for Bell Canada.

Lets call it “A Piece of the Internet Action” billing.   The CRTC could simply order Bell Canada to pay half of their Internet Usage Based Billing windfall to the the electric company.   Since Bell Canada hasn’t actually done anything to earn the increased fees they will be charging courtesy of the CRTC’s largesse,  it should be no hardship for Bell Canada.  Since the CRTC wants to rejig the world of economics, this would give them expanded scope to inflict even more havock on the Canadian Economy.

Can the Internet run without electricity?  Certainly not.  Bell Canada’s Internet equipment doesn’t run on good wishes, it runs on electricity. Oh sure, Bell Canada is already paying for the electricity they use. (Just as we lowly customers are already paying for the Internet service we are getting.)   That shouldn’t stop the CRTC.   They see nothing wrong in allowing one company to bill another company’s customers; in comparison a  ruling like this would be seem logical.

This would be a way for Bell Canada to share the excessive profits they will make as an Internet utility with the Internet’s real Backbone Utility.  After all, without electricity there would be no Internet.

The CRTC’s approval of this “division of the spoils” type of billing would give the electric company a chance to step up to the plate for what clearly should be their cut.

Of course the simplest way to assess “A Piece of the Internet Action” billing would be to divide Bell Canada’s Internet profit column– lets say by a 50% split– down the middle.   It would be a simple matter for Bell Canada to cut a monthly check.   That’s not so much… after all the electricity utility makes the Internet possible.

Of course if Bell decides to ignore this CRTC ruling (as they have so many others), the best part is that the CRTC wouldn’t even have to do anything about it (the CRTC’s preferred course of action) because the electric company could just turn off  Bell Canada’s power until they made the required payments.

Since the CRTC finds it is reasonable to double fees without improving the service this would even fall within CRTC precedent. 

A Piece of the Action

How much Bell Canada equipment runs without electricity?

How much electricity does it take just to run the lights Bell Canada uses so their employees can work?

  • How much recording equipment does Bell Canada use (for monitoring their employee’s calls)?
  • How many Bell Canada computers Canada run on electricity?
  • How many servers?
  • Routers?
  • DSLAMs?
  • How many electric pencil sharpeners?
  • Coffee machines?
  • Refrigerators?
  • Microwaves?
  • Radios?
  • Air conditioners?
  • Signs?
  • Copiers?
  • Electric drills?
  • Vacuum cleaners?
  • Elevators?

How many Bell Canada employees would climb all the way to the top floor of the Bell Canada building if the electric company decided to cut off Bell Canada’s power and they couldn’t use the elevator?

Not because they’ve earned it, just because they want it.

6The point is that the electric company doesn’t have any more or less claim to additional funds for our Internet usage than Bell Canada does.

And the electric company is NOT demanding an entire new fee structure in the form of an additional Internet charges.

Because it makes no sense.

In exactly the same way that Usage Based Billing makes no sense.

I’m only a consumer, but I have some serious issues here. Deep Packet Inspection is at best dangerous, offering a whole catalogue of ways that the privacy and security of Canadians could be compromised.  If the object is truly to manage congestion DPI is unnecessary, because either Policing or real Traffic Shaping would do the job.  Government authorized discrimination against particular users engaging in perfectly legal access that they have paid for is— at best— apalling.

Canada has certainly come a long way since Pierre Trudeau famously insisted that:

“There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau

It seems Canadians no longer need to worry about  government invasion of privacy, we just need to worry about the corporations the CRTC allows to  invade our privacy.

(We won’t even think about the fact that Bell Canada is also interfering in Internet business by throttling encrypted Internet packets on the grounds that it might contain P2P traffic.  )

The best option available to Canadians seems to be the routine encryption of everything we do online.  I will start looking into encryption options, and I’d appreciate hearing any pro & con advice from users who have used encryption.

Of course, once we stsrt using encryption to protect our privacy, we KNOW Bell Canada will throttle our Internet traffic.

The part that is really really bad is the part where a corporation has been given the right to deploy this incredibly invasive technology.  Worse, this corporation has been given legal permission to use this means of  breaching of Canadian privacy with absolutely no oversight.    Bell Canada says they will only use this awesome power for good.

That isn’t good enough.



If you haven’t signed the petition, it’s available online at
http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
If you have signed, encourage other Canadian Internet users to sign. After all, Usage based Billing will affect all of us.
It’s up to 9139 signatures!

[….the next segment in the alphabet series will be D: BitTorrent]

Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



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FCC promises Americans Net Neutrality

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 21, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

The Christian Science Monitor was at the top of my Google “Net Neutrality” search. They kindly explained what the FCC is calling net neutrality:

1. Providers can’t favor their own content

If that was the law in Canada, it would mean that Bell Canada would not be able to throttle user’s download speeds so that users would have to use their download service.

2. Providers need to explain variable internet speeds

If that was the law in Canada, they would have to explain to their customers (and the CRTC) what Usage Based Billing was, BEFORE implementing it.

3. Providers can’t limit access to lawful content

If that was the law in Canada, heck, we don’t KNOW what the law in Canada is…. we’re still waiting for the copyright consultation results.

The FCC has stood up for Net Neutrality.

I am really happy for our American Cousins. Their government seems to listen to them.

Sadly, the CRTC doesn’t seem to be listening to Canadians.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
7948 signatures

(woo hoo!)

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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Psst… Pass It On: Stop Usage Based Billing

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 1, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

I’m nobody important.  I’m not a “Name” commentator.  I’m not an “expert” on the internet.  I’m only a member of the public.  A Canadian.  An individual.

Just a mom, with a blog.

Like you, I’m a member of the Canadian public that the CRTC believes does not matter. In granting the Bell Canada request for Usage Based Billing the CRTC casually dismissed the Canadian public– the very people they exist to serve– in one sentence:

Telecom Order CRTC 2009-484 – Ottawa, 12 August 2009 – Introduction

“2…. The Commission also received a large number of comments, mostly from individuals;
these submissions generally opposed the Bell companies’ applications.”
http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2009/2009-484.htm

Like most Canadians I didn’t know about Usage Based Billing, so I wasn’t one of the “nobodies” who posted the comments so cavalierly dismissed by the CRTC.

Some people in the Canadian computer community were in fact aware of the Usage Based Billing issue because American ISPs had been trying to get Usage Based Billing approved in the States. So pros and cons of Usage Based Billing had been discussed in technical forums, often alongside net neutrality. (Something else I’d never heard of.) But the FCC turned them down. So the Americans have provided a bona fide example of a telecommunications regulator actually operating for the public good. Huzzah!

None of those technical folks with their thumbs on the pulse of the internet were prepared for the sudden onset of Usage Based Billing. The first even THEY seemed to have heard of it was on the last day (the only day?) submissions were to be accepted by the CRTC.

Why don’t Canadians know that their internet costs will double in less than three months?

Strong and free?

Strong and free?


Because Usage Based Billing has not been in the news.  That’s the way the CRTC and Bell Canada want it.  The last thing they want is for ordinary people to find about about this.

They need to keep Canadians in the dark.

After all, CTV is ignoring it. The Globe and Mail is ignoring it. Of course Bell Canada is a very large shareholder in both of these news outlets. And of course the news media controlled by Rogers isn’t covering Usage Based Billing either. Coincidence? I think not.

The only coverage I’ve been able to find is some stories on CBC online, but the story apparently hasn’t been big enough to keep alive. But still, thank goodness for CBC, because their coverage has been better than nothing.

The big problem is that although most people who know about this are understandably annoyed:


Most Canadians still have not even heard of Usage Based Billing

The first time most Canadians will even find out about Usage Based Billing will be when they are suddenly hit with a huge bill.

The problem is, Usage Based Billing will have a huge impact on Canada.

Short term, it will cost us twice as much as we’ve been paying to go online. Which will make Canada far and away the most expensive place on earth to access the internet.

And we’re not talking about improved service. Canadian’s won’t get anything new or better for the privilege of paying twice as much.

The reason Bell Canada wants to introduce Usage Based Billing is to be able to inflate the take.
And incidentally kill off Bell Sympatico’s surprisingly robust competition.

The CRTC’s own website says:

“But the CRTC’s role in telecommunications is evolving. In many telecom markets, several consumer choices are available. This natural competition results in better prices and packages for consumers. In these cases, CRTC allows competition, not regulations, to drive the market. The CRTC regulates only where the market doesn’t meet the objectives of the Telecommunications Act. CRTC’s website http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/backgrnd/brochures/b29903.htm

Yet the CRTC’s approval of Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing does precisely the opposite of what they claim they do.

Usage Based Billing will directly harm the independant ISPs who purchase bandwidth wholesale through Bell Canada’s Gateway Access System. These ISPs have done a good job. They’ve brought competition into the Canadian marketplace in exactly the way they were supposed to. Because they offer great service and great deals, they have been getting customers. Maybe even customers who are dissatisfied with Bell Canada.

The introduction of Usage Based Billing means that all the people who have contracted for internet service through the independent ISPs will find our service providers can no longer meet the terms of the contract. The fledgling Independant ISPs will be hit badly. This will stun, stall or eliminate Bell Canada’s internet competition. Usage Based Billing is here because the CRTC used regulations to drive the market into the ground. Not for the benefit of Canada. But for the benefit of Bell Canada.

Bell Canada is a soulless corporation, and as such they are entitled to be greedy and desirous of making make twice as much money for the same service.

Usage Based Billing is NOT what the CRTC is mandated to do.

The CRTC exists expressly to regulate soulless telecommunication giants so they can’t double costs to Canadians for no reason beyond corporate greed.

Usage Based Billing will compromise or eliminate both access and affordability. The CRTC has no excuse for giving Bell Canada carte blanche to gouge the taxpayers they are supposed to represent. This CRTC regulation is in direct contravention of their own stated objectives of the Telecommunications Act.

This is what the CRTC is supposed to do on behalf of all us nobodies:

According to the CRTC’s own website, the CRTC is supposed to:

  • CRTC Mandate: ….ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public.
  • Broadcasting: ….ensures that all Canadians have access to a wide variety of high-quality Canadian programming….
  • Telecommunications ….ensures that Canadians receive reliable telephone and other telecommunications services, at affordable prices.

CRTC Website: About the CRTC

The CRTC is incompetent, or the CRTC is corrupt. It doesn’t really matter which because the result is the same.

The point is that they are not only NOT supposed to do harm to Canada the CRTC is supposed to protect Canadian interests.

And this ruling will unquestionably harm Canada. At minimum CRTC is not doing their job.

And this will harm Canada how?

The increased cost means that Canadians will be paying much more than citizens of other countries to access the internet.

The costs to Canada will include (but not be limited to) Canadians paying to:

  • receive spam in their email,
  • see advertisements on websites,
  • or to upgrade Windows.
  • Job seekers may not be able to access jobs requiring online response.
  • School web access will be underused as families may not be able to afford the bandwidth.
  • Grandmothers downloading photos may be forced to choose between internet access and dinner.
  • The people who can barely afford to get online now will find it much more difficult when the cost is so much higher.

Economic damage done to Canada, although more difficult to quantify, will happen nonetheless. For instance:

  • Research and development will not be undertaken by scientists, inventors and web developers because of exorbitant cost constraints not faced by scientists, inventors and web developers in other countries.
  • Many Canadian Arts start-ups will not happen because suddenly Canadian graphic designers, artists, musicians and writers will no longer be able to avail themselves of the low or no-cost internet that will still be available to the other artists, writers and musicians in the rest of the world. Without this means of promoting their work in the face of exorbitant internet charges, many budding talents will be lost to Canadian culture.
  • Canadian IT Businesses who have already invested in websites dependent on high traffic counts neccesary to generate advertising revenue may find themselves floundering and failing in the face of a drastically reduced Canadian customer base. The artists, writers and musicians who do manage to commission websites or contract with hosting sites, will still have a much harder time connecting with their potential audience because the audience will need to be more careful in how they use the internet due to exorbitant usage costs not faced by consumers in other countries.

This economic damage won’t just impact on internet users, it will impact on all of Canada. Economically. In the midst of a recession.

Since the news media isn’t reporting this, we need to spread the word because the word MUST spread.

The petition to http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/ has slowed to a trickle. I think most of the people who know about Usage Based Billing have already signed it. But it is still very important to get more signatures. Hitting the 10,000 mark would be a big enough story that the major news outlets would not be able to ignore it without losing credibility.

But in the mean time, since the major news outlets aren’t telling anyone, WE must be the ones to pass it on.   It’s time for us nobodies to reach out and touch someone.  Individually none of us have the reach to spread the news to very many people at all. But if we all took the time to tell just a few people, the story would get around.

Write a letter to your Member of Parliament.   If you don’t know who that is, you can find out at :Members of Parliament. Snail mail to elected officials is still free.

If anyone needs to borrow bits from the Stop Usage Based Billing blog to use in any letters, everything in this blog is in the public domain. So feel free to help yourself if any of what I’ve written will help. Also, the UBB Glossary is pretty good reference material.

Another way ordinary Canadians can tell total strangers about Usage Based Billing is through writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Smaller newspapers, even free ones have an audience. Even if it doesn’t get published, at least somebody will read it. And if they don’t publish, you can always send it along here and I will publish it.)

I’ve signed up with Identi.ca where I’m starting a StopUBB group at http://identi.ca/group/subb

Canadians need to find out about this before the damage is done.   Do what you can.

So please, pass it on!


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