interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘Petition’

The Right To Bear Arms: An Open Letter

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 14, 2012

An open letter to my American friends:

Today’s elementary school shooting has resulted in this petition calling for gun control .

In Canada we don’t have the right to bear arms.  Which doesn’t mean there are no guns here.  There are, but they aren’t easily accessible.  Still, we’ve had some tragedies here, too.  But not as often, and rarely as bad.  Our École Polytechnique massacre was pretty devastating. When I looked it up just now I was surprised to see it happened way back in 1989. I can’t think of anything that bad since. 

Ironically, there was a  similar school attack in China just today.  A knife wielding man injured 22 children and one adult.  Yet there were no fatalities.  Bad stuff still happens, but guns change the equation. Its a question of severity.

An American friend of mine pointed out that the gun used today in Connecticut was legal. It was apparently available in the disturbed young man’s home. The gun’s availability made it easy for him to kill his mother, and then go to the school where she taught and efficiently kill her class full of students, and then himself.

Had the disturbed young man’s family lived here in Canada, there is very little chance there would have been a gun in his home. Absent a gun, today’s outcome would have been very different.

What is the “right to bear arms” for?

People worry that not having the right to carry a gun will somehow infringe on their freedom. But there are plenty of examples of government restrictions on freedom.

American Law restricts the use of motor vehicles.  People need to prove themselves able to handle them safely in order to get a license.  Because misuse of motor vehicles, whether an automobile or an airplane, can have pretty devastating ramifications. Its a question of the public good.

The right to bear arms was intended as a defence from government oppression.  In this day and age, no matter what weapons you have, the government will have more. If you and your friends amass an aresenal to take on the government, you will lose. A handgun won’t help you. Nor will a bazooka.

Rather than fighting to keep a handgun in your kitchen drawer, perhaps citizens might fight for accountable government.

Fight to keep government spyware out of your computers, fight to stop the erosion of your hard won civil rights, fight for free speech, freedom of the press and the rule of law…

Of course, what you all decide to do is up to you. If it was up to me, I would sign this petition. Because bearing arms doesn’t seem to be a good idea to me. I simply don’t see any good outcome.

Clearly, this isn’t the only issue that needs to be looked at, but it would be a good start.

Wishing you all the best,
Laurel


Further Reading:
Wikipedia: School shooting
Wikipedia: School shootings in the United States

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Broadband Power for the People?

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on March 18, 2011

No Usage Based Billing

The Internet Billing Upheaval in Canada

By Arthur Czuma

CRTC logo
The year 2011 appears destined for revolutions. As Egyptians, Libyans, and others demonstrate across the Middle East and North Africa, Canadians are unleashing a quieter storm of their own. Hundreds of thousands have signed an online petition that calls for rescinding a new Internet billing policy that would eliminate price caps and bring usage-based charges. Striking the policy would help protect the interests of Canadian consumers – and the government seems to be listening. A senior government official indicated that if the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) does not reverse its controversial ruling, then the Cabinet would do so.

New Per-Gigabyte Charges

The policy, which would take effect on March 31, centers on the amount of data that consumers can view or download and for what expense. Not surprisingly, it’s the bigger ISPs that support the new fees supported by the policy. Many have already been charging users in accordance with how much data they access – and now, the new law would have smaller ISPs do the same. That’s because smaller ISPs lease bandwidth from larger telecommunications firms such as Bell Canada, Rogers Communications, and Shaw Communications. Despite their small size, the lesser-known ISPs (Internet service providers) have typically been providing both greater bandwidth and lower fees than have the bigger ISPs such as Bell and TELUS.

Small ISPs Scoff at “Wholesale” Rate

Netflix logo
The larger telecom firms are mandated by government to lease their bandwidth to smaller ISPs and resellers. However, until now, they were prohibited from passing per-gigabyte fees on to these customers. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has attempted to placate small providers by granting them a 15% discount on cable and telecom companies’ retail rates – but the small ISPs are less than impressed with this wholesale rate. In fact, many regard it as just another retail price. From the perspective of small business, the discount is hardly compensation for the new power imbalance: it merely slows the journey toward an Internet oligopoly or monopoly.

The large companies, in turn, cite their right to manage their networks – and they claim that flat-rate Internet pricing is no longer viable. Bell Canada raised the issue in 2009 as iTunes, YouTube, Netflix, and other online video and video game providers contributed to rapid growth in online traffic. But that’s a hard argument to swallow: according to the CRTC’s own data, just as some large providers have been charging for “excessive” traffic for years, smaller ISPs have offered plans with literally hundreds of times the bandwidth, if not unlimited service, at a lower cost.

Tony Clement

Minister of Industry, Tony Clement

Canadians Take Action

The question of exactly what is the just balance between fostering competition and granting corporate rights will always be up for debate. For now, however, it seems that Canadians have drawn a line in the sand. In addition to more than 465,000 having signed a “Mind the Cap” petition online, tens of thousands have written to the Minister of Industry to protest the imposition of usage-billed Internet billing. And as back-up, the Canadian Network Operators Consortium, a group of more than 20 ISPs, is considering its legal options if the Conservative government does not revoke the CRTC ruling. A senior official acknowledged that the billing is “a bread-and-butter issue” and would be treated as such.

Canadian Flag

The Numbers

Many Canadians currently have Internet plans that charge for using an excess of 25 gigabytes per month. That’s equivalent to watching about five Netflix movies or downloading about six video games. It’s certainly not enough for many people’s entertainment needs, nor is it sufficient to help get a small business established or draw innovative services. For instance, a data cap would stymie the expansion of Netflix, the online video company that recently started offering unlimited movie rentals for about C$8 per month.

A Contagious Revolution?

By striking down the decision, the government will enable the small ISPs to remain competitive and thereby help bring a variety of affordable Internet options to Canadians. At the same time, eliminating caps will help attract innovative digital entrepreneurs to the Canadian economy. It’s inspirational – and if US Americans would pay attention, perhaps the Canadian revolution could spread stateside. Regardless of their political stripes, fair Internet pricing is something that just about every consumer can stand for.



Distributel logo
About the author

Arthur Czuma is a writer and consultant for several Ontario-based businesses including Distributel, a local ISP.



It’s not over yet.

Usage Based Billing has NOT been cancelled, only postponed.

The CRTC is not doing their job, but rather doing a disservice to Canada.

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 15027 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Write Letters to Stop UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 18, 2010

No Usage Based Billing

Living in a democracy means that citizens are free to communicate with our government.

Opinion expressed in one letter from one constituent has long been weighted with a great deal of importance. The presumption is that if one person invests time and effort in writing a letter and posting it, there are very likely a whole bunch of people out there grumbling about the issue who simply haven’t invested the time and effort in writing. After all, not everyone is comfortable writing a letter.
envelopes and fancy stationary

the formula

I don’t know what the actual formula is, nor even where to look for it. (If anyone knows, I’d love a link.) But people who have studied this stuff have worked it out that:

X number of petition signers = Y number of letter writers = Z number of email writers

So even though 100 people might sign a petition, and another 100 people might send a letter and a third hundred people may send email, the concerns of these three different groups of people will be treated differently. Doesn’t sound very democratic, does it?

Canada Post canceled Royal Canadian Military College stamp

petitions

The thinking goes something like this: it takes only a few seconds to sign your name to a petition.
Therefore the idea presented by the petition may mean little or nothing to those signing it.
Maybe it is something you agree with passionately.
But maybe you just signed it as the easiest way to get the person with the petition off your back.
A petition signed by 100 people would therefore have less authority– much less– than individual letters from those same 100 people.

Canada Post Mary Pickford Stamp

form letters

A form letter is going to be given less weight than an original letter, probably because the sender did not craft the letter themselves. The thinking seems to be that the sender put less work into it personally, so therefore it wasn’t important to them.

I think that is a serious error of logic. Just because some people simply aren’t letter writers, or comfortable putting their ideas down does not make their opinion less valid, it simply means that they have a different skill set than someone like me who writes endlessly.

If someone provides the words in a form letter that expresses what you think, it should be perfectly valid. As an expression of your views it should have just as much weight as an original letter. After all, FINDING the right form letter might even take even more work than writing your own. Not everyone is a writer. Your ability to participate in Canada’s democratic process should not be jeopardized by whether or not you are a confident letter writer.

Canada Post canceled Yousuf Karsh stamp

postal mail

In actual fact, it does not directly cost a citizen anything to mail a letter to our elected representatives. That’s a right that Canadians have based on the fact that our government is supposed to be a democracy. We are allowed to post our thoughts and ideas to our government without having to pay postage.

But if I send a physical letter, known to many in today’s world as “snail mail” because it is not as nearly instantaneous as email, the physical letter has to be collected from the pick-up point, transported to the sorting station, sorted, transported to the destination post office, sorted, and then delivered. When constituent mail arrives at the Parliament Buildings, it has to be sorted for delivery within to the office of our MP, or the Minister of Industry, or the Prime Minister, wherever it is supposed to go. The reality is of course that all of this physical handling is in fact paid for out of government coffers which come from– you guessed it– our tax dollars. So although we are not paying directly out of our pockets, we are paying indirectly out of our tax dollars for sending physical mail to our government.

email

Canada Post Permanent Stamp

Politicians also seem to put a lot less value on email letters, giving them substantially less importance than a physical letter delivered by Canada Post.

Yet writing an effective email letter is just as difficult as writing a physical letter. It takes the same amount of effort as writing a physical letter.

So why do politicians routinely devalue our email and count it as less than a physical letter? I think this differentiation is purely financial. It probably came from market research that says if a customer invests in a stamp in order to mail a letter, although small it is a financial commitment. And in today’s world we also have to figure out where we can even mail a physical letter since there are fewer post offices and mailboxes available.

When we send email to our representatives, the routing is all done electronically, but in this scenario no Canada Post physical presence is required. In fact there is no physical human labour until the last lap when presumably the email arrives at the office of the recipient. Depending on their computer skills, the letter might in fact be printed or possibly read off a screen by the person we have addressed.

But in reality, if I send an email to my elected representatives, no letter carrier has to carry it. Canada Post does not have to expend any energy in delivering my letter.

Canada Post Permanent Stamp

email is free (for now)

At the moment, email is pretty well free in Canada. Any Canadian who is hooked up to the Internet gets at least one free email address. But you don’t even need that anymore. Even if you don’t have an internet account, you can log onto the internet for free at a public library, or perhaps on a friend’s connection and get a free email account of your very own from hotmail or Yahoo or any one of dozens of free email providers.

The fact that email is free is is a big part of why spam is so prevalent; spam can be automatically sent to hundreds of thousands of recipients at virtually no cost. So long as one person falls for the scam or purchases the product spam will never ever go away.

Except Usage Based Billing means that everything we do online will cost money. Including email. In many cases we won’t be paying the email provider but we will be paying Bell Canada. So those of us who chose to use email will in fact be paying for the privilege of emailing our elected representatives.

Right now though, until UBB is implemented, email is still free. So it does not cost us directly OR indirectly.

politicians

My email is set up to request a delivery confirmation when I send email. That way, I get a notification that the email I have sent has been received. This is very handy in a lot of situations. Last year when I emailed politicians about an issue, some of them weren’t tech savvy enough to turn off the email confirmations. Of those, about half confirmed that my email was deleted without being read.

That’s unsettling on more than one level. The whole point of a democracy is that constituents are supposed to have access to their government. Government officials who delete constituent email without reading it are hardly behaving in a democratic manner. Although I do not reside in the electoral ridings of these MPs, in their capacity as members of the Canadians Government, they were serving on a committee deliberating about issues that will affect me. So it wasn’t simply impolite, it was a clear case of deliberately not even giving a hearing to a citizen.

What is even worse was that these same politicians who don’t understand a simple email function like automatic confirmations are making laws about Canadian access to technology. That doesn’t bode well for Canadian access to technology in the 21st century.

Canada Post Permanent Stamp

fiscally responsible government

Since physical mail costs the Canadian Government far more than email, they ought to be encouraging citizen email use, regardless of marketing formulas.

what goes around comes around

When we send our elected representatives email, they respond with email. When we send them physical letters they respond with physical letters.

In my experience, there is always an awfully long time before I get a response. I wonder if the intent is to wait a really long time to answer because by then I will have forgotten what I have written? Like most Canadians I keep copies of my correspondence so it doesn’t matter how long the reply takes, I can always refer back to my original letter. And the response doesn’t ever seem to actually answer my letter.

Canada Post 160 stamp - orange flower

But even if we are not going to get a prompt or good response from our elected representatives, and in fact all members of our government, we still have the right to be heard. Which is why I think we should write letters to our government to tell them why Usage Based Billing is not a good thing for us. And if we send paper letter s through the mail, someone in the office has to at least open it before throwing it out. If it is email, apparently it can be deleted without being read.

Because right or wrong, politicians attach far more weight to paper letters than email.

why write?

Are you struggling to pay for the Internet now? Tell them that.

Canada Post Oscar Peterson cancelled Stamp

Are you making a blog or do you have a web page that you are trying out as a way to promote a home business?

Are you a creator, do you have books, music or movies that you want to distribute online?
Do you have school kids who need to access the Internet to be able to participate fully in their own education?
Are you a shut-in who can access the world through the Internet?
Are you a researcher who needs to be able to access information?
Are you one of the many Canadians who is getting their news exclusively online? Do you use Internet banking? Are you looking for work? Are you selling or are you buying? Do you download public domain ebooks from Project Gutenberg? Or FLOSS? Are you a Facebook denizen or a Twitterer?
Tell them.

what to write?

If you need help with wording, I have written thousands of words in this blog I have been writing since I first heard about UBB. And I’ve put every word I’ve written in this blog directly into the public domain. That gives you the right to pick and choose anything I have said to create your own letter to tell them why you think UBB should be stopped. Because I’ve been trying to make this a work of reference, I’ve listed all the blog articles in the left hand sidebar, so I hope that should help you find any appropriate bits.

Canada Post Red flowers 50 cent cancelled stamp

Since the Minister of Industry, Tony Clement was able to overturn the bad CRTC Windmobile decision, he should also be able to overturn this bad UBB decision.

And for the same reason: it will be bad for Canada’s technological future.

write to your mp

Even if our MPs might not be very tech savvy, the Canadian Government has in fact invested oodles of money in setting up excellent internet access to all aspects of our government. Of course, when Usage Based Billing starts, it will make Canadians hesitate before using these excellent online governmental resources because we may not be able to afford them come UBB.

This excellent link will allow you to find your MP even if you don’t know who it is. This will find the MP for your riding based on your home postal code.
Find your MP

cancelled Canada Post 51 cent stamp with 2 red flowers

write to our government

This is an issue that will affect all of Canada, so all of our government should be aware of it. Because there is so much on the go, however, it is reasonable to assume that many of them are just as much in the dark about UBB as the rest of Canada. So it certainly wouldn’t hurt to write to all of the leaders. Should a Federal Election come to pass in the near future this could be an important issue.

Conservative Party of Canada logo

Prime Minister
The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Minister of Industry
The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Minister of Heritage
The Hon. James Moore, P.C., B.A.
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Liberal Leader
Michael Ignatieff, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Bloc Quebecois Leader
Gilles Duceppe
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
[*M. Duceppe would prefer communication in French, but I’ve heard that he’s classy enough to respond to mono-lingual English speakers in English
(in other words, English would be better than a bad Google translation]

NDP Party of Canada

NDP Leader
The Hon. Jack Layton, P.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

NDP Technology Critic
Charlie Angus
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Even though the Green Party got nearly a million votes across Canada in the last election, the green party still has not elected a single member, due to our unfair and antiquated “first past the post” electoral system. If you’re interested in working to change that issue, you might want to contact your local chapter of Fairvote Canada and participate in effecting change so that all Canadians will have a voice in our government.

In the meantime, although unelected, the Green Party Leader Elizabeth May does in fact have a larger constituency than many who hold office, so it certainly would not hurt to contact her about your UBB concerns.

Green Party LogoUnelected leader of the Green Party
Elizabeth May
The Green Party of Canada

Contact the green party of canada

The Pirate Party of Canada is brand new, but since they have come to exist in defense of copyright law and the Internet, it makes sense that they would be interested in fighting Usage Based Billing because it too will impede citizen access. Because they have not yet stood in an election and have no elected representatives, I’m pretty sure that postal mail to the Pirate Party of Canada is not free. However, you can mail them your concerns if you spring for a stamp, or head to their website and leave comments there.
The Unelected Leader of the Pirate Party of Canadapirate party of canada
Jake Daynes
Pirate Party of Canada
43 Samson Blvd #165
Laval QC H7X 3R8

A graphic of fireworks on a Canada Post Permanent Stamp

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to ferret out any smaller political parties that may exist in your riding. According to Wikipedia, there are a great many, so check it out to see a list of canadian political parties which would be an excellent starting point. The more people we have talking about Usage Based Billing the greater the possibility to stop it.

It is also possible to mail a letter to every single Member of Parliament. I would caution you about doing this by email. One person I spoke with in a Facebook CAPP forum told me that she had sent email to all of the Members of parliament during the Premature Prorogation, and had her Yahoo email account frozen because of it– because she was sending the same letter to hundreds of people, her her account flagged it as a spammer.

I suggest if you want to do something like that by email, do it in smaller increments. I’m contemplating sending them all postal mail letters. Wonder how many replies I’d get…

Canadians need to know about Usage Based Billing.



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10787 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

CRTC Approved UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 6, 2010

No Usage Based BillingAccording to the CBC Story, CRTC approves usage-based internet billing this will probably come to pass in September.

Canadian Flag Submerged in American FLAG

More than 8,000 citizens told the Stephen Harper Conservatives that they did not want copyright law that is a Canadian DMCA. But it looks like Prime Minister Harper is going ahead with it anyway.

Around 4,000 citizens protested against Bell Canada’s imposition of Usage Based Billing on the customers of the Independent Service Providers. The CRTC ignored the protests from the consumers and the Independent Service Providers and gave it provisional approval.

Another 10,000 Canadians signed the Dissolve The CRTC petition. Yet the CRTC is still there. Making bad rulings that demonstrate they don’t understand.

This Canadian Government just doesn’t even listen to citizens.

Conservative Party logo

It seems that citizens aren’t listened to even when we have a minority government.

Even with a minority government we’ve been screwed with UBB. CRTC has approved Bell Canada’s request to implement Usage Based Billing on the Independent Service Providers customers. On average, Canadian internet costs will at least double come September. They were already among the highest in the world. (For mediocre service too.) It was too bad, I was really attached to my Internet Service Provider, but it will be a miracle if they can stay in business.(I will never grasp the rationale of why Bell can collect money from people who are not their customers.)

Usage based billing will put Canada at a huge disadvantage internationally. We just lost a huge bit of Internet access…

Konrad von Finckenstein


To get an idea of where the CRTC is coming from in approving Bell Canada’s imposition of Usage Based Billing I offer this exerpt from Jesse Brown’s October 2009 Interview with CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein.

CRTC

CRTC

12:30 KvF: Well, well just a second. You know, you have, uh, If somebody comes forward and says this, uh, Internet Service Provider is it in, applying Internet Traffic Management, and he is, uh, this, that, unfairly, uh, discriminating against me or, uh, it may impairs my use, and the first, then the onus, as we set out in our, uh, the, our decision, is on the ISP to come forward and say either “No I’m doing it” or “Yes I’m doing it and I’m driven to it by this and this” and you go though the analytical framework. So you’re positing right away that actually that, that is happening. I don’t, you have to, that’s exactly what you are trying to do, trying to be preventive and, uh, prompt. If and when congestion arises, if it doesn’t arise then of course there’s no issue. If it does arise, then, as I said before, that’s, they may build extra infrastructure, if not they put in economic measures to, to have people pay for the use and thereby modu, modulate the use. If that doesn’t work then only you go to technical ones. Then, uh, uh, you want me to prove a disaster before it has happened. How can I do that?

—CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein
Search Engine with Jesse Brown: The Neutral Throttle? An interview with CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein
Transcript on This Blog Is Not For Reading

In listening to Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein’s answers all through the interview, he clearly indicated that he accepts everything Bell Canada told the CRTC as truth. It sounds like there was never any evidence. But if Bell Canada says they have to throttle people of course they do. Nad things might happen if not.

But the very saddest thing is the CRTC Chairman’s idea that the way to address an inadequate Internet infrastructure is to curb customer use by imposing caps and high prices.

The Canadian Internet is too successful seems to be the problem the CRTC is addressing. Too many people use it for too many things.

Instead of asking Bell Canada why they have not been upgrading infrastructure (beyond maintenance) over the last 15 years, the CRTC solution is to curb Canadian Internet use so that we will use it less. This does not bode well for our children’s future. Much less an economy that runs more and more online.

That’s the CRTC strategy. Now, I’m not an economist, but somehow that doesn’t really sound like a recipe for fostering online economic growth to me.

Canadians need to pay more and use the Internet less.


Since this will make the Internet so much more expensive for Canadians, probably a lot of the copyright stuff will be moot. Independent musicians and other artists will have a much harder time finding an audience when the audience can’t afford to wander freely online.

I’m open for suggestions.

Here’s an oldie but goodie:

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10603 signatures

If you have, who can you get to sign it?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.

Because Usage Based Billing will harm us all.

Usage Based Billing is a Disservice to Canada.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

dissolvethecrtc.ca: 10028 signatures

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 3, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

dissolve the crtc website

dissolve the crtc website

Wooo hoo!!! Great Job folks!

Even though Minister James Moore agreed to deliver the petition to The House Of Commons when it hit 10,000, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. I’d suggest keeping those signatures coming, and coming and coming…

dissolve the crtc signature count

dissolve the crtc signature count

Keep watching http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

Keep signing and getting more people to sign… the more the merrier!

Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , | 7 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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Why Usage Based Billing Won’t Bring Bell Canada the Profits they Expect

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 8, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

Bell Canada applied to the CRTC for permission to implement Usage Based Billing.

Incredibly, the CRTC completely disregarded the wishes of the thousands of Canadians who told the CRTC they wanted the Bell Canada cash grab application to be denied.

Naturally, the Independent Internet Service Providers also asked the CRTC to deny the order which will at best seriously damage their ability to do business in Canada.

Bell Canada is not actually providing any new services to the Canadian internet users who will be hard hit by the additional fee being levied in exchange for… nothing.

Customers will be paying more for the very same service only because the agency that exists solely to regulate the telecommunications industry on behalf of Canadian citizens has completely ignored our wishes by granting Bell Canada’s request to unreasonably elevate out rates in exchange for… nothing.

If you believe that the CRTC should have done their mandated job and used their regulatory power to prevent Bell Canada from gouging Canadians rather than granting them the authority add additional costs to Canadian internet users in exchange for…. nothing… you may wish to express your disapproval of the CRTC by signing the online petition at http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

The saddest thing is that Bell Canada probably won’t even realize
the vast unearned profits they expect from Usage Based Billing.

Rich Canadians
The only Canadians who will be able to easily afford to pay the unreasonably inflated costs without a murmur are unlikely to do so. Because of course, one reason why the rich retain their wealth is because they don’t squander money for… nothing.

Since Independent ISPs are being forced by CRTC to implement Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing, CRTC has effectively legislated them out of independence, and it will be a miracle if they can continue to exist. So the only way rich Canadian internet users will be able to express their anger would be to switch to Rogers, Canada’s other over endowed Internet Service Provider.

Marginalized Canadians
Of course the people who can just barely afford to be connected to the internet now, and the people who were hoping that they’d be able to connect to the internet in the near future will be out of luck. They just won’t be able to do it.

In the midst of this global recession, people who are out of work will have a much harder time finding jobs since an increasing number of employment listings are handled exclusively online.

Ordinary Canadians
The people who can afford to access the internet today may in fact stay connected to Bell Canada or the newly emasculated Independents after Usage Based Billing is implemented. Most ordinary Canadians like myself will not provide Bell Canada with the big profits they hope to realize for the simple reason that our budgets will not allow it. At least not after the first *GASP* that many of us will have when the first Usage Based Billing invoices are issued come November.

So Bell Canada will receive a one time pure profit spike largely because most Canadians won’t be prepared for it since there has been next to no media coverage. (That’s the kind of thing that happens when a Regulatory body like the CRTC allows the carrier to own the media outlets and control news media content.)

Bell Canada is expecting to charge these usurious rates to Ordinary Canadians so that they realize a big profit for doing… nothing.

Since the internet has become such a big part of our lives, Ordinary Canadians are unlikely to just walk away from it.

But Canadians will no longer be able to participate online as fully as the rest of the world’s citizens.

We will stop being bold.

Because the thing about Usage Based Billing is that if we are very very careful, we may be able to keep with our budgets. Of course if our inboxes have a heavy dose of spam we may have to stay offline a bit more for that month. What other things will change? We’ll be unlikely to participate in Wikipedia. So all those Canadians who have been freely contributing to wikipedia’s store of internationally accessible knowledge will think twice before they do it again.

Big deal, the CRTC might say. Wikipedia isn’t even Canadian, they might say.

And I would agree that wikipedia is not Canadian, it is international. And Canadians have been promoting Canada to the world through wikipedia.

Which is why wikipedia has a large proportion of Canadian Content. (Maybe even more can con than you would get on a Canadian radio station.) Up until the advent of Usage Based Billing, like everyone else in the world, Canadians have been adding information we feel is important to wikipedia. The kind of information that would be found in an old time encyclopedia. But in addition to all that, wikipedia hosts an impressive amount of information on Canadian art, artists, musicians, etc.

The List of Bands from Canada is only one small way that ordinary Canadians have supported Canadian culture on the internet. But some of the Canadians who promote Canada to the world in that way are no longer going to be able to afford to do so. And many other Canadians will never have the opportunity to even try to participate in anything like wikipedia. It will just cost too much.

Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing Canadian will certainly cause contributions by Canadians to fall off. It will be too expensive.

How much amazing art and music will Canada miss out on by preventing many perfectly good Canadians from getting internet access. How much independent research and development will be done in Canada if it is too expensive for average people to utilize the internet full strength.

Canadian Small Business
How many small businesses will simply not be able to compete? Even though as far as I know “business” connections (currently substantially more expensive than individual connections) are not supposed to be affected by the introduction of Usage Based Billing. Except that many small businesses who are either starting out or just hanging on by the skin of their teeth (this is after all still a recession we’re in) don’t have “business” connections.

And of course businesses that rely on website advertising revenue will suffer a big downturn thanks to the drop in casual Canadian internet use.

Usage Based Billing will certainly change how Canadians use the internet and make it much more difficult for Canada to compete in a global economy.

Even if you work for a big company who can afford a business connection, they are unlikely to provide an additional business connection to allow you to work from home. So Usage Based Billing will impact on the ability of employees to “telecommute” because it will be too expensive.

And Bell Canada?
In order to implement Usage Based Billing Bell Canada will have to spend money to handle the administration of this new billing procedure. So Bell Canada is going to be spending a little bit more money to do that. But particularly in this economic climate Bell Canada is not going to take in the big pots of money they are expecting Usage Based Billing to generate.

We’re in a recession. Even if ithe recession is beginning to ease off, the money just isn’t there.

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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How will they bill the “USAGE” in the Usage Based Billing?

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 29, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

If the CRTC is actually going to allow Bell Canada to implement usage based billing, the question is: How?

If we are being charged per packet, how is that going to be itemized?

Itemized Internet Bills?

To figure out how much internet individual users are using Bell Canada will need an army of bean counters to keep track of each packet that is being used by each user. Interesting. Then all of this data will need to be sorted out and itemized. This will generate a huge invoice each month. This is also going to dramatically increase Bell Canada’s actual cost of doing business. (We’ll look at “Marginal Costs” in the next blog post… I am still learning about that.)

slashdot.org: iPhone Bill a Whopping 52 Pages Long
PoliTech writes “iPhone bills are surprisingly large – ‘Xbox Large’, according to Ars technica: ‘AT&T’s iPhone bills are quite impressive in their own right. We’re starting to get bills for the iPhone here at Ars, and while many of us have had smartphones for some time, we’ve never seen a bill like this. One of our bills is a whopping 52 pages long, and my own bill is 34 pages long. They’re printed on both sides, too. What gives? The AT&T bill itemizes your data usage whenever you surf the Internet via EDGE, even if you’re signed up for the unlimited data plan. AT&T also goes into an incredible amount of detail to tell you; well, almost nothing. For instance, I know that on July 27 at 3:21 p.m. I had some data use that, under the To/From heading, AT&T has helpfully listed as Data Transfer. The Type of file? Data. My total charge? $0.00. This mind-numbing detail goes on for 52 double-sided pages (for 104 printed pages!) with absolutely no variance except the size of the files.’ You would think that a data company would have a more efficient billing process.”

Bell Canada

Bell Canada

I am curious as to how Bell Canada will handle this.

If they do itemize the packets, how will we know they aren’t just making these numbers up?

Measurement Canada

Measurement Canada

I contacted Measurement Canada on August 21st via their online form to inquire as to how they will monitor Bell Canada’s measurement of individual internet use to safeguard Canadian consumers when Usage Based Billing is introduced.

Because of course they cannot possibly allow Bell Canada to just pull “Usage” numbers out of the air. If they are going to be billing us for what we are using they need to be able to back up their claims of what we are using.

And Bell Canada certainly can NOT be allowed to Bill Canadian Users for the packets that they deliberately discard when they throttle Canadian internet use (see UBB Glossary). I mean really, if Bell Canad is going to deliberately inflate the figures of what bandwidth Canadians are using, they cannot then bill us for this inflation. That would be FRAUD. So Measurement Canada will certainly need to be right on top of things to ensure fairness and honesty.

No wonder Measurement Canada hasn’t responded. I expect that THEY have no idea of how to oversee Usage Based Billing. Or the manpower to even begin to monitor Bell Canada’s auditing of internet usage. Personally I don’t trust Bell Canada to tell me how many packets I’ve used. I expect independant government oversight.

Privacy Laws

Another thing to consider is the question of how Bell Canada is going to bill Internet users who are NOT their customers. Since I have never had a business relationship with Bell Canada’s Internet arm, they don’t have a business relationship with me. So how are they going to know who to bill? They can’t force Teksavvy to hand over secure billing information. We do have Privacy Laws in Canada…. don’t we?

And of course privacy laws should also protect Canadian consumers from having Bell Canada’s telephone branch from giving up customer information to the Bell Canada internet wholesaling division who will want the information on who to bill.

So if Bell can’t get my billing information from Teksavvy, does this mean that Teksavvy will be forced to hire the army of administrators needed to perform the internet useage audit necessitated by introducing UBB? That doesn’t seem fair.

Putting aside the question of where this internet auuseage audit will take place, who will pay for this whole new layer of accountants? The consumer will.

So not only will we be paying extortionate fees for internet access which includes, but is not limited to

  • surfing the web…
  • along with the website ads we will now have the privilege of paying Bell Canada to enjoy
  • email
  • all of the spam that the spammers get to send us for free
  • all the software we download,
  • freeware which developers make available FOR FREE will now earn Bell Canada new profit
  • shareware which developers make available for customers to tryE will now earn Bell Canada new profit
  • commercial software we purchase,
  • inxluding of course all those Windows updates…

BUT we will also be paying the costs of the massive new buraucracy which will be necessitated by the very fact of Usage Based Billing.

That isn’t all…. Canadian tax dollars will now have to pay for Measurement Canada staff to both figure out how to oversee and police this practice of Bell Canada Usage Based Billing.

CRTC

CRTC

Talk about adding insult to injury.

From everything I have read, there is currently no technology in place to meter internet bandwidth (in the usage sense).
These are all issues and questions which should have been answered before the CRTC even considered Bell Canada’s request for Usage Based Billing.

Certainly before the CRTC approved Bell Canada’s implementation of Usage Based Billing.

Canadian internet users CAN do something about this travesty.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

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Usage Based Pricing: Why The Buffet Analogy Doesn’t Work

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 29, 2009

It seems that some American ISPs are also trying to promote the idea of Usage Based Billing. In fact, I just read an interesting post written by a guy named Buck on the Occam Networks Blog. It’s a very well written column in support of American Usage Based Billing.

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

American Flag

The problem is Buck’s premise is based on a seriously flawed analogy.

Comparing the internet to a Buffet Restaurant, Buck talks about how some people eat more at a buffet and some people eat less. He tells us it isn’t fair that the people who eat less at a Buffet Restaurant are subsidizing the ones who eat more. The idea seems to be that the ones who eat more are greedy, and that they are taking advantage of the people who don’t eat much. He says it’s not fair to the Restaurant because they might go out of business if too many people want to eat too much.

Which begs the question:

If all of this is true, why do buffet restaurants exist?

The answer of course is that the restaurant business doesn’t work that way. Like every other type of restaurant, the Buffet Restaurant buys and prepares the food they estimate they’ll need. They balance what they spend with how much money they need to take in. If it they find they are throwing out too much food, they buy less food. If they aren’t making enough of a profit, they might raise their prices. If they raise their prices too high, they might lose their customers. A Buffet Restaurant deals with the very same business issues any restaurant does. The fact that some customers eat little and some a lot doesn’t comes into it.

In a traditional restaurant the light eater pays for food they don’t eat which is thrown out. In the Buffet Restaurant the light eater wouldn’t even have scooped the food they won’t eat onto the plate. In a traditional restaurant a heavy eater may not get enough to eat. Which makes them less likely to become a repeat customer. At the buffet, they can be sure they will get what they need.

A Buffet Restaurant is not like the Internet

A Buffet Restaurant is not like the Internet.

Buck goes on to offer us an alternate scenario where he instead offers a “Mongolian barbecue” where the customer gets a big plate and can take what they want. Instead of paying one price, they are indiscriminately charged for everything they have taken by weight. Buck suggests that:

“The effect is that diners will take whatever food they want but are not as likely to overeat. Since the average eater is not paying more than their share in order to compensate for the big-eaters, the average eater pays less at a “per ounce” buffet than they would for an equivalent meal at a flat rate all-you-can-eat buffet. On the other hand, the heavy eater’s price for a comparable meal goes up, maybe even double what they would pay at a smorgasbord. These are the patrons that may be upset at the new pricing. Some will see the fairness in it and maybe curb their gluttonous ways while others will take their patronage to another restaurant. One could argue that these are good customers for the competition to have!”
writes Buck in the Occam Networks Blog

So, it would appear that in Buck’s model, the intent behind this pricing is not to make money for the restaurant, but instead to modify the customer’s behaviour. That is certainly an interesting business practice. Sadly, in modifying the behavior of his customers in an attempt to deliver them from their bad choices, it would seem that Buck’s ignorance of both human physiology and nutrition will certainly cause more harm than good. It would also seem to indicate that Buck is fortunate enough not to understand the correlation between poverty and obesity. Lucky Buck.

Errors of logic aside, the analogy is simply not… analagous.

Because the internet is NOT at all like a Buffet Restaurant.

When people access the internet they do not use it up. There is a finite amount of food in the restaurant which can be prepared and served at the buffet. When it is eaten it is gone. That doesn’t happen to the internet. Internet content isn’t finite. It doesn’t matter how many people visit a website, the content doesn’t get used up. In fact, websites want high traffic. The reason that they provide content is to attract an audience. They WANT high traffic.

In Buck’s analogy food is the content. Which brings to light another problem with this analogy. A restaurant offering a buffet has paid for the food. Yet the bulk of internet content is provided free of charge to the consumer, without any cost at all to the ISP.

Baked Beans

Baked Beans

Lobster Thermidor

Really the only way to make Buck’s analogy work would be to say that the internet is not a Buffet Restaurant, it’s a neighborhood potluck supper being held in a rented Banquet Hall. The food is freely provided by the neighbors who attend, but somebody has to pay for the hall. That is the cost which needs to be portioned out.

It makes no difference to the owner of the Banquet Hall what the neighborhood group eats. Nor should it matter to the landlord how much any of the food cost to purchase, or how much time or effort was necessary in the preparation. The food is freely provided by neighbors for neighbors. The landlord set the price for the rental and the neighbors agreed to pay. Everyone is happy.

Until the night of the potluck when the landlord sees what the neighbors are laying out for the potluck dinner in his Banquet Hall, his attitude changes. These people aren’t serving Tuna Casserole, Baked Beans or Macaroni and Cheese, they are setting out Rack of Lamb, Chateaubriand and Lobster Thermidor.

Suddenly the landlord isn’t happy anymore. He could have charged them a lot more!

So the landlord decides to charge the neighbors for the food they ate at the potluck dinner in addition to what they agreed to pay as rent for the Hall, and we have finally achieved a good analogy for Usage Based Billing.

Hardly fair.


And let’s not forget:
http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

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Usage Based Billing: A Glossary

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 22, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

The Usage Based Billing Issue will have a huge impact on all Canadians.

But it can be difficult for those of us who are not technically minded to follow the raging debate because we don’t know the jargon. So I’ve put together a Glossary. I’m not an expert, and in fact I’ve only learned what many of these things mean myself in the last week, but no one else is likely to do this, because:

  • The Big Three don’t want us to understand what’s happening because it is much easier to get away with stuff in a democracy if the populace doesn’t understand what is happening.
  • At the same time most of the technical people who are trying to fight this have been living and breathing this issue so long that it doesn’t even occur to them that most ordinary Canadians only understand about half of what they’re saying.

As always, if I get anything wrong, let me know so I can correct it.

Most of the jargon is too new to be in a dictionary, and although some of this is explained in wikipedia, not everything is. GAS, for example. That’s actually what convinced me this glossary was necessary. Because when learning about UBB I couldn’t figure out what gas had to do with the internet.

Although variations on these issues are being faced in other countries, at this time I am dealing exclusively with the Canadian version. I posted some of these definitions in the comments section of CBC ONLINE: Petition spurs CRTC debate yesterday.

UBB: A Glossary

bandwidth

Bandwidth provides a classic example of why regular people have a hard time understanding a lot of this, because it describes two very different rates of transfer.

Bandwidth is the measurement of download speed, measured in how many bits per second you can download.
Bandwidth has also come to refer to the transfer cap being placed on Canadian internet users, which is measured in gigabytes.

Put another way, bandwidth is a data transfer measurement of
(a) how fast you can go at any given time – your rate of speed, or
(b) how how far you can go in any given month – your allowed capacity.

Bell Canada

Looking at the Bell Canada homepage tells us that this corporation provides these services:

  • Mobile (aka cel phone service – Bell Mobility)
  • Internet (aka ISP – Sympatico)
  • TV (aka television broadcasting – express vue TV)
  • Home Phone

From its humble beginning as a crown corporation intended to string telephone wires across Canada, Bell Canada no longer simply provides telephone service. Instead we find Bell Canada firmly in the position of providing both the medium and the message. And apparently this is not enough. (Perhaps it’s time to look at dismantling this telecommunications giant.)

Big Three

Sometimes called the New Big 3, these are the three big Canadian telecommunication players, Telus, Bell Canada and Rogers Cable.

Canada

The Arrogant Worms sing that Canada Is Really Big and they’re right. The fact that Canada is physically the largest country in North America is one compelling reason why internet access is so important for Canadians. Like the railroad before it, the internet helps to connect Canadians to Canadians.

When telephone service first became viable in the early 20th century, no independent company would have had the resources to string the phone wires from coast to coast. The sheer size of Canada is also the reason why most of the Canadian telephone cable infrastructure was paid for by Canadian tax dollars. And why Bell Canada is forced to share this infrastructure with independent ISPs. Bell Canada is only the custodian of the Canadian telephone infrastructure, not the owner of it.

CanCon

A quota system established by the CRTC which is supposed to ensure that Canadian Broadcasters play a percentage of Canadian Content. The terms and definitions of this quota have varied over the years.

Carrier

The corporation controlling the wires. (aka The Big Three)

CRTC

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission or CRTC is supposed to be an independent public organization that regulates and supervises the Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications systems.

“The CRTC’s mandate is to ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public. The CRTC uses the objectives in the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act to guide its policy decisions.”
from Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission: Mandate

Deep Packet Inspection (or DPI)

Deep Packet Inspection allows Bell Canada the internet equivalent of opening your mail. The CRTC allowed them to look at anything you do online without having to go to the trouble of getting a warrant. How many people send encrypted email?

Deregulation

In the context of the CRTC and UBB, Degulation would be the removal of governmental control by rules or restrictions on the Canadian telecommunications industry.
Many Canadians believe that the CRTC is corrupt but that replacing the CRTC with an alternative regulatory body would simply create new corruption, and want no regulation of the Canadian telecommunications industry.

Dissolve the CRTC

Dissolve the CRTC is both a website and an online petition. Actually, I guess I’d have to call it a rallying cry as well.

Many Canadians believe that the CRTC is corrupt but that it would be possible to replace the CRTC with an alternative regulatory body which would act in the best interest of Canadians. Because many Canadians believe that good regulation of the Canadian telecommunications industry would be the best for Canada.

dsl

Internet connectivity provided over the wires of a telephone network is called a Digital Subscriber Line or dsl.

GAS

GAS, or the Gateway Access Service is how Bell Canada allows Independent ISPs access to their hardware.

Independent ISP

An Independent Internet Service Provider (ISP) purchases Gateway Access to the infrastructure (the wires) from the carrier, which they then break down into smaller packages which they sell directly to their customers.

ISP

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a corporate entity which delivers internet connectivity directly to the public.

In Canada this includes:

  • Independent ISPs who sell internet service directly to the public, as well as the
  • Carriers who also compete directly with the Independent ISPs by selling internet service directly to the public.

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is the idea that the internet should be allowed to be free of restrictions so that it can be an unshaped resource. The particular Canadian issues is the Canadian consumer desire to stop the telcoms from controlling internet content or throttle the users.

From the CBC ONLINE: Petition spurs CRTC debate comments
The Sjarv wrote:
“If you want to compare internet usage to products like electricity or water, you must first provide modems that can access the internet unshaped with maximum speed allowed, let the personal computers regulate the speed, then you can charge for the amount consumed. Similar to facets and breaker boxes.”

Regulation

In the context of the CRTC and UBB, Regulation is the governmental control by rules or restrictions on the Canadian telecommunications industry. The rationale is to to control market entries, prices and standards for the benefit of Canada and Canadian consumers.

Rogers

Rogers Communications

  • Mobile (aka cel phone service)
  • Internet (aka ISP)
  • TV (aka television broadcasting)
  • Home Phone

Like Bell Canada, Rogers Communications now provides both the medium and the message. Perhaps it’s time to look at dismantling this telecommunications giant as well.

Telcoms

Telecommunication Companies

Telus

Telus is the third member of the Big Three. Funny, they also provide

  • Mobile (aka cel phone service)
  • Internet (aka ISP)
  • TV (aka television broadcasting)
  • Home Phone

providing both the medium and the message, like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications. Dismantling may be a good idea here too.

Throttling

By doing a deep packet inspection Bell Canada can identify bittorrent traffic and discard a packet you have sent with a request , so you never get a reply, which forces you to resend it.

This increases the amount of packets you have to send and it takes far longer for your packets to get through. When the internet carrier drops a percentage of your packets it slows down your transfer speed. But although the packets the carrier throttles don’t go anywhere, you are still charged for them. This pads your bandwidth usage. So when you send or receive a 5 gigabyte file you might be charged for a 7gigabyte transfer.

Transfer Cap

The maximum amount of internet use you will be allowed before the plug is pulled.

Usage Based Billing

In addition to the rates already being paid by internet subscribers, CRTC is allowing the carrier Bell Canada to charge all internet subscribers for the amount of bandwidth they supposedly use. (Even those of us who are not even their customers.) If this is actually implemented Rogers won;t be far behind.

The so-called “Usage Based Billing” will at best be based on inaccurate measure of supposed bandwidth use– as determined by Bell Canada.

VoiP

Voice Over Internet Protocol are Internet services which allow internet users to speat to one another using the internet rather than their telephone, provided by services like Skype, Yahoo and Rogers.


A few more links from CBC ONLINE: Petition spurs CRTC debate comments

The full Usage Based Billing that the CRTC has tentatively agreed to (excepting the “uncorrelated usage charge”) can be found here”
Usage Based Billing Zip File Thanks to btimmins

Over 6000 Canadian comments urging the CRTC to turn down the UBB application can be found at CRTC’s web site — Thanx to Abattoir6


I was just sent this link to an excellent April 14th Vaxination Informatique letter sent to the CRTC (or view the Google html version

This letter clearly identifies a plethora of problems stemming from Usage Based Billing. Thanx Bob.

Petition Update: as of time of writing, the Dissolve the CRTC petition is up to 4537 signatures!

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