interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘Sympatico’

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



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Usage Based Billing: CRTC Complaints Department

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 2, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

FIRST: I mentioned in Psst… Pass It On: Stop Usage Based Billing that everything in the Stop Usage Based Billing blog was in the public domain. It occurred to me that it might help to make this announcement a little more formal. So I have now officially registered this blog with a Creative Commons CC0 listing to place my Stop Usage Based Billing blog in the public domain. This will allow everyone the right to borrow any bits of this blog they may find useful. For letters of complaint, for example. You’ll find the creative commons badge at the bottom of this post, but applies to the entire Stop Usage Based Billing blog.

Of course the downside of registering a Creative Commons CC0is that supporters of Usage Based Billing people may attempt to use material provided in this blog in their continuing misinformation attempts.

You might ask: who in their right mind would support Usage Based Billing?

Sadly, the answer to that one is easy, the main pro-UBB lobby is of course those who expect to profit from Usage Based Billing. That is to say primarily Bell Canada, but can include everyone and every company associated with Bell Canada, including CTVglobemedia and every one they can control either through economic plums or economic sanctions. I’m sure that this type of manipulation is a lot easier during a world wide recession.

The only others supporting UBB are those who have bought into the misinformation being spread and promoted by pro Usage Based Billing lobby. There is no shame in that, after all you can’t beat the talented writers and advertising folks employed by CTVglobemedia. It’s even conceivable that some of those talented people don’t really understand the jargon and might not realize why this is such a big problem. I’d expect controlling the jargon would make it a lot easier to put your own spin on it.

I know we think of a lobbyists making a big noise to sell their cause, but when you’re lobbying for acceptance of something like Usage Based Billing which can’t possibly be supported by any rational argument, lobbying for a silence would certainly be the way to go.

If you’ve already signed the http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/ online petition, and are looking for something else to do to try and stop UBB, as a concerned Canadian it is always within your rights to make a complaint to the CRTC.

CRTC

CRTC

Even if you have already submitted your comment or complaint to the CRTC specific to CRTC Ruling File Number # 8740-B2-200904989 – Bell Canada – TN 7181 to protest the CRTC’s extremely bad decision to allow Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Billing, you are still well within your rights to place another complaint through the CRTC complaints page I’ve just stumbled across on the CRTC website.

These pages offer you advice and explain the complain procedure to make it easy for Canadians to submit specific customer complaints to the CRTC in the areas of :

  • television and radio (Broadcasting complaints: TV and Radio | CRTC),
  • phone (Telephone service: making a complaint) including both land lines and cell phones, and
  • internet service in Canada (rates, quality, access, legal actions and complaints)

I would venture a guess that a completely different group of CRTC staffers deal with the complaints made through this web form. In fact there would probably be different CRTC complaints staff sections to deal with each of the three different areas the CRTC is supposed to regulate.

At any time you can go to the CRTC online complaints department and submit a complaint here:

Ask a question or make a complaint
Send us your question or complaint about television, radio, telephone, cellphone, Internet or other services. CRTC responds to most questions within 10 working days. Find out more about how we handle complaints for Television and Radio, phone and internet.

1. Make a Complaint about Broadcasting

Perhaps you might wish to make a complaint about broadcasting. The CRTC first recommends that you complain to your broadcaster before complaining to the CRTC. This is reasonable. So first you should contact CTV and ask them why they are not covering Usage Based Billing. Remember, the CRTC first announced UBB in April, but just approved it in August. In all that time, why has CTV not covered Usage Based Billing? My most recent CTV web search came up with this:

Screenshot: CTV Usage Based Billing Search

Screenshot: CTV Usage Based Billing Search

The fact that more than six thousand Canadians have already signed the online petition calling for the dissolution of the CRTC– in spite of the apparent news blackout of Usage Based Billing– hasn’t raised a single microphone at CTV. Isn’t that a strong indication that Canadians are very are interested in the CRTC Usage Based Billing decision? Six thousand concerned Canadians would trigger CTV coverage of any other story. Yet CTV is not covering Usage Based Billing. Why?

CTV is covering the CRTC and CTV is covering news about the Canadian Internet. Here is an example in a CTV online article about the multi-billion dollar revenues generated by Canadian internet services CTV: Telecom Growth. But they are doing it selectively.

Could it be that Bell Canada isn’t allowing CTV news to cover this news? You can ask CTV news yourself. Send in your questions directly:

When that doesn’t work, you may send your complaint along to the to the CRTC about the fact that CTV is only selectively reporting the news to Canadians.

2. Complain about the Telephone Company

It would not be unreasonable to wonder about Bell Canada’s “confidentiality of customer records” I certainly would not trust any company who read their customer’s mail without permission, which is essentially what Bell Canada is doing with its internet “deep packet inspection”. Maybe they really are only reading the bits that say what kind of packets they are. Personally, I wouldn’t take Bell Canada’s word for it.

(Actually, its even worse than just reading their customer’s mail, they’re interfering with it too.)

Like everyone else in Canada, I’ve had issues with Bell Canada over the years. Even though they were incredibly high handed in the days of monopoly, the influx of competition seemed to make them ease up. After all. Bell Canada has always been there. Why not trust them?

Hmmmm. Not too long ago I had a problem with Bell Canada, and I ended up talking to someone in their “loyalty” department. To smooth my feathers he fixed the problem and gave me a $30.00 discount on my next bill. Then he actually told me that if I called back in three months and asked for the loyalty department and said I was going to switch to a different telephone carrier, they would give me another $30.00 discount. He also told me that Bell Canada would give me this “discount” every three months if I kept calling back.

What kind of business is Bell Canada running? I think that policy is twisted. In the first place Bell Canada is essentially bribing customers from switching to the competition. Class action suit anyone? Adding insult to insult, Bell Canada has such a low opinion of Canadian consumers that they don’t even trust us to stay bought.

If Bell Canada can afford to do this it strikes me that they are making too much money already. Lets look at this as a business practice. The first thing that really bothers me is that the Bell Canada Loyalty department is actually penalizing Bell Canada’s loyal customers. The granny who would never dream of switching doesn’t get that annual $120.00 savings because she is loyal to Bell. Call me crazy, but I just can’t figure out why Bell Canada doesn’t just improve service? Reduce charges? Compete fairly? Maybe they are so sure that they are going to get to be a monopoly again that they would rather bribe customers piecemeal as needed than clean up their act.

Personally. I would rather not deal with a company that treats its customers so shabbily. I’m going to be switching my land line to Teksavvy. The savings (yes, in fact they offer better deals than Bell Canada for telephone service too) will help my family budget for the increased internet costs that Usage Based Billing will cause us.

Warning: If you decide to do the same, make sure you call Teksavvy or whoever your new carrier is going to first. Arrange with the NEW CARRIER to arrance the transfer of service. If you do this, you will be able to port your existing Bell Telephone number to the new service. If you call Bell first and tell them you want to cancel, they are likely to disconnect you before your new service is in place, which means that you will not be able to keep the same phone number. (Just another way Bell Canada likes to mess with us

So, after you’ve talked to the phone company, you are supposed to go to the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) and find your telephone companytheir list on , you are supposed to deal with them in an effort to clear up the problem.

If you don’t get satisfaction through this process, or if your company is not on the list, you can always go back and make your complaint to the CRTC.

3. Complain about Internet Service

I wouldn’t think there would be any limitation on how many complaints any one citizen is allowed to submit, so long as the topics are different. For example you could reasonably complain to the CRTC about:

  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Billing at all
  • the fact that the CRTC would rule in favor of Usage Based Billing in the absence of any meaningful public consultation
  • the fact that the CRTC would rule in favor of Usage Based Billing without making sure that the Canadian public was informed of this sweeping change before the fact
  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to charge you for Usage Based Billing if you (like me) are not a Bell Canada internet customer
  • the fact that CRTC’s ruling will allow Bell Canada to increase your costs in accessing the internet
  • the fact that CRTC has jeopardized your privacy by allowing deep packet inspection of your internet usage, and
  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to “throttle” internet use by inflating customer bandwidth, and
  • the fact that this CRTC decision to allow Usage Based Billing will allow Bell Canada to fraudulently bill internet users for the Bandwidth which the customer has not actually used but which has been deliberately inflated through Bell Canada “throttling”
  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Billing in addition to what customers are already paying without providing any additional service to the customer to justify this increase
  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Billing in spite of virtually unanimous opposition from the public (the small segment of the public that found out about UBB)
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing will make Canadian internet the most expensive in the world, and therefore unreasonably expensive, which is the opposit of &ldrquo;affordable&rdquo’
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing which will make internet access less accessible to Canadians due to these excessive new costs
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing will damage the Canadian economy by limiting Canadian internet access for purposes of education, technology, art, music, writing, resarch, film, science, research, business etc.
  • the fact that there does not appear to be any good nor auditable way vouched for by Measurement Canada of measuring the usage in order to assess “Usage Based Billing” charges.
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing will interfere in the internet consumer market to the extent of eliminating the independent ISP’s ability to compete, and
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing will interfere in the internet consumer market to the extent of forcing Bell Canada’s (Sympatico) competition, the independent ISP’s, to break contractual agreements with their customers, and which will certainly damage and possibly destroy these companies, which will
  • effectively neutralize and wipe out all Bell Canada (Sympatico) competition.

CRTC would like you to go through the same process as with the telephone complaint, where you try to resolve the problem with the service provider. So if you are in fact a Bell Canada (Sympatico) customer, you can direct your questions and complaints directly to Bell or the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services Inc. (CCTS) first.

Of course my problem is not with my ISP, my problem is with Bell Canada’s interference in my business relationship with my ISP and with the CRTC’s ill advised approval of Usage Based Billing. So for me, it is a case of going back to make your complaint to the CRTC. Perhaps if enough Canadians ask enough questions we will actually get real answers. Perhaps if enough Canadians complain, the CRTC will be clever enough to quash the Usage Based Billing regulation, and then consider actually adhering to their mandate.

It should be more difficult for CRTC to ignore these complaints as these complaints are supposed to be handled by a staff member within ten days. THESE consumer complaints are supposed to generate a human response. Perhaps if we help to use up their budgeted resources they might be able to grasp why it is bad to allow implementation of Usage Based Billing which will certainly affect the budgets of the Canadian citizens they are supposed to be looking out for. Maybe then the CRTC wouldn’t be so eager to completely ignore the wishes of the citizenry, as did in making this bad decision in the first place.

To the extent possible under law, Laurel L. Russwurm
has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Stop Usage Based Billing.
CC0

This work is published from Canada.

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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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