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Posts Tagged ‘Net Neutrality’

President Obama Tells FCC Chairman He Expects Real Net Neutrality

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on October 10, 2014

American Flag

WASHINGTON — During a question-and-answer session in Santa Monica, Calif., on Thursday, President Barack Obama voiced his strong support for Net Neutrality and his opposition to the sort of pay-for-priority plan put forward by his appointed chair to the Federal Communications Commission. The remarks were the strongest statement yet from the president against the FCC’s current proposal, which 99 percent of those who submitted public comments to the agency oppose.

“I made a commitment very early on that I am unequivocally committed to Net Neutrality,” Obama said to applause from the audience. “I think it is what has unleashed the power of the Internet, and we don’t want to lose that or clog up the pipes.

“I know that one of the things people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that somehow some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers through the Internet: That is something I’m opposed to.

“My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position. I can’t — now that he’s there — I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect that whatever final rules emerge, to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine.”

Obama’s position clearly contradicts Wheeler’s proposal, which would allow Internet access providers to favor the content of a few wealthy companies over other websites and services. More than 3.7 million people have commented on the issue at the FCC, with the vast majority rejecting Wheeler’s plan and calling on the agency to implement real Net Neutrality rules that would prevent Internet service providers from interfering with online content.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“President Obama made a clear and unmistakable call for real Net Neutrality. Now Chairman Wheeler must answer. And the only way to accomplish the president’s goals and meet the public’s demands is by restoring the FCC’s authority under Title II of the Communications Act.

“Title II is what we need, not another convoluted compromise or not-so-clever scheme that will never survive a court challenge. Title II is the only way to prevent the sort of discrimination and tiered Internet the president warned us about. Yet thus far Wheeler seems afraid to take this essential step, favoring an approach that would clearly encourage online discrimination and strand startups, small businesses and everyday Internet users in the slow lane.

“There’s no doubt that Wheeler has lost political support for his proposal. He is opposed by the president, leaders in Congress and millions and millions of Americans. It’s time for Wheeler to abandon his plan and commit to using the agency’s Title II authority to protect real Net Neutrality.”



President Obama Tells FCC Chairman He Expects Real Net Neutrality” is reprinted here under the Free Press Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike license ~ Contact Info: Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838



American, Canadian and British Flags fly over the Walper Hotel, Kitchener, Ontario

Does the American Flag fly over the whole world?

Although I didn’t even know what “Net Neutrality” meant when I began this blog, it is the reason I began this blog. Even though I am not myself a tech person, I am very much aware of the importance of technology in modern life. And the importance of the Internet is incalculable.

The United States has assumed credit for and asserted ownership and legal oversight for the Internet.

The governments of the rest of the world have accepted this by sutting on their hands, effectively disenfrancising most of the world’s citizens from any say in the governance of this thing that affects us all, whether or not we even use the Internet.

Does the United States of America have a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” ?

How is it possible for a regulatory body like the FCC to ignore 99% feedback of the population? If the United States was an actual democracy, this should not be able to happen.

This press release makes much of President Obama’s claims of support for Net Neutrality. Does he really? Oh, he says he does. but does he really? He has been saying this for quite some time. Why is this debate still going on if that is true? Obama appointed the FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler. Why would President Obama appoint anyone who did not supprt Net Neutrality if he himself actually supports Net Neutrality? That makes zero sense to me.

People say that the office of the President of the United States is the most powerful job in the world. But is it? In a democracy, I would expect the holder of the office would derive his power from the backing of the citizens who gave him the job. What I have to wonder why the President’s wishes should be more important than those of the majority of the citizens?

If it is the most powerful job, why isn’t he actually doing what 99% of the citizens want?

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EU: Public Consultation on “Open Internet”

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on October 11, 2012

Network neutrality (also net neutrality, Internet neutrality) is a principle that advocates government regulation of Internet service providers[1], preventing ISPs from restricting consumers’ access to networks that participate in the Internet. Specifically, network neutrality would prevent restrictions on content, sites, platforms, types of equipment that may be attached, and modes of communication. Network owners can’t interfere with content, applications, services, and devices of users’ choice and remains open to all users and uses.[2][3][4]

Wikipedia, Network Neutrality

Here in Canada I first became aware of the idea of Net Neutrality when I began the StopUBB blog. Because I believe in free speech, I oppose censorship, and since the Internet has become so terribly important to us all, we all need to be able to access it.   Net Neutrality seems like a no-brainer to me, but those who want to harvest the Internet don’t agree.

Canadians have not been well served by out telecom regulator, CRTC, which blithely granted permission to the legacy carrier, Bell, to utilize Deep Packet Inspection without even a pretence of oversight.  Although our Canadian Privacy Commissioner warned about it, but most people didn’t hear about it, or understand it.  Most of us still don’t realize that everything Canadians post to the Internet was legally opened to the scrutiny of a private corporation when the CRTC essentially handed Bell the keys to our online privacy.

This ruling gave Bell the legal wherewithal to use its technical DPI capability to look at everything we put online that is not encrypted.

That means they can read our unencrypted email.  Bell employees with access can look at the DMs we send on Twitter or Identica, or what we believe to be “private chats” on Facebook or forums.  They can peruse the “private” baby pictures we post to Flickr, or home movies we post on YouTube, even when set as “private”.

Most of us don’t use encryption because we don’t know how and/or we don’t understand why it’s necessary.

EU Public Consultation

Currently the EU is looking at ISPs and Net Neutrality, by holding a public consultation.  Just to see, I took a look at it, and discovered that the questionaire was huge.  Cumbersome.  It asks the same kinds of questions over and over again, possibly in an effort to get people to eventually provide the desired answers.

Or perhaps the goal is to reduce the number of responses that will have to be dealt with.  If people start the thing but leave half the answers blank, there will be a lot of room to fiddle with the results.

In some ways, it looks very much as though this questionaire is really an instrument of propaganda.  It utilizes biased phraseology and presupposes consumer privacy invasion is both necessary and beneficial.  The questions posed don’t exactly support “Net Neutrality” or an “Open Internet.”

Just Do It!

Everyone in the EU has an opportunity to submit their own answers to this consultation.

If you live in the EU, I very much urge you to fill in this questionaire, so you don’t end up under a regime like ours.

It seems I have a pretty good grounding in all of this, so I thought I would share my answers with you here.  Since I have this blog licensed directly into the Public Domain, please feel free to make use of any of my answers that may help you fill this epic out.

Public consultation on specific aspects of transparency, traffic management and switching in an Open Internet

Questionnaire on one page

Question 1:

a) Please provide a brief description of your interest in open Internet issues.

Answer:  Free speech and a free exchange of ideas is important both for healthy culture and democracy. the protection of privacy, including anonymity is also important for the security of citizens.

b) Please provide your name, postal and e-mail address and if you wish, your telephone number for any questions on your contribution.

[On this I used my name and email address; all you need do is include your own name]

c) In which Member State(s) do you live?

Answer:  Canada … not a member state; but Canada has already started down the slippery slope and I hope to warn the UK against this dreadful error

Does your answer to this question (a,b or c) contain confidential information?

Answer: No

1. Traffic management

Question 2:

Please provide your views on the following ways/situations where traffic management may be applied by ISPs.

Are traffic management measures:

a) applied to deliver managed services (e.g. to ensure a guaranteed quality of service for a specific content/applications)

Answer:  problematic
If this means interfering with other packet traffic to give preferential treatment to some, it is wrong.

b) taking into account the sensitivity of the service to delay or packet loss

Answer: problematic
Neutrality means that all Internet traffic is treated neutralluy … equally. Preferential treatment is inappropriate.

c) used to implement or manage compliance with the explicit contractual restrictions (e.g. on P2P or VoIP) of the Internet access product accepted by the user

Answer: problematic
Contractual agreements between users and 3rd party services are simply none of the ISPs business. If the ISP is providing such services it ought to fall under conflict of interest.

d) targeting types/classes of traffic contributing most to congestion

Answer: problematic
This is not net neutrality, this is the carrier choosing which customers/traffic to discriminate against.

e) targeting heavy users whose use is excessive to the extent that it impacts on other users

Answer: problematic
If heavy users use is impacting on Internet service, the ISP needs to invest in infrastructure. No discriminatory traffic management processes are appropririate. Until the ISP improves the infrastructure, the only appropriate response would be across the board slow downs.

f) applied during busy times and places, when and where congestion occurs

Answer: problematic

This appears to continue the theme of targetting specific Internet traffic.   When and where congestion *actually* appears (not where the ISP alleges it will appear) in conjunction with g) affecting ALL applications/content providers in the same way (application-agnostic) would be acceptable. Targetting specific traffic is always inappropriate.

g) affecting all applications/content providers in the same way (application-agnostic)

Answer: Appropriate

All Internet traffic should be treated equally. (application-agnostic)

h) affecting (similar) applications/content providers of the same category in the same way

Answer: problematic

all traffic should be treated equally

i) used, without other grounds, against services competing with the ISP’s own services

Answer: problematic

Are you serious? Is an explanation actually required to explain that ISPs should not be allowed to discriminate against its competitors? See: Conflict of Interest, Anti-Trust

j) implemented at the full discretion of the ISP

Answer: problematic

Full discretion of the ISP is legally far too both broad and far too dangerous. What about human rights? Human Rights don’t just stop because we’re on the Internet.

k) other differentiation criteria (please specify)

Answer: The very same human rights citizens enjoy in the real world should be enjoyed on the Internet. Citizen privacy should never be legally breached without a warrant, certainly not by a wholly unaccountable corporate entity or quasi governmental service.

Real Net Neutrality means ISP accountability.

Does your answer to this question (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j or k) contain confidential information?

Answer: No

1.2 Traffic management and privacy issues

Question 3:

Where the user’s consent is required for traffic management measures, particularly where such measures might entail access to and analysis of certain personal data by ISPs, please explain how (e.g. in which format) this consent should be sought by the ISP, what prior information needs to be provided by the ISP to the user, and how the user consent should be given, in order to optimise user awareness and user convenience.

Answer:   It is a fallacy that blanket user consent is necessary for traffic management measures. Police can direct traffic without seeing people’s Identification documents, Internet Traffic can be managed in much the same way … that is what neutrality *is*.

There is no reasonable need for this kind of access.  If this access is demanded, it is not for user convenience, but for ISP convenience.  It weakens our personal privacy, by making it easier to spy on Internet users, as well as  improving the ISPs ability to provide preferential treatment to some Internet traffic and discriminate against other Internet traffic.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No


2. Transparency and switching (consumer choice)

Transparency is a key tool in the EU electronic communications framework to protect users and to ensure competition. Transparency enables consumers to optimise their informed choices and thus benefit fully from competition, in particular at a time when ISPs are developing new business models.

The BEREC investigation has revealed that many consumers have Internet access subscriptions with a number of restrictions. Moreover, the development of new business models is likely to lead to a broad range of offers which may contain different traffic management restrictions. These may address the needs or interests of specific consumers at prices which might not otherwise be available. It is, however, not clear whether ISPs are sufficiently transparent about such restrictions allowing consumers to make a deliberate choice. Customers, therefore, need clear, meaningful and comparable information on any limitations of their subscriptions comprehensible to all.

These requirements raise the question whether a restricted Internet access product may still be described, without qualification, as “Internet access” or whether the unqualified label “Internet access” should be reserved to (largely) unrestricted access offers. This debate has already been opened in some Member States and this public consultation seeks also views on this issue.

Another aspect of transparency concerns broadband speed, and in particular possible discrepancies between advertised speeds and actual speeds.

Transparency should be complemented with measures aimed at ensuring easy switching from one provider to another, and from one offer to another offer of the same service provider, to empower consumers to choose the service which best matches their individual needs. The electronic communications framework facilitates switching of operators by imposing the obligation to implement number portability within one day, by limiting the initial commitment period in contracts with consumers or by specifying that the conditions and procedures for contract termination shall not act as a disincentive against changing service provider.

It further specifies that subscribers have a right to withdraw from their contract without penalty upon notice of modification to the contractual conditions. It is also important to ensure that barriers do not arise as a result of the growing trend towards bundled services. This may require that switching processes and contractual arrangements are consistent between services offered in bundled packages, e.g. the most common “triple play” package of fixed voice, broadband and pay-TV.

Question 4:

In order to allow consumers to make informed choices, on the basis of clear, meaningful, and comparable information, which elements should be communicated to consumers?

– Elements related to traffic management practices:

a) Contractual restrictions (blocking, throttling, other restrictions on application use)

Answer: Important
Totally inappropriate.  Unacceptable.  Certainly not Net Neutrality.

This presupposes the right of an ISP to deliberately degrade the service it offers consumers. Why should consumers be forced to accept such restrictions?

b) Traffic management policy applied to prioritise certain traffic in specific circumstances

Answer: Important

Totally inappropriate. Unacceptable. Certainly not Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality can only exist if traffic management is application-agnostic.

c) Whether and to what extent managed services may affect the quality of the best effort Internet (e.g. the possibility of the Internet connection being affected when watching IP-TV or when using other managed services)

Answer: Totally inappropriate. Unacceptable. Certainly not Net Neutrality.

e) Data allowances (caps), download limits

Answer: No. This artificial way to disproportionately increase revenue is both inappropriate and unacceptable.

f) What these data allowances enable customers to do in practice (download x hours of video; upload y photos etc.)

Answer:  Important
Calling this kind of restriction a “data allowance” would make Big Brother proud. These are nothing more than “data RESTRICTIONS” which have the effect of gouging consumers

Elements related to speed and quality:

a) Average speed, typical speed ranges and speed at peak times (upload and download)

Answer: Government needs to ensure that advertised speeds are accurate. After all, if they are not, the ISP is committing fraud. Fraud on the Internet should be just as illegal as fraud in the real world.

b) Respect of guaranteed minimum speed (if applicable)

Answer: Important
If an ISP offers a “guaranteed minimum speed” consumers must have a reliable simple way of measuring, and remedies if such speed is not delivered.

c) What these speeds allow customers to do in practice (video-streaming, audio-download, video-conferences etc.)

Answer: Important
If these speeds are being bought by discriminatory treatment of other Internet traffic, the price is too high. ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised bandwidth speed.

d) Latency/network responsiveness (a measure of traffic delay) and which services would be affected thereby (e.g. certain applications such as IP-TV or videoconferencing would be more seriously impacted by higher traffic delays in the network of the provider)

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

e) Jitter (a measure of the variability over time of latency) and which services would be affected thereby (e.g. echoing in VoIP calls)

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

f) Packet loss rate (share of packets lost in the network) and which services would be affected thereby (e.g. VoIP)

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

g) Reliability of the service (network accessibility and retainability), i.e. measure for successful start and completion of data sessions

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

h) Quality parameters for (mobile) voice telephony (call setup success rate, dropped calls, speech quality, other)

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

i) Other, please specify:

Answer: If the “traffic management” requires taking bandwidth from one customer to supply the needs of another, it is never appropriate.

The real world equivalent would be a Hotel claiming to provide “first class service” by snatching a sandwich from the mouth of the customer in the coffee shop so it can fill the order of the VIP guest seated in the candlelit dining room.

Does your answer to question 12 (or to any of its sub-questions) contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 5:

Some ISPs currently apply ‘fair use policies’, which give them wide discretion to apply restrictions on traffic generated by users whose usage they consider excessive. Do you consider that, in case of contractual restrictions of data consumption, quantified data allowances (e.g. monthly caps of x MB or GB) are more transparent for consumers than discretionary fair use clauses?

Answer: No

Calling a policy “fair use” does not make it so.

Restrictions do not reult in fair use, but in restricted use. These restrictions are not beneficial to consumers, and making them transparent will not make them beneficial to consumers.

Another real world analogy: when I turn on the tap to fill my sink so I can wash dishes, I would be unhappy my flow of water stopped so the public utility could give my neighbor’s dishwashing machine preferential treatment.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 6:

a) When should the elements of information referred to in question 4 be provided to the consumer by the ISP?

Answer:  before signing the contract
IF these elements are going to be allowed under law, consumers must be informed well enough that they can make a reasonable assessment BEFORE signing any contract. Any changes to a legally binding contract necessarily require a new contract, and the ISP should be liable to penalties should the consumer not agree to such after-the-fact changes.

This is not Net Neutrality, but Net Restriction.

Communication to consumers is called “advertising,” and is not the same as contract negotiation.

If the ISP wants to change the contract, the contract needs to be renegotiated. Announcing unilateral changes to a legal contract during the term of such a contract is not acceptable.

b) Which format (e.g. contract, general terms and conditions, separate and specific information, other (please specify)) do you consider appropriate to communicate this information to consumers?

Answer: Communication to consumers is called “advertising,” and is not the same as contract negotiation.

If the ISP wants to change the contract, the contract needs to be renegotiated. Announcing unilateral changes to a legal contract during the term of such a contract is not acceptable.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 7:

a) In order to promote transparency and consumer choice, do you consider it necessary that comparable data on the Internet access provided by ISPs is collected and published by NRAs or another independent organisation?

Answer: Consumers need real data to be able to make informed choices.

Do you think this information should be broken down by geographic areas or different data plans?

Answer: Certainly.

b) What are the advantages and corresponding costs of this data collection and publication being undertaken by NRAs or by another type of organisation (please specify which one). Please provide an estimate at EU-level or for an EU Member State of your choice.

Answer: The advantage is that consumers can make informed choices. That ought to be of great value to any democratic state.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 8:

a) Do you consider it necessary to regulate the labelling as “Internet access” of subscriptions that restrict access to some Internet services, content or applications?

Answer: Yes.
Truth in advertising should be policed and enforced by all governments

b) If yes, which restrictions would be acceptable before a subscription could no longer be marketed, without qualification, as an “Internet access” product”?

Answer: None

c) What would be the consequences (including the cost) for ISPs if they were not allowed to market as ‘Internet access’ an offer with certain restrictions, or if such marketing was subject to mandatory qualification? Please provide quantification for your own company or an ISP of your choice explaining your assumptions and methodology.

Answer: Perhaps consumers would look more kindly on ISPs that employed honesty in marketing.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

2.2 Switching

Question 9:

a) Please explain what barriers to switching ISPs still exist (if any) and how they can be overcome. Please mention in your reply all direct and indirect factors dissuading consumers from switching (e.g. obstacles linked to the terminal equipment, burden of proof regarding a possible breach of contract, etc.)

Answer: If the ISP has not lived up to its end of the contract, it is in breach of contract, no barrier to switching should exist.

b) How should an ISP inform consumers of changes to their packages?

Answer:  After the current contract expires. If the ISP changes the terms during the contract term, but fails to procure consumer acceptance of such change, the ISP is in breach of contract.

c) What actions by an ISP would constitute a breach of contract or modifications to the contractual conditions which would enable a consumer to be released from a contract?

Answer:  The same actions that would trigger breach of contract in the real world; not living up to the terms, and/or changing the terms without the consumer’s agreement.

d) Should customers be able to easily opt out from certain contractual restrictions (up to a completely unrestricted offer) by the same operator?

Answer:  Yes
Consumers should not be compelled to accept restrictions.

If yes, how could this be facilitated?

Answer: That would be up to the ISP to determine, under government oversight, of course.

e) Do you think that a customer should be allowed to switch to another operator within a reduced contract termination period in case his/her current operator does not at all offer an unrestricted Internet access product or does not allow switching to such unrestricted offer?

Answer: Yes, absolutely.
If the consumer’s ISP does not offer unrestricted Internet access, but another ISP does, the consumer should not be penalized for choosing Net Neutrality.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 10:

While there may be valid (technical) reasons why consumers do not always get the advertised service speed or quality, should there be a limit on the discrepancy between advertised and actual service parameters (e.g. speed)?

Answer: Yes
Truth in advertising. Consumer protection.

If you consider that there should be a limit on the discrepancy, how should this limit be defined?

Answer: I would put the question to I would put the question to Christopher Parsons (@caparsons) [http://www.christopher-parsons.com/blog/]

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 11:

Pursuant to Article 30 (6) of the Universal Service Directive conditions and procedures for contract termination shall not act as a disincentive against changing service providers. How could changing of operators be facilitated? Please provide examples and explain your response.

Answer: Governments must enact appropriate legislation to protect consumers.

Question 12:

How could the transparency of bundles (packages including telephony, Internet, TV) be improved for consumers and how could switching be facilitated in the presence of bundles?

Answer: Consumers want — and would be better served by being able — to buy what they want without being forced to take (and thus subsidize) services they do not want.  If ISPs want to mess about with bundles, this is the ISPs decision as part of its business model.  If an ISP doesn’t offer consumers what they want,  it may well fail.  That is the cost of doing business.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 13:

a) How important would be the benefits for end-users of improved transparency and facilitated switching?

Answer: Very important.
Consumer choice is always best for consumers when it is both informed and unrestricted.

b) What would be the expected benefits in terms of innovation by new businesses (content or applications) as a consequence of improved consumer choice and increased competition between ISPs?

Answer: Businesses that cater to consumers and offer real Net Neutrality would prosper, while those seeking to discriminate, throttle and restrict consumers would not.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

3. Process
Question 14:

a) Do you consider that intervention by public authorities is necessary at this stage?

Answer: Yes

If so, what would be the appropriate level of such intervention?

Answer: Get some laws in place to guarantee citizens access to real Net Neutrality.

b) What would be the consequences of divergent interventions by public authorities in the EU Member States?

Answer: If necessary, governments could take over ISPs that do not follow the law.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 15:

Under article 22(3) USD NRAs have the power to set minimum quality of service requirements on undertakings providing public communications networks. In a scenario where in a given MemberState no unrestricted offer is available (for instance because all operators actually block VoIP), do you consider that the “minimum quality of service tool” should be applied by the NRA to require operators to provide certain unrestricted offers?

Answer: Yes
Doesn’t the law (as stated) provide for this?

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Your response must reach the Commission by 15 October 2012!

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UBERSOFT on Net Neutrality

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 25, 2010

Isn’t it always the way… here’s another excellent visual representation of Net Neutrality found on one of the longest running web comics (swhich I’ve only just been told about!) Ubersoft:
UBERSOFT: Net Neutrality

This one is particularly illustrative of the corporatocracy’s pretense of adopting Net Neutrality while not.

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DDoS?

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 18, 2010

No Usage Based Billing

Words chosen to mislead have long been a potent tool in the arsenal of political repression.

Title Panel from Nina Paley's minute meme
As technology changes our lives in ways we struggle to understand and special interests with power and large budgets push for sweeping changes detrimental to our interests, people can’t protest if they don’t understand what the conversation is about.  That’s been a huge problem in the area of copyright law reform; the copyright lobby has tried to make people believe that culture shouldn’t be freely shared by equating copying with theft.

Yet copyright infringement and theft are very different things under law. To push back against this misinformation campaign, Nina Paley regularly deploys both her great talent and intelligence to say the same thing over and over again: copying is not theft.

Like most people, I wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to the Internet while I was busy raising my child, but the Internet was itself evolving from a marvelous toy into a necessity of life. Today the Internet has become incredibly important to the economies of the world. In Canada UBB needs to be stopped because it unreasonably inflates the cost of Internet access purely to satisfy corporate greed, at a time when it is increasing important for all citizens to have Internet access in order to function. As important as that is, it is a little thing compared to the importance of Internet freedom.

top left Julian Assange, top right "Keep Us Strong", bottom left WikiLeaks Logo, bottom right Earth from space

above the law?

WikiLeaks is absorbing the brunt of heavy attacks that could much more easily be deployed to silence and/or remove ANY citizen dissent. The first wave of attacks against WikiLeaks were DDoS attacks, which are clearly against the law. Yet the only credible perpetrators of these attacks would be agents of “the establishment,” in particular, governments and/or banks who believe themselves threatened by the release of Cablegate documents.

I grew up in the 20th century. My grandpaprents fled their homeland during a revolution. Adolph Hitler not only roamed the earth, but very nearly conquered it. The Cold War left citizens of earth wondering when the world would blow up, and there was a seemingly endless string of holy wars and ‘Police Actions’ and human rights abuses. It is neither unreasonable or alarmist to believe that Tom Flanagan was absolutely serious in calling for the assassination of Julian Assange. Living in a world where the young men in a helicopter can casually mow down civilians and journalists but the young man of conscience believed to have exposed it finds himself incarcerated without due process in conditions reminiscent of those suffered by the fictional Count of Monte Cristo. Perhaps worse; under military arrest, unconvicted of *anything,*Bradley Manning is actively physically prevented from exercise and constantly watched and tormented using methods commonly employed for brainwashing and torture.

A very difficult thing for me to understand is what has been called DDoS attacks over the past few weeks. I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to understand what was happening in microblog conversations with people I know and respect as intelligent thoughtful people concerned for freedom.   [Thank you especially to @inkorrupt and @lxoliva for helping me both think about and begin to get some understanding of this difficult subject.]

My eyes were opened further by MEP (Member of European Parliament) Amelia Andersdotter in her blog. Further, Ms. Andersdotter pointed me to Green Pirate: A Look at DDoS Net Activism

Both the technology and the jargon are so new the words don’t mean the same thing every time make it very easy to spread misinformation. But the biggest reasons that DDoS has been equated with vandalism rather than protest is that DDoS attacks traditionally use malware to secretly break into innocent people’s computers and illegally harness them, and turn them into a “botnet army.” In fact, this is precisely the kind of attack that has been made against WikiLeaks computers since Cablegate.

Richard Stallman's Guardian article is a Must Read: "The Anonymous WikiLeaks protests are a mass demo against control"

That is NOT what “Anonymous” does, Richard Stallman explains in the Guardian article: The Anonymous WikiLeaks protests are a mass demo against control

A black & white remix of the UN Globe surrounded with a laurel wreath, an "invisible man" with a question mark where the head should be

Anonymous is not making zombie armies, they make their protests with their own computers. They are not very anonymous either, as evidenced by the kids who have been caught. As in Gandhi’s time, public awareness can be raised by arrested protesters. Peaceful protest succeeds by making the population aware of injustice. Isn’t it ironic that Anonymous is not engaged in illegal “cracking,” unlike the authoritarian DDoS attacks illegally targetting WikiLeaks.

Still, can Anonymous protesters be breaking laws by simply visiting a website?

Of course they can. Laws are written by governments, and can be made to cover anything.

Under repressive regimes, laws are made to benefit the ruler(s) and imposed on the populace, enforced with fear and repression.

In democracies laws are supposed to be made for the good of society. But citizen oversight is necessary to ensure special interest lobby groups don’t succeed in passing legislation contrary to the public good. This is why free speech and dissent are necessary and whistle blowers should be legally protected.

But if individuals can legally participate in DDoS attacks today, I won’t be surprised if our lawmakers rush to make it illegal tomorrow. If they do, they won’t stop the protests, anymore than it would have been possible to stop the civil disobedience inspired by Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King. The right of digital assembly should be accepted as a legitimate form of digital dissent but I think it will take some time before most of us understand it well enough to get the idea.

The most important thing is that they are fighting for their future.

What we need is a new word to differentiate between DDoS attacks of repression — like those illegal used against WikiLeaks servers –and
DDoS personal protests being undertaken by the members of Anonymous.
Maybe instead of calling the Anonymous protestsDDoS attacks (Distributed Denial of Service)

we should be calling them Civil Rights Denial of Service protests, or

CRDoS

“States seek to imprison the Anonymous protesters rather than official torturers and murderers. The day when our governments prosecute war criminals and tell us the truth, internet crowd control may be our most pressing remaining problem. I will rejoice if I see that day.”

Richard Stallman The Anonymous WikiLeaks protests are a mass demo against control



Image Credits

Copying Is Not Theft by Nina Paley Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
WikiLeaks Wallpaper remixture laurelrusswurm by CC by-sa
Richard Stallman by webmink under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Canadian Market said NO to UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 6, 2010

Telephone poles stretched along side a gravel rural road

No Usage Based Billing
The Internet is an interconnected network of wires connecting computers all around the world. The physical conduit of the Internet is the telephone wire or cable and associated equipment that connects together to form the “infrastructure” or “backbone”.

Because Canadian communications systems must cover great distances to serve a relatively small population these systems have traditionally required special treatment in order to provide Canadians with the services we need to both exist and compete in the first world economy. Although Canada has never had a strict telephone monopoly, from the very beginning different telephone companies provided services in different geographic locations across Canada. Which means we have for the most part had a “virtual monopoly” because each geographic area had only one telephone provider.

Regardless of what Canada’s telecommunication regulator the CRTC seems to think, if you have to sell your house and move to a new geographic location in order to get a different Internet Service provider it does not qualify as “consumer choice”. So although we have different companies providing access to the Internet, a great many Canadians have only one possible Internet Service Provider.

A Mennonite horse and buggy crosses the road

[When discussing the ISP “carriers” I pretty much always say “Bell” for the phone carrier, although in many cases Telus should be included as well. In the same way when I speak of the cable carrier I say “Rogers” to stand in for all the Cable companies, which over all of Canada I understand to also include Shaw, Cogeco, and Vidéotron because from where I sit here they all appear to be marching in lockstep. I do not presume to know if, when or how any of these companies may be interrelated. I myself have only had dealings with Bell and Rogers.]

infrastructure and private property

Somehow Bell Canada never seems to mention that the only way the telephone system we have today could have come into existence was through the goodwill of private property owners and government cooperation. They like to take all the credit for establishing the phone/cable infrastructure, but they could never have done it without our help.

Because the thing to remember is that telephone poles carrying telephone wire cross private land.

Had stringing the wire been left entirely up to the telephone companies, we might still be using smoke signals. Because without government assistance, the phone company would have had to negotiate with every single land owner. Individual property owners would have been able to prevent the telephone wire from crossing their land. Instead of ending up with a system covering all of the settled portions of Canada, we might have ended with many small unconnected pockets of telephone service.

Because as sure as the sun rises in the east, even today there are people who don’t want telephone service.

Certainly some would decline for religious reasons, while others might try to pry excessive sums of money from the phone company in exchange for granting a right-of-way across their property. To prevent such snags which might have rendered the existence of the telephone system impossible, forward thinking government mandated “easements” along the road side portions of private property. This government intervention allows utilities like electricity and telephone companies to put up poles along these easements and then string wires along them, or dig up land to allow cables or pipes to run under this land for the public good. In this way, the government acted to ensure Canada’s technologically wouldn’t lag.

The “who owns the wire” problem is not unique to Canada. Even in countries with dense enough population to support telephone competition it only makes sense to string one wire. Property owners can be persuaded to accept one set of telephone poles running along their land for the common good, but would balk at 5 sets of telephone poles. So even where there are five telephone providers they share the wire.

"Punchcard" photo by Mutatis mutandi

computers

When I was a kid, my Dad took us to a local university to see a gigantic machine that could solve mathematical equations if you fed it punch cards. Punch cards were exactly what they sound like: bits of cardboard with holes punched in them.

The computer programmer communicated with the computer via punchcards. The pattern of the holes made up the program. Back in those days of vacuum tubes, most people could not imagine the possibility that personal computers would ever exist. Computers were simply too big.

But then came miniaturization. Really, weren’t the first home computers was actually the digital calculators that swept over the world in the 1970’s? With the ability to achieve miniaturization, home computers were not far behind. The first home computers were DIY projects; if you wanted a computer you had to put it together. So naturally the first people to have home computers were the techies who could build them.

But it wasn’t long though before enterprising businesses began selling personal computers or PCs that anyone could use. Spreadsheet programs like Lotus Symphony revolutionized the accounting Industry. Desk Top Publishing was born. Games could be played. Calendars kept. The possibilities seemed endless. And they were.

Today ordinary people get personal computers in much the same way we get cars. We no longer need to know how to build or repair one.

the Internet

In the early days of personal computing, people could purchase modems that would connect computers via telephone lines. When your modem was connected to the phone line, it took control of your telephone service. When your computer was talking on the phone, you couldn’t. It got to the point where some computer users would get a second telephone line so their computing time wouldn’t tie up their telephone.

Before the Internet became available to ordinary people, there were independent computer networks. My first venture online was in 1989 with a commercial service called Compuserve. Although the research possibilities were excellent, the fun part was being able to live chat with folks from around the world.

The downside was that it was terribly expensive. You paid by the minute, which can add up quite quickly. Learning how to do anything took a lot of time and every minute online cost money. Although it was fun, being fresh out of college, I simply couldn’t afford it. So I went off line again. The public library was a much more economical place to do research.

I just went to search out Compuserve now. I’m happy they’re still out there. Oh and look… the deal I see is 2 months free to start and after that $17.95 per month unlimited. Twenty years ago my bill for a single month exceeded $100, and that was using one of their more economical billing plans! Times certainly have changed.

Later I became involved with an early computer network, a BBS or “bulletin board system”. These independent computer BBSs were very similar to the Internet forums of today; you posted your comment and it stayed there. People would check in over time and join in the conversation. No live chats here.

But it was an excellent antidote to Compuserve, because it was free. Voluntary donations helped support the system by paying for improved equipment for the people running it. A BBS was not a commercial venture, they were communities… today we’d call them social media… started by a few people with computer know-how and equipment to run it on. People found out about a BBS by word of mouth. Then as now content was important for finding and then keeping an audience.

three AOL disks

four AOL offers on four b;ue enrollment CDs

The people who owned the equipment controlled the BBS, and acted as the system administrators or SYSOPS. But it was the users who brought the BBS to life by beginning new discussion areas and posting conversations and content to the BBS. Because it didn’t happen in real time, the posts were often more thoughtful than live chat. But the owners held ultimate control; they could cut off anyone for any reason. Initially this power was only used to clamp down on abusive behavior; there were online Trolls then as now. Later on personalities and personal politics came into it.

My disillusionment coincided with one heavy contributor being cut off simply for having different attitudes and philosophies– mostly he annoyed the owners. But because he provided so much content and administered so many discussion groups, they didn’t want to cut him off for good, so instead they gave him small suspensions to keep him in line. That type of petty abuse of power is why I left that BBS, and has a lot to do with why I support net neutrality today.

That was around the time when the Internet became generally available to the public. Overnight there were Independent Internet Service Providers springing up all over Canada, and around the world. And although many people signed up, it was far from universal.

an array of internet hook up CDs

There were many seductive elements. Email and Instant Messaging held great appeal. Instant connectivity. Research, information… everything at your finger tips. But in many ways it was a luxury. A plaything. It was only later it became a necessity.

In my recollection, a lot people were initially resistant to going online because it was so expensive. There were many many ISPs, and so competition was fierce. Even so, it was still very expensive. ISPs charged by the minute. The most persistent and pervasive ISPs battling for customers was America Online.

AOL: Usage Based Billing

They must have mailed out hundreds of thousands of AOL sign up CDs. Maybe millions. I know I didn’t start keeping the CDs that kept turning up in my mail initially. Yet I still probably have around thirty of their CDs.   Yet I never did sign up with AOL.   I knew from my Compuserve experience how quickly the usage costs could add up, and how expensive it would be.   Not to mention virtually impossible to budget for.

AOL usage based offers

The AOL marketing campaign is writ large across those old CDs.
540 Hours Free
1000 Hours Free
1344 Hours Free
2000 Hours Free
3 Months Free
$9.95 for 6 months

AOL tried giving better and better introductory offers but it just did not work. After the early adopters, the techno types who would do whatever it took to be online — and more importantly pay whatever had to be paid– the mostly ordinary people just weren’t interested. It was a big cash outlay, after all. Just getting a reasonable computer system cost around three thousand dollars.

My first PC had a double floppy drive — not even a hard drive — a black & white screen — a dot matrix printer.  Three grand.

After laying out the green, most of us weren’t ready to sign away the rest of our disposable income for the Internet. Because after AOL’s “introduction period” was over, it would be back to the very pricey Usage Based Billing options. It just cost too much.

And there wasn’t even the content available online that there is today.

Certainly finding what you wanted took work, and learning is very expensive when you’re being billed per minute. The point is, you didn’t NEED to go online. You could buy a whole encyclopedia on one CD, or a spreadsheet program, a word processor or graphics software or games, and your computer could do everything you needed it to. People didn’t need the Internet. It was just too expensive. A toy.

What happened to AOL? The king of marketing? At one point they were the one to beat. They marketed the heck out of the Internet. Who else could afford to scatter CDs across the land with such bold abandon. Or convince respectable venerated Canadian banking institutions… notably some of the most caution in the world… to partner them? What cataclysm could have done for AOL?

Wait a minute:

Canada had ISP competition?  

Canada?

What happened to all those ISPs?

Bell Sympatico and Rogers Internet

enter the carriers

Bell Canada and Rogers Cable entered the fray.

Bell Canada was the major telephone carrier; they controlled and maintained the telephone cable backbone. Telephone traffic traveled over this wire, and now Internet traffic did too. Up until this time, Bell Canada just had phone lines, they were the major telephone carrier who controlled the wire backbone connecting home computer users to the Internet.

But now, Bell decided they wanted to get into the internet game. So Bell hung out a shingle as an Internet Service Provider, or ISP.

When Rogers entered the market they brought their own backbone in the form of urban cable connections. The first time I recall hearing about Rogers as an ISP they were offering high speed Internet connections. I wasn’t paying much attention back then. One minute there were scads pf Canadian ISPs and the next there were only two.

Bell and Rogers introduced “Unlimited Internet” into the Canadian market

Bell and Rogers used their corporate might to introduce low cost UNLIMITED Internet service packages that the smaller ISPs could not possibly match. Offering unlimited Internet access made trying it much more palatable because learning how to use it was no longer prohibitively expensive. Not only did customers switch to Bell and Rogers in droves, but more:

elimination of usage based billing allowed the Canadian Internet Market to really take off.

Canadian consumers told the market in no uncertain terms that we did not want the Internet on a Usage Based Billing model.

Low cost entry into the Internet made Canadians embrace the Internet. This is why Canada was an early adopter, and a leader in Internet use. Even though it didn’t take long for prices to climb. Since the other competitors were gone, Bell and Rogers had the market carved up between them so prices began to rise rapidly.

The Internet has impacted on just about every type of business there is. We buy and sell on eBay or Amazon. We pay our bills online. We can read Canadian laws online. Get up to the minute weather reports. We watch TVor read the newspaper online. Canada Post is offering to deliver email.

the Canadian Internet market clearly said “No” to Usage Based Billing

Because customers overwhelmingly chose “Unlimited” over the usage based pricing model, Bell and Rogers got the added bonus of eliminating the competition. Bell and Rogers were vying for supremacy so they built good infrastructure to offer the fastest best service. Back then, Canada had some of the best Internet access speeds at some of the lowest prices in the world.

This is a very large part of the reason that Canadians embraced the Internet so whole heartedly.

But the upshot is that Canada was left with only two ISPs. It was such a monumental error that even the Canadian Government noticed, and stepped in and told Bell and Rogers that they would have to share the infrastructure so that competitors could enter the Internet market in an attempt to re-introduce competition.

I’m not quite sure why, but it seems that all the Independent ISPs seem to get their Internet connection through Bell. When Bell set up the “Gateway Access System” (GAS) through which they sell wholesale bandwidth to the Independent Internet Service Providers The CRTC allowed Bell to set their own prices. Naturally they set very high prices. The Independent ISPs could then redistribute the bandwidth however they saw fit.

Canadian paper money, photo by laurelrusswurm

At first Bell was happy since they were making money from their GAS business. They were probably surprised that the Independent ISPs provided low priced packages and good Internet service without gouging that have built loyalty for the Independents. It’s funny how just about anyone you ask has at least one Bell or Rogers horror story in their repertoire, but I’ve never heard any about the Independent ISPs.

Canada’s place as an Internet leader has been slipping badly. Although Bell has done basic maintenance on their phone/Internet infrastructure they seem to have neglected the continuous upgrading they should have done. In real terms that makes Canada’s Internet service of today hopelessly out of date. What was cutting edge 15 years ago is paleolithic today.

Although the service has stayed the same with little or no infrastructure improvements Canadian Internet costs have been climbing.

(Make no mistake: the inflated Internet costs that Bell and Rogers have been charging have been more than enough to cover upgrades.)

Many Canadians went online because it was affordable back then, but that is no longer true.

Now, at a time when it has become more important to go in the Internet– to do our banking, pay our bills, find jobs, do school work– today Canadian Internet rates are some of the highest in the world. The Internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity for Canadians. But not all Canadians can afford to even go online. The “digital divide” is yawning already, but now it’s about to get even worse.

Because the CRTC has approved Bell’s application to begin Usage Based Billing.

Real costs have nothing to do with it. Market forces have nothing to do with it.

The CRTC will allow our Internet rates to double to economically force Canadians to reduce Internet use.

CRTC #fail



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10925 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Stacking the digEcon Deck

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on July 22, 2010

[My digEcon problems are covered in this three part series, first, digEcon Backstory (Bill C-32) is in the wind, the second, digEcon scandals in Oh! Canada and the conclusion here in StopUBB]

Canadian Flag

The two month public Canadian Digital Economy Consultation ended last week. Canadians were asked for input on how we want our Government to proceed with Digital Economy policy.

Weren’t we?

The Digital Economy Homepage seems pleased so many Canadians participated:

“Between May 10 and July 13, more than 2000 Canadian individuals and organizations registered

to share their ideas and submissions. You can read their contributions — and the comments from other users — in the Submissions Area and the Idea Forum.”
digitaleconomy.gc.ca

Sounds great.

Until you contrast that figure with the more than eight thousand Canadians who made submissions to last year’s Copyright Consultation.

What happened? Why was there so little participation for this public consultation?

Probably the single biggest turnoff to citizen participation– the thing that kept Canadians away from the Government’s Digital Economy Consultation in droves– was Bill C-32. When this so called “Copyright Modernization” legislation was introduced in the house of Commons, it’s similarity to the American DMCA made it instantly clear that this Government chose to ignore the majority of citizen input from the Copyright Consultation. As a result, the prevailing feeling among Canadians seemed to be “why bother?”

Making it Hard to be Heard

The complexity of the Digital Economy Consultation leads me to the conclusion that it wasn’t put together in a day, rather it had been in the works for quite a while.   Yet I didn’t see any publicity build up.   It was announced and launched with lightning speed.   By the Federal Government.

Was the timing a deliberate attempt to to distract Canadians from our outrage about “Bill C-32: the Copyright Modernization Act” ?

NO Canadian DMCA

The Digital Economy Consultation made it emphatically clear that copyright would not be considered a valid topic. People who used the discussion forums complained that any copyright discussions were quickly shut down.

This position would have been perfectly reasonable if the Government kept of copyright and the digital technology issues separate. But the Government’s own draft copyright legislation Bill C-32 strayed from the realm of copyright into the world of digital locks– and in fact subjugates all copyright to DRM/TRM. First the Government dissolved the division between the two areas and then they refused to allow discussion of the ramifications. Clearly copyright should have been an acceptable topic for discussion in the Digital Consultation. Disallowing it resulted in a credibility loss.

After all, the magnificent response to the Copyright Consultation was not what the Government wanted to hear. Certainly they didn’t want to hear it all again in the Digital Economy Consultation. Did they set out to make this Digital Economy Consultation deliberately difficult, precisely to discourage ordinary Canadian citizens from speaking up? Certainly the Government raised barriers to participation for the Digital Economy Consultation.

First Barrier: almost no lead time.

The Digital Economy Website was announced and then it was underway.

Second Barrier: Quantities of prerequisite reading.

A lot to read onsite, beginning with the Consultation Paper Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage: Strategies for Sustainable Prosperity. Copied into Open Office it ran 32 pages. The digitaleconomy.gc.ca site was bursting with links to reference material (much of it government web pages). It listed rules and regulations, defined the terms of the consultation, provided News, FAQ’s and forums, although I never saw them since there just wasn’t enough time.

There was a fair bit to read and think about before participating in the online forums or making a submission. Which would have been fine except for the time limit.   Either the consultation period should have been substantially longer, or the reference and background material should have been made available online for at least a couple of weeks before the Consultation even began.

Third Barrier

The last problem was the submission form itself. Unlike the Copyright Consultation where you could answer all the questions in one submission, the Digital Economy Consultation was segregated into different categories. You had to choose one category or another. Some people made submissions in more than one category, and some answered questions for all the categories in one submission. Either way the very process was awkward, and more difficult than it had to be.

Did they actually want submissions?

The Submissions Page

My submission was the first posted after the extension. I could have made it in under the wire– there was an hour left to submit when I finished– but once I saw the Consultation had been extended I chose to take the time to proof read.

When my submission was posted it was disappointing to see my summary wasn’t included. Instead a portion of the submission was extracted. So I uploaded it a second time. When my resubmission appeared it was added to the submission page without replacing the original.

Multiple drafts of the same submission appear to be separate submissions. A few submissions were made in both official languages, and both these appear as individual submissions to a casual perusal, again making it look as though there were more submissions.

Wayback Machine Screenshot

It took quite a bit of effort just to separate the organizations from the individuals. Initially I thought it would be a simple matter to scroll through the submissions page. In many cases the extract didn’t clearly indicate if the submission was on behalf of an individual or an organization, making it necessary to read the entire summary, or even the submission. And even then there were some I still wasn’t entirely sure of.

When I noticed new submissions being added, I was curious if any submissions had been expunged, so I ran the URL through archive.org’s the WayBack Machine. This is an excellent online tool that makes digital snapshots of the web for safekeeping, and allowing for web searches into the past. But it seems the Canadian Government doesn’t allow this kind of oversight since they’ve elected to disallow robot searches.

The Government’s decision to lock out the Wayback Machine means Canadians have no way to tell if submissions have been quietly removed. Or not.

Even so, you don’t have to be a statistical analyst to see that there weren’t very many submissions at all.

Looking at the Submissions

Discounting duplicates, only 52 submissions were submitted before the original deadline.

Which sounds like an excellent reason to extend the deadline. After all, over 8,000 Submissions were made to the Copyright Consultation.

At the eleventh hour, the Government extended the deadline for four days.

During those four days another 206 submissions were made, bringing the grand total up to 258 submissions.

Before the deadline, individuals made 18 of the submissions while organizations made 34. Around half.

After the deadline extension, individuals made an additional 18 submissions, while organizations made an additional 188 submissions. That’s a stunningly different ratio, with only ten percent of post deadline submissions being made by individuals.

extension

Four days was an odd amount of time to choose for an extension. Last year’s Copyright Consultation announced a 48 hour “grace period” to allow all the submissions to get in. Of course, the government site was being overwhelmed by the volume of last day submissions which resulted in an enormous backlog.

In a perfect world I would have liked a week to make the best submission possible, because I think it would probably have taken a week — full time — to do it properly.

So four days wasn’t really enough time for most people to come up with a comprehensive full fledged submission from scratch. But four days might be just enough time for a team.

Clearly this isn’t the case for organizations because they can spread the work around. I have to wonder why so many of these organizations came in after the initial deadline. Is it possible that some organizations didn’t even start a submission before the deadline?

Was the deadline extension to allow entities government friendly entities an opportunity to whip up quick submissions to slant the results of the Digital Economy Consultation in the direction the Government always intended to go?

Or perhaps some submissions came in deliberately too late for discussion in the idea forum? The Digital Economy Idea-Forum on the website was shut down at the same time as the submissions deadline, leaving no official place for discussion of these late submissions. Perhaps some of the late submitters hoped to avoid public scrutiny.

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I am curious. Was this consultation doomed from the beginning by stacking the deck?

Stacking the deck?

A small trickle of additional submissions are being added. A new one today. There was one yesterday, none the day before, one the day before that. Why are submissions being added after the Consultation closed?

This is the digEcon, not the copycon. It isn’t like the government is snowed in under the response– far from it. The amount of digEcon registrants was a quarter the number of submissions made for the copycon.

Not only that, the copycon didn’t post submissions locked in PDFs (with the exception of the SOCAN submission, which asked for and received special treatment), they converted them to html so they could be easily read by anyone online without forcing citizens to use the proprietary Adobe reader. (And although PDF is quasi-open source, only the proprietary Adobe reader reads Adobe PDFs properly.)

It was plausible that it would take some time to get all of the copycon submissions online. That is certainly not true here.

If these submissions were actually submitted before the (extended!) deadline, there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate rationale as to why it’s taking so long to include them. Particularly as submissions were accepted via the digEcon site’s online form.

What possible justification is there for these submissions to be posted one at a time? The most reasonable supposition is that they are still being submitted. Is it possible that some organizations made these late submissions because the Government asked them to?

If submissions are closed they should be closed to everyone. If the consultation is open, it should be open to all. Doing it this way at the very least gives the appearance of impropriety: it appears that submissions are closed unless they says what the government wants to hear.

This simply further undermines any credibility of the consultation may have had.

Shuffling the Deck

Going back to the digEcon submissions page again tonight (Thursday 22, July, 2010) things have again changed. Duplicate submissions– or at least some of them, including my initial submission — have been removed.

I can’t say either way if there are more or fewer submissions, but my numbers seem a wee bit off. There are also menu options at the top of the submissions list which allows selection of a listing of submissions by Individual or Organization as well as by “most recent”, which may or may not have been there before. It would have been extraordinarily helpful had it been there/had I noticed before.

At this time I don’t have any more time to sink into this article, so I think it’s time to cut to the chase.

Who submitted?

The strangest submission I looked at was this: The Minister of Industry’s Advisory Committee on Assistive Devices for Persons with Disabilities, or ACAD. The digEcon is supposed to be a public consultation, but this submission was made by an Minister of Industry’s Advisory Committee. Don’t they already have access?   Even more troubling, this Government Committee didn’t actually write the submission, it was made by an outside PR firm. What’s up with that?

My vote for the most incredible submission made by a corporation is the one made by Adobe Systems Canada Inc.. This submission caught my eye as one of the very few submissions made in plain text rather than sealed into an Adobe PDF requiring the use of the proprietary Adobe reader. It seems Adobe knows when it is appropriate to use PDFs.

Of the small number of submissions that were made, there does seem to be some variety.

Individuals made submissions.

Online News Media, Educational Institutions and Library Associations made submissions.

Industry Associations, Professional Organizations, Citizen Lobby Groups, Special Interest Groups, Corporations and Content Creators made submissions.

Carrier/ISPs and Independent ISPs

Carrier/ISPs

The Internet “backbone” is made up of “Carriers”, or the companies that control the wire that the Internet travels across, namely telephone and cable wire. Internet Service Provers, or ISPs connect to the Internet through the carriers.

Some ISPs are branches of the same companies that are carriers. In addition to being Internet carriers and ISPs, many if not all of these corporations are involved in other businesses as cell phone providers, broadcasters and content creators. This certainly seems to be a recipe for anti-competitive practices at the very least, and certainly is Canada’s largest barrier to net neutrality.

Bell in particular is appears to be many different companies on paper, but in reality these are a family of Bell companies, who share similar if not the same goals. I’ve included CTVglobemedia in the Bell/Telus group since Bell is a major shareholder.


Bell/Telus Submissions

Cogeco Submission

Rogers Submission

Shaw Submission

Videotron Submission


Independent Internet Service Providers

Independent ISPs acquire Internet access through the same carriers and the same wire as the carrier ISPs. The Independent ISPs compete directly with the carrier/ISPs.

Independent Internet Service Provider Submissions

Canadian Association of Internet Providers

MTS Allstream Inc.

TekSavvy Solutions Inc.

Xittel The Coalition of Internet Service Providers inc. (CISP): The future of telecommunications competition in Canada


Total Bell related submissions: 8
Total Carrier/ISP submissions: 12

The disproportionately large volume of input from the Bell/Telus group in particular worries me.

No Usage Based Billing

Currently, Canadian Internet users are living under the threat of Bell introduction of Usage Based Billing. Although not yet implemented, UBB has been approved by the CRTC with the specific intent of discouraging Canadian Internet use. The CRTC approved this as a way for Bell the carrier to practice Internet “traffic management”. The CRTC approved Usage Based Billing because Bell Canada convinced them that the best way to manage the Internet was to curb customer use by imposing caps and high prices

Because Bell thinks decreased Canadian Internet participation is a good idea.

This seems like the absolute worst thing that Canada could possibly do in terms of growing a Digital Economy. Any proposal on how the Canadian Government should manage Canada’s Digital Economy from a corporate entity that believes reducing Canadian Internet participation is a good thing makes me very nervous indeed.



Back to digEcon scandalsBack Navigational Arrow



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10897 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 both Canadians and our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



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

It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 8, 2010

No Usage Based BillingThis blog isn’t going anywhere as long as the threat or the fact of Usage Based Billing hangs over Canada.

Reading through the comments on the CBC online story CRTC approves usage-based internet billing clearly shows that many Canadians are misinformed about the issue. That isn’t surprising Because the ONLY “mainstream news coverage” of this very important issue that will affect all Canadians seems to have been provided by the CBC.

Clearly this blog has a lot to do. I think that UBB can still be stopped. If Ministry of Industry Tony Clement can be again persuaded to step in and overrule this CRTC decision as he did with the Windmobile decision both CRTC decisions being clearly contrary to the Canadian public interest it could be over very quickly.

There are many things that can still happen. There are many things that have not been addressed. But I still think one of the most crucial thing is spreading the word to the ordinary Canadian Internet users who do not know this hammer is about to drop on us all — and on our economy.

Bell Canada Logo

MISCONCEPTION #1

This only applies to Bell Customers.

WRONG.

As soon as all Bell Canada’s own customers are being charged Usage Based Billing, (even those currently with “unlimited” plans — fight to keep those puppies if you got ’em) the the CRTC decision has given Bell Canada permission to charge UBB to the customers of the Independent Internet Service Providers.

That means me. I get my Internet from Tek Savvy.
Even though I am not a Bell Customer, Tek Savvy is.

Independent Internet Service Providers purchase bandwidth from Bell and then repackages it to sell to their own customers.

This ruling means that in addition to what Independent ISPs already pay Bell, they will have to pay Bell for Customer Usage.

This CRTC ruling has given Bell Canada permission to charge usage based billing to us — all of us — all of the Canadians who have left Bell Canada — even though we are not Bell Canada’s customers.

This ruling will apply to the customers of all the Independent Internet Service Providers.

Help Spread the Word.



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10640 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/

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



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Nutshell Net Neutrality

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on January 20, 2010

The Easter Egg Museum

The Easter Egg Museum is located in Kolomyya, Ukraine. -- Photo by Mia http://www.flickr.com/photos/_mia/

Ukrainian Law says that Internet Service Providers are not responsible for what their customers do.

This is the concept called Net Neutrality.

Internet Service Providers should NOT be held responsible for what their customers do.

Just as Landlords are not held responsible for what their tenants do.

The tenant may be the father of a family of four whose worst crime is crossing against the lights. Just as easily the tenant may be a serial killer who keeps locks of his victim’s hair in a jewelry box. Or perhaps the tenant is a wax museum artisan who keeps locks of necessary hair samples in a jewelry box at home for repairing exhibits.

The only way a landlord can know which involves serious invasion of privacy. Because it is only by spying on the tenants that the landlord can know. And even then, the landlord is not trained in recognizing or preserving evidence, much less building cases to present in court.

So no one expects the landlord to engage in this type of spying.

Largely because people prefer not to be spied on.

binoculars
Even an innocent father doesn’t want his landlord pawing through his mail. The police aren’t allowed to open our mail because they want to. Email should be just as protected as postal mail.

Chances are the serial killer has taken precautions that would make it difficult for the landlord to discover the truth anyway. Besides, we’ve all seen the movie… if the landlord DID get the goods on the killer, the tenant would have to arrange an accident…
Paul Gross in the role of RCMP officer Benton Fraser in Due South
If the tenant is in fact breaking the law, either through tax evasion or serial killing, it is NOT the landlord’s job to investigate and prosecute. That’s what law enforcement is for. Centuries of jurisprudence have built in protections for citizens, so that something resembling probable cause must exist before citizen’s rights may be assailed.

Just as it is should not be an ISP’s job to monitor and investigate citizens in the event they may be breaking a law somewhere.

ISP’s are in the business of providing an internet connection, in much the same way that a landlord provides a rental property. In fact, the jargon used for a website’s main page is “home page”.

Spying on customers will be a huge expense for ISPs. Who will foot the bill?

I’ve seen enough spy films to know that intelligence gathering is a time consuming and expensive business. Surely it is not expected that the customers being spied on will pay for the privilege. The ISP can’t be expected to pay for the necessary personnel and equipment.

So the government will have to foot the bill.

But wait: government funds come from the citizens… so in effect the customers being spied on will pay for the privilege.

The internet has stopped being a luxury toy, as individuals and businesses conduct more and more of our real lives online. Internet access is as vital to modern life as phone access was 20 years ago.

We live a great deal of our lives online. Many people do online banking, and of course many commercial transactions take place online.

I correspond with family and friends around the world online. I know to be careful what information I put on facebook.

Internet security will be non-existent if ISPs are allowed or ordered to spy on us.

If they do, nothing on our computers will be secure.

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

A.C.T.A. is BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 7, 2009

Hollywood taught me about Democracy

Jesse Brown reported a very scary story How do you say “clueless” in Italian? on his Search Engine site.

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

Four Google execs may face jail terms because they didn’t pull an offensive video from their site BEFORE anyone complained about it.

Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to be a very big story, yet it is a perfect illustration of the incredible danger facing the internet. There is no way that large busy websites or the ISPs that host them can possibly monitor all of the material that is uploaded to the internet without seriously curtailing what is being uploaded to the internet.

For instance, when logging into Flickr I am told:

“There were 2,710 uploads in the last minute ”

Thousands of people upload images to Flickr every minute. It would take thousands of people to screen those images. If Flickr was forced to hire thousands of people to police the images members upload to the site, suddenly what Clay Shirky calls “ the transaction cost” would stop being nearly nil because the cost to maintain Flickr would skyrocket. It is doubtful that Flickr or YouTube or any other wildly successful website could cope with this without going bust.

Wikipedia, for example, has many people all over the world contributing articles and changing other people’s articles all the time. You would think that this would result in all kinds of internet vandalism happening.   But it doesn’t.   Sometimes people make mistakes, and the way Wikipedia works is that other people can fix those mistakes, And they do. And Wikipedia users also correct deliberate misinformation or vandalism.   So even if someone attempts to do a bad thing and vandalize wikipedia articles or disseminate misinformation on Wikipedia, Wikipedia is policed by its own editor/users.

As soon as anyone complains to Google, or YouTube, or Flickr about offensive content, the content is taken down. Now, I have to tell you, even though I am not by any means a young pup, in terms of understanding the internet, “I am only an Egg.” The internet we know today didn’t exist twenty years ago.

Like most people, I’ve been busy, so I wasn’t paying very much attention. Every now and then some new toy or gizmo having to do with computers would pop up — like iphones or ebooks or blackberrys. Or some new uber-cool thing like blogging or facebook or twitter or VOIP would suddenly be everywhere. And we can’t forget endless tales and dreams of dot com millionaires. The way the wold works has been changing very very fast. Six months ago I had no idea what Usage Based Billing was. About two months ago I started writing a simple little article explaining the mechanics of how the internet works. It turned out to be incredibly difficult to learn, let alone explain and mushroomed into “the alphabet series”. Simple? No, and the more I learn the more important I realize Net Neutrality is.

So I do understand why most people don’t even realize that this stuff is going on, or even that it matters. But the thing is that the internet has been slowly growing up and becoming more important in the world, and at the same time a much larger force for change. Which is why it is so important that there be Net Neutrality. Because the internet has come so far so fast it is especially important that it not be turned against it’s users.

Alongside Net Neutrality people in this brave new world are also talking about file sharing, “3 Strikes laws” and ACTA. Terms like piracy and theft are being hurled around and “copyright infringement” has been elevated to a near executable offense.

Why now?

It is no secret that governments around the world have been lobbied long and hard by the “copyright lobby” large media corporations, music and movie companies who are attempting to legislate prograss back into the twentieth century and change the way we think. They have been turning their media might into a propoaganda tool of epic proportions. Because of the incredible power that they can bring to bear, copyright laws around the world are being changed to appease these lobbyists.

Hollywood taught me spying on citizens is bad.

Hollywood taught me spying on citizens is bad

Copyright law “improvements” enrich the lives of Americans

An inflammatory Chicago Sun Times headline reads Woman arrested for trying to record ‘Twilight’ on digital camera. The article recounts a story about a young woman who is being criminally charged– to the same extent and in the the same way a professional bootlegger would be charged– for recording scenes of her sister’s birthday party at the movies. The video picked up about 4 minutes of movie fragments. This is the equivalent of charging a teenager with one joint as a drug dealer, or the child who swiped a tempting lollipop from the grocery store with grand theft. It is simply not reasonable.

I’ve taken photographs of family and friends on special occasion trips to the movies. I’ve made videotapes of birthday parties. If you make a video of a child’s birthday party and a movie or video game was playing on the TV in the background, you too could be criminally charged. Under ACTA what will happen when you email a copy of this copyright infringing video to Grannie in England? Will she be fined or jailed or will you?

These laws are already absurd. And then… here comes ACTA.

All of the citizens of the world are being deliberately excuded from all ACTA negotiations. President Obama, so recently praised for his commitment to Net Neutrality, believes this to be a matter of National Security.

There is a huge difference between “personal use copying” and “commercial bootlegging” which the copyright lobby is lumping together as “piracy”. This is all a wrongheaded attempt to legislate away progress. Instead of trying to adapt with the technology, the copyright lobby has chosen to pour millions (billions?) into lobbying for this legislation that will not in fact do anything to stop commercial bootlegging. To give the appearance of doing something they instead choose to criminalize the mostly young citizens who are not harming this special interest group. Personally, I would rather see the best and brightest of Canada’s younger generation find themselves in universities rather than jail.

ACTA is bad. Very Very Bad.

Hollywood Influences

Growing up I learned a lot from “Hollywood”.

Like most Canadians of my generation TV and Movies gave me a better understanding of the American legal system than the Canadian.

Hollywood taught me that:

  • free enterprise is admirable.
  • free speech is important
  • individuals have rights
  • democracy is good, and good government is responsive to the wishes of the citizens
  • communism is bad, because the government spies on its citizens
  • a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty

BUT.

Hollywood taught me "innocent until proven guilty"

Apparently that was all just “content”.  ACTA makes it pretty clear that Hollywood’s true objective is for governments around the world to:

  • suppress free speech,
  • shackle their competitors,
  • dismantle democracy,
  • spy on citizens and
  • throw out the rule of law to punish people on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations.

The saddest part is that it isn’t for some misguided ideological reason that they think will improve the world. This is pure greed.

ACTA links

“Canada and its international trading partners each have distinct copyright policies, laws and approaches for addressing the challenges and opportunities of the internet. Canada’s current framework provides strong intellectual property protections and our copyright laws apply in the digital context, including on the internet. Moreover, Canada’s regime for

the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights is fully consistent with its international obligations.”

The Honourable Tony Clement, The Hill Times – Canada’s Politics and Government Newsweekly

YET.

Somehow Canada continues to participate in the secret ACTA treaty negotiations.

“Secret ACTA negotiations would criminalize Canadian internet use” says New Democrat Digital Issues Critic Charlie Angus, who demanded that Tony Clement reveal the ACTA negotiation mandate letter. Tony Clement Responds To Concerns That ACTA Will Circumvent Canadian Copyright Law

Ambassador Kirk: People would be “walking away from the table” if the ACTA text is made public . Maybe that is what should be happening.

Russell McOrmond tells us about:

Word manipulation, hypocrisy, and the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in it world.

Bytestyle TV’s Shelly Roche tells us a few things about ACTA, including the fact that it is being undertaken as an executive order, and therefore will not require ratification by the U.S. Congress. If it’s any consolation, American citizens are being kept just as much in the dark as Canadians, and, well, every other country in the world. ACTA: Internet Users Guilty Until Proven Innocent and ACTA: Will Corporate-Run US Government Destroy the Internet?

The Electronic Freedom Foundation Senator Bayh Responds on ACTA illustrates just how badly informed Americans (including Senators) are about ACTA.

Fortunately all Senators weren’t created equal. Senators blast Obama’s secret trade talks as Fox head calls for ‘3 strikes’

Michael Geist brings us: EU ACTA Analysis Leaks: Confirms Plans For Global DMCA, Encourage 3 Strikes Model

Where Paolo Brini passed along the news that the ACTA “negotiations now are not compliant with the Lisbon Treaty, which has come into force the 1st of December” EU negotiators show too many incompatibilities between ACTA and EU laws and Telecoms Package: 3-strikes forbidden in Europe He says further that “The agreement between the Council and the Parliament led to a new amendment which clearly forbids 3-strikes, in the sense meant by ACTA, and restrictions to fundamental rights without following very precise parameters (not respected by ACTA).”

Jamie Love’s blast from the past: Seven Secret ACTA documents from 2008 which includes the link to a PDF of the “Canada Non-Paper on institutional issues under the Agreement” is then discussed in Howard Knopf’s EXCESS COPYRIGHT: Canadian Proposal for ACTA Secretariat

Wired Magazine weighs in with the Threat Level column: Privacy, Crime and Security Online Report: U.S. Fears Public Scrutiny Would Scuttle IP Treaty Talks

New Zealand would like to know: Dunne: What are we signing up to, Mr Power? – 4 December 2009

Last week on BoingBoing Cory Doctorow passed along Javier “Barrapunto” Candeira’s information on the Spanish activists issue manifesto on the rights of Internet users which was created to battle the proposed suspension of due process “in the name of ‘safeguarding Intellectual Property Laws against Internet Piracy.”

1 .- Copyright should not be placed above citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy, security, presumption of innocence, effective judicial protection and freedom of expression.

2 .- Suspension of fundamental rights is and must remain an exclusive competence of judges. This blueprint, contrary to the provisions of Article 20.5 of the Spanish Constitution, places in the hands of the executive the power to keep Spanish citizens from accessing certain websites.

3 .- The proposed laws would create legal uncertainty across Spanish IT companies, damaging one of the few areas of development and future of our economy, hindering the creation of startups, introducing barriers to competition and slowing down its international projection.

4 .- The proposed laws threaten creativity and hinder cultural development. The Internet and new technologies have democratized the creation and publication of all types of content, which no longer depends on an old small industry but on multiple and different sources.

5 .- Authors, like all workers, are entitled to live out of their creative ideas, business models and activities linked to their creations. Trying to hold an obsolete industry with legislative changes is neither fair nor realistic. If their business model was based on controlling copies of any creation and this is not possible any more on the Internet, they should look for a new business model.

6 .- We believe that cultural industries need modern, effective, credible and affordable alternatives to survive. They also need to adapt to new social practices.

7 .- The Internet should be free and not have any interference from groups that seek to perpetuate obsolete business models and stop the free flow of human knowledge.

8 .- We ask the Government to guarantee net neutrality in Spain, as it will act as a framework in which a sustainable economy may develop.

9 .- We propose a real reform of intellectual property rights in order to ensure a society of knowledge, promote the public domain and limit abuses from copyright organizations.

10 .- In a democracy, laws and their amendments should only be adopted after a timely public debate and consultation with all involved parties. Legislative changes affecting fundamental rights can only be made in a Constitutional law.

The Spanish government withdrew the draft law that would have legalized punishment without due process.

Spanish Blogroll:

[this is only a smattering of the websites bearing the manifesto… a Google search shows “de aproximadamente 351,000 de manifiesto en defensa de los derechos fundamentales en internet”]

and the list goes on….

Bravo Spain.

Talk about this.

And please, contact your MP, Prime Minister Harper as well as the Honourable Ministers Clement and Moore.

Because ACTA is bad. Very very bad.

STOP Usage Based Billing

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 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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