interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘Telnet’

crtc speed matching saga

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 31, 2010

CRTC

Monday’s CRTC release: CRTC encourages competition and investment in the provision of Internet services

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today determined, on the basis of the evidence submitted at a recent public hearing, that large telephone companies must make their existing Internet access services available to alternate Internet service providers (ISPs) at speeds that match those offered to their own retail customers. This requirement will ensure that alternate ISPs can continue to give Canadians more choice by offering competing and innovative Internet services.

This CRTC decision seems eminently reasonable; the carriers must make the bandwidth speeds available to their own retail customers available to the customers of Independent Service Providers. This is a real win for Canadian consumers.

The thing is, this decision was already made. Wading through the CRTC release we learn this CRTC ruling was already made as “various decisions issued in 2006 and 2007”.

Vertical Canadian Flag

Why did it take the CRTC four years to make it stick?

Apparently the Federal Cabinet stepped in on behalf of the carriers (Bell et al) and ordered the CRTC to revisit the issue. They were told to ensure speed-matching requirements:

  • wouldn’t unduly diminish incentives to invest in new network infrastructure in general and, in particular, in markets of different sizes;
  • without speed-matching requirements would there be sufficient competition to protect the interests of users;
  • are the wholesale obligations imposed on incumbent telephone and cable companies equitable or a competitive disadvantage; and
  • will these wholesale requirements unduly impair the ability of incumbent telephone companies to offer new converged services, such as Internet Protocol television?

In other words, Federal Government interference resulted in four years where the carriers were allowed to discriminate against the Independent ISPs by denying them access to the best speeds. The retail customers of the Independent ISPs could not get the bandwidth speeds that the retail customers of the carrier ISPs could get.

Hardly sounds fair to Canadian consumers.

Surprise surprise.

reactions to the crtc ruling

TEKsavvy Solutions Inc. logo“The Commission’s refusal to mandate the provision of new central office-based telephone company and local head-end-based cable company wholesale services severely limits other competitors’ ability to provide new differentiated service offerings. To that extent the CRTC’s approach will entrench the duopolistic nature of the communications wireline services industry in many important markets and stifle the ability of competitors to provide new and innovative services. In this environment, it will be very difficult for competitors to attract the capital necessary to innovate, grow and contribute to the greatest extent possible to the competitive landscape and increase consumer choice. Canada’s productivity and international competitiveness will remain sub-standard at a critical time in the country’s economic development and the longerterm prospect for competition in the communications sector is very uncertain” added Marc Gaudrault, TSI’s Chief technology Officer.”

TekSavvy Solutions Inc. Reaction to Landmark CRTC Decision: Competitors Allowed to Exist but Denied the Means to Innovate

“By mandating that consumers are able to obtain services from competitors at the same speeds that they can obtain services from the telephone and cable companies, the CRTC has handed a victory to Canadian businesses and consumers” said Bill Sandiford, Telnet’s President and CTO. “The Commission has ensured that end-users of these services will continue to be able use their provider of choice without being subjected to slower speeds by doing so.”

In the same ruling, the Commission denied the implementation of CO-based ADSL services, and refused to force the large telephone and cable companies to further unbundle their networks.

Sandiford added, “It is unfortunate that the Commission has failed to allow competitors the ability to innovate and compete with the telephone companies on a deeper level. We agree with the dissent of Commissioner Timothy Denton on this matter.”
Telnet Communications Pleased by Reprieve on Internet Speed Matching but very Concerned about Longer-Term Prospects for Competition following Landmark CRTC Decision

I can certainly understand the mixed reaction of the Independent ISPs.

The CRTC and the Federal Government seek to safeguard fairness for the carriers but have no qualms about imposition of a competitive disadvantage to the Independent ISPs.

The Federal Government was concerned that fairness to consumers might “diminish incentives to invest in new network infrastructure”?

These are two separate issues.

It should have been in the carrier’s interest to maintain and keep the infrastructure current. That would benefit customer and carrier alike.

Perhaps the problem arises because the carriers are too busy doing other things instead of re-investing in infrastructure.

Like for instance in 2005 Bell Canada launches downloadable music service.

Bell VIDEO Store

Or Bell’s own unthrottled downloadable video store in 2008 — just at the time it became known they were throttling other Internet traffic as reported in:

Canadian Internet customers have certainly been paying enough to pay to keep the Infrastructure current.

Whatever the reason, study after study (at least in those studies not paid for by Bell) have indicated emphatically that the Canadian Internet infrastructure is falling more and more behind:

Montreal Gazette: Canada’s Internet slow and expensive: Harvard.

Ultimately it is always the Canadian consumer that takes the hit.

The decision reaffirms a December 2008 CRTC ruling, which was remanded for reconsideration a year later by Industry Minister Tony Clement. The government acceded to lobbying from the big phone companies and ordered the CRTC to review its decision on the grounds that it had failed to consider a number of issues:

* How the matching speeds would diminish the phone companies’ incentives to invest in new infrastructure.
* Whether there is sufficient competition to protect consumers without the requirement of matching speeds.
* Whether the regulatory requirements on phone and cable companies are equal.
* How the matching-speeds requirement would affect phone companies’ abilities to offer services such as television over an internet connection.”

—CBC: Small internet providers get higher speeds: CRTC

the crtc says:

“Access to broadband Internet services is a key foundation for the digital economy,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. “The large telephone and cable companies are bringing their fibre networks closer to Canadian homes and businesses, which allows for faster Internet connections. Requiring these companies to provide access to their networks will lead to more opportunities for competition in retail Internet services and better serve consumers.”

So finally, four years later, Canadians will get speed matching matching. But oh!  For a 10% increase?

The large telephone companies have been investing in upgrades and expanding their networks. In recognition of these investments, the CRTC will allow them to charge competitors an additional 10-per-cent mark-up over their costs for the use of their wholesale Internet services’ higher-speed options.

Pardon? Isn’t that part of doing business? The large ISPs are already billing more than enough to pay for infrastructure improvements. Isn’t this why Canadian Internet rates are among the highest in the world?

Wires at Bell Mobility

As a side note, a Globe and Mail story about WindMobile’s adventures in Canada ought to be a wake up call. For all the vaunted CRTC insistance of ‘fairness’ we are seeing:

In Canada, the regulatory system and the established providers are not making Orascom’s venture an easy task: Both Rogers and Bell have lowered prices and launched new unlimited services only in the markets where Wind operates. But Mr. Sawiris, though annoyed, is not easily daunted.

Canada is a telecom backwater, says bold backer of Wind Mobile

How can the CRTC allow Rogers and Bell to lower prices only in specific markets?

If the price is lower in one place, it is discriminatory not to offer the same prices across Canada.

The CRTC protects consumers how…?



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10950 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



Advertisements

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Speculation not Prophecy

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on January 4, 2010

No Usage Based Billing

Stop Usage Based Billing

Usage Based Billing in a Nutshell

In August of last year research for my personal blog in the wind first brought Usage Based Billing to my attention. UBB is a technical issue filled with jargon so new much of it isn’t even in wikipedia, making it hard for ordinary people like me to understand. I’m not a programmer, I’m a mom, an artist and a writer, but I thought it important enough to create this public service blog to share the things I’ve learned to try to help other Canadians understand Usage Based Billing.

The left side bar lists of all the blog posts as an index to allow this blog to serve as a reference. I’ve tried to cover issues and technologies in as much depth as I can handle. (The glossary is probably the best place to start.) There is also a listing of websites and blogs there. The right side bar is loaded with links to specific articles which may also help understand the issue.

But for today’s purposes, we’ll just do a quick recap:

Fifteen years ago Canada was an internet technology leader and Canadians could connect to the internet at reasonable rates. Today we pay some of the most expensive rates in the world for mediocre service. The reason is simple; the internet carriers (Bell/Rogers) chose to make only minimal infrastructure re-investment.

kids at a computer

Families upgrade when they can.

As a mom I know that computer systems are obsolete after about six months.

As a mom I know it is important to buy the best system I can afford so that it will last the longest.

I need the best value for the family. Moms have to keep computer systems running far longer than programmers or corporations because families can’t afford otherwise.

Even so, there is not a single component on my desktop that I had 15 years ago. My system has changed many times over in the last 15 years. Because I have re-invested in my infrastructure.

Bell Canada has told the CRTC that Usage Based Billing is necessary. They say they need more income or they can’t improve their infrastructure. But what they did NOT tell the CRTC is that any infrastructure problems Bell Canada may be experiencing is because Bell Canada chose not to reinvest in infrastructure improvements for the past fifteen years.

Canadian customers have been paying premium prices for a steadily declining service. In order to encourage ISP competition the Canadian government mandated Bell Canada to make wholesale bandwidth available to Independent ISPs. The Canadian government encouraged these Independent businesses to set up shop so Canadian consumers could have Internet competition. Bell Canada was allowed to set the rates charged (astronomical) but in spite of that, the Independent ISPs have not only survived, they are now at the point of offering meaningful competition. They have a loyal customer base. But Bell Canada does not want to have to compete.

Canadian Independent Internet Service Providers include:

MTS Allstream, Primus, Yak, SureNet, Electronicbox, Skywaywest, MNSi, apexia, START CommunicationsAccelerated ConnectionsEgate, AEBCWightman, Caneris, AcanacVianet, Interlink, Lightspeed, Execulink, Telnet, Auracom, The Internet Centre, goZOOM, Diallog, KOS, Telinet, Compu-SOLVE, Merge Internet, NINA-IT, Broadline Networks, ISP.ca, OdynetAirnet and of course the Independent ISP I am happy to use, TekSavvy.

easier than competition

Bell Canada LogoBell Canada was caught “throttling” the internet service of the customers of the Independent Service Providers. Over strenuous protests from both customers and Independent ISPs, the CRTC actually gave Bell Canada permission to continue to interfere with internet service of their competitors customers.

This is a business practice unprecedented in any nation aspiring to free markets and democracy.

That wasn’t enough for Bell Canada. Now they want to additional levels of billing, again, not just for their own customers, but for the customers of the Independent ISPs. In addition to the near highest internet rates in the world Canadians are already paying, Bell wants us to pay them Usage Based Billing and apply usage caps which will double the rates of moderate internet users and exponentially increase the rates paid by heavy users. This will certainly harm Canadian internet customers.

Implementation of Usage Based Billing will most likely put the Independent ISPs out of business because these CRTC rulings will have removed their ability to compete. Since the Independent ISPs will merely be able to offer inferior rate packages as dictated by Bell Canada, they certainly won’t thrive.

Canadians don’t understand computer numbers

Although I’ve used computers since the 1980’s, I am a user, not a technical person. We users do not understand things like bandwidth (particularly since it means different things… see glossary again). A long time ago there were bits and bytes. Kilobytes. Megabytes. Now there are are Gigabytes and Terabytes. These words sometimes mean big and then all of a sudden they don’t. I remember when my sister had a computer with an incredibly big hard drive… two whole gigabytes. Today my digital camera has an 8 gigabyte memory card.

My essential point is that since most Canadians do not understand how much bandwidth is required for the the things we do online, we won’t know what we will need to do to cut back our internet use so that we can continue to afford it. This means that the biggest worst effect of Usage Based Billing will certainly be that after paying the first huge internet bill, Canadians are going to use the internet as little as possible. Anyone who doesn’t think that this will do serious damage to the Canadian economy is in denial.

The internet stopped being a luxury some time ago. It has become a key economic tool.

Ajax and Cassandra painting

Solomon Joseph Solomon′s painting of Ajax and Cassandra

Pretty big nutshell.

Now what?

RobertX asked what my predictions for UBB in the New Year would be.

I’m no Cassandra (which is just as well, actually) so I can’t predict what will happen to Usage Based Billing in 2010.

What I can do is speculate.

What might happen if they implement Usage Based Billing?

Since the CRTC has provisionally approved Usage Based Billing– on the basis of Bell Canada presentations unsubstantiated by evidence– Usage Based Billing could very well be implemented. Although the CRTC chose to ignore all of the dissenting voices, the CRTC did ask Bell Canada for some clarification, as well as the legal challenges the Independent ISPs have offered, so Usage Based Billing is still not a foregone conclusion.

Implementing UBB on the Quiet?

Because the bulk of the mainstream media “news” outlets haven’t actually informed Canadians that UBB is an issue– let alone one that they need to be concerned about– most Canadians still don’t know anything about Usage Based Billing or what it will mean to them.

It would be very possible, ridiculously easy even, to implement Usage Based Billing quietly. Even if the Independent ISPs forward a warning to customers, most people don’t read all the junk mail routinely include with our invoices. So implementation might well be slipped into effect without warning.

Since there isn’t likely to be a big outcry before UBB implementation, the CRTC might allow implementation of UBB thinking it won’t cause much of a fuss.   After all, Bell Canada says its necessary.   Bell Canada has many investors.   Bell Canada has many employees.   Which is why Bell Canada is so powerful. Rich.   Canadian consumers aren’t.

There will be a fuss. But it will come AFTER UBB implementation.

When most Canadians get the unhappy surprise that their internet bills have gone through the roof– for no reason other to enrich Bell Canada— there will most certainly be a fuss.

Usage Based Billing will cause untold damage to Canadians and the Canadian economy. Usage Based Billing may in fact be the tipping point for Canadian consumers.   Once implemented Usage Based Billing won’t be in the dark any more, and although slow to anger, Canadians will be angry. Very Angry.

Any or all of the following could well result from implementation of Usage Based Billing:

  • independent Internet Service Providers put out of business due to CRTC interference
  • Independent ISP class action lawsuits brought against Bell Canada, the Government of Canada, and the CRTC
  • media coverage as Canadians angrily demand to know who is responsible for Canadian overcharging
  • Canadians will want to know why we pay the highest rates in the world for mediocre internet service
  • cabinet overturning the ill advised CRTC decision to allow implementation of Usage Based Billing
  • Government dissolution of the CRTC because of the public outrage over CRTC decision to allow implementation of Usage Based Billing
  • Canadian class action suits brought against the so-called Canadian “backbone” ISP carriers for fraudulent charges for levels of service they don’t deliver because of throttling
  • Royal Commission to investigate malfeasance or corruption of CRTC
  • political upheaval, elections
  • the Pirate Party of Canada might well form a majority government and ensure Canadian Net Neutrality through laws prohibiting ISPs from being content providers

It would only be reasonable for the Independent ISPs to defer any CRTC orders allowing implemementation of Usage Based Billing in the absence of a sitting government. Certainly it is reasonable that a Minister of Industry might over-rule bad decisions made by the CRTC. After all, it happened for Wind Mobile.

Particularly since implementation of Usage Based Billing will require mammoth outlays of investment for usage monitoring equipment. If I ran an Independent ISP, I would not be willing to lay out funds before exhausting every possible avenue.

Implementation of Usage Based Billing cannot possibly be undertaken until the Measurement Canada holds a consultation with stakeholders. It would be incumbent on Measurement Canada to establish approved Marketplace Monitoring, Standards Calibration, Traceability, Delegation of Authorities, Complaint Investigation, Accreditation and Auditing standards just as they do for the natural gas industry.

Implementation of Usage Based Billing should not be undertaken without a framework of rules, as well as enforcement and auditing by the Privacy Commissioner.

What might happen if the CRTC reverses the decision and rules against Usage Based Billing?

I would happily wind down this blog.

The Independent ISPs would be able to get back to the business of providing excellent internet service to Canadians.   Now freed from frittering away their profits in court, they would be able to continue to expand and grow.

Those of us customers who have been aware of the Usage Based Billing threat would be happy, even though we are paying some of the highest internet rates in the world for mediocre service.

Pretty much everyone would be happy.

Everyone except Bell Canada.   The Bell Canada dream of eliminating the competition would have failed, so Bell Canada would not be happy.

Perhaps Bell Canada would start acting like a real company.   They would need to lower the dividend payments they make to their investors and instead reinvest in infrastructure.   Instead of using their “loyalty department” to offer quarterly bribes, maybe Bell Canada would treat their customers better overall in an effort to keep them, by offering good service for fair value.

It isn’t that Bell Canada has not been paid more than enough to upgrade the infrastructure, it’s that Bell Canada has spent large quantities of money on other things… like trying to start up a music downloading channel. (#fail)

You just never know.


Since Prime Minister Harper has chosen to prorogue government, things are different now.   It is unlikely that the petition to Dissolve the CRTC will be presented to Parliament before an election is called.

STOP Usage Based Billing

This makes it all the more important for Canadians to sign the petition.   If you haven’t yet, sign the petition, and encourage everyone you know who uses the internet to sign the petition at http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/.   Lets keep the heat on.  Spread the Word.


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