interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘UBB’

The Hidden Rationale for Usage Based Billing

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on February 13, 2011

No Usage Based Billing!

by Sharon Polsky
President and CEO — AM¡NAcorp.ca
National Chair — CAPAPA

The recent discussion about Usage Based Billing being a ‘cash grab’ has generated much debate: Is a cash grab warranted? Should Internet users have to pay according to the volume they download?
Does UBB discourage innovation?

ACTA logo

The simple answer to the underlying question is:
ISPs and telcos need a way to fund
the Internet monitoring functions required by
the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and Canada’s Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act (Bill C-52).

To understand the real impact, though, it is important to view UBB in context with other issues, which together: 

  • jeopardize the sovereignty of our nation,
  • have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, and
  • threaten the privacy and democratic freedoms traditionally enjoyed in Canada.

It can be argued that these measures do nothing to protect Canada or Canadians from the threat of terrorism (real or perceived), US protectionism or other economic threats, or future retribution by the Department of Homeland Security or other agencies.

UBB In Context

ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is an international agreement to protect intellectual property and guard against piracy. It was hammered out by a handful of countries and requires signatories to have civil and criminal law that complies with it. Canada may have bargained away our ability to create independent legislation simply by being a party to ACTA, with terms allowing Canada to pass laws more stringent than required, but depriving us of the authority to create laws that contravene ACTA. This clearly undermines Canadian sovereignty.

ACTA was Negotiated in Secret

The US declared the draft ACTA text to be confidential as a matter of national security (the economy is a matter of ‘national security’ in both the US and Canada) so negotiation of the international scheme to guard against piracy and copyright infringement was done in secret, with a level of secrecy that excluded input from Canadian citizens, consumer and human rights groups, or Canada’s Information and Privacy Commissioner; yet the draft was circulated amongst rights-holder lobbyists (generally from the recording and motion picture industries). Many experts consider this to be an unprecedented degree of secrecy for a set of copyright protection rules.

Once approved, ACTA member countries are expected to put pressure on their trading partners to have them join the treaty — of course, after ACTA is finalized, so the newcomers will have no option but to accept the terms set by the original negotiating parties.

curls of razor wire against yellow brick

Prosecution, Remedies and Penalties under ACTA

Under ACTA, allegations advanced by rights holders lead to prosecution, remedies and penalties decided by judicial or ‘administrative’ authorities, with restitution and “lost profits” calculated by the rights holder. Although an alleged infringer can be ordered to reimburse the rights holder for the retail price and “lost profits”, legal expenses, court costs, and other amounts, as well as bearing the expense of destruction of allegedly counterfeit products, if it’s ultimately found that there was no infringement, the alleged infringer can ask for damages, but no process or formula is articulated.

Border officials will be compelled to carry out injunctions obtained in other countries, even if legal in the border official’s country. ACTA will also:

  • facilitate seizure of off patent medicines in the country of production and export,
  • empower member countries to seize and destroy exports while in transit to other countries
  • encourage countries to seize and inspect personal devices for any pirated material

The costs will be born by the individual being searched or the sender of the seized goods.

Privacy invasive provisions require release of personal identity information about alleged infringers, and information about any party who might be associated with alleged infringers are included in ACTA.

Third parties (i.e., distributors, NGOs, public health authorities) are put at risk of injunctions, provisional measures, and even criminal penalties, including imprisonment and severe economic losses:

  • Suppliers of active pharmaceutical ingredients used for producing generic medicines;
  • distributors and retailers who stock generic medicines;
  • NGOs who provide treatment;
  • funders who support health programs; and
  • drug regulatory authorities who examine medicines

could be implicated under ACTA. Ascertaining the third party involvement will require inspecting digital records; and ACTA compels disclosure and international sharing of that information.

Potential repercussions may well deter direct or indirect involvement in research, production, sale and distribution of affordable generic medicines.

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of online activity is already being used to identify alleged infringements. DPI has been in use by Canadian ISPs and telcos for some time. In August 2009, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner ruled on DPI used by Bell/Sympatico (Case Summary #2009-010). The Commissioner recommended that Bell Canada inform customers about Deep Packet Inspection, but did not prohibit its use.

“It is relatively easy to paint a picture of a network where DPI, unchecked, could be used to monitor the activities of its users.” 

Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Financial Impact of Bill C-52

Bill C-52: An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations
— referred to as the “Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act” — is only one of the many ways that Canada is giving force and effect to ACTA.

C-52 is intended “to ensure that telecommunications service providers have the capability to enable national security and law enforcement agencies to exercise their authority to intercept communications and to require telecommunications service providers to provide subscriber and other information” upon request.

No warrant is necessary.

C-52 also requires the telcos and ISPs to provide the transmissions in an unencrypted form and to “comply with any prescribed confidentiality or security measures“.

to provide “any information in the service provider’s possession or control respecting:

  • the name,
  • address,
  • telephone number and
  • electronic mail address of any subscriber to any of the service provider’s telecommunications services and the
    Internet protocol address,
  • mobile identification number,
  • electronic serial number,
  • local service provider identifier,
  • international mobile equipment identity number,
  • international mobile subscriber identity number and
  • subscriber identity module card number that are associated with the subscriber’s service and equipment”.

Under current Canadian law, Internet Service Providers who have the means to spy on their customers (Deep Packet Inspection capability) can be asked to do so by the government, but they cannot be compelled to have such means.

Under C-52, Telcos are required to have and bear the cost of the equipment necessary to comply; and the equipment can be specified by the government or enforcement agencies. The cost of actually determining and providing the information to law enforcement will be billed to and paid by the requesting agency — with our tax dollars.

Usage Based Billing could well pay the costs of the Government mandated spyware that will be required should Bill C-52 become law. Not only will citizens find themselves stripped of privacy and spied on but we will be overcharged to pay for it.

The Future of ACTA

The ACTA text was finalized in November 2010, and the US and Canada (quietly) asked for feedback to be submitted by February 15th, 2011. The request was visible on the DFAIT website for a short time.

ACTA participants successfully completed a legal verification of the finalized ACTA text at a meeting in Sydney, Australia between November 30 and December 3, 2010.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (CC by Bitpicture)

Every Canadian Needs A Copy

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage met to discuss ACTA and other matters on January 31, for 2 hours, and was scheduled to meet again on February 7, 2011.

The final ACTA text includes mechanisms to amend the agreement. That provides a ‘back door’ to get acceptance of the most contentious issues (such as the three strikes rule) that were rejected during the negotiations.

Even before the three strikes rule is adopted, the scope of ACTA provides the latitude that permits individual member nations to impose a three strikes rule.

So between ACTA and other laws, international agreements, and multilateral treaties to share information it’s easy enough to circumvent the provisions of Section 8 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to circumvent the protections embodied in all of Canada’s various privacy laws.

Canadians’ most intimate information can be sent outside of Canada to be examined, and then the results back into Canada. Canada and the US have been known to do that on occasion, typically to protect ‘national security’ or guard against the perceived threat of ‘terrorism’.

Stripping Canadian Law of citizen protection measures that have evolved over hundreds of years has not been shown to protect citizens from terrorism, but rather to open up new avenues of compromising and removing the Rights and Freedoms Canadians expect to enjoy under our democratic system.



Guest blogger Sharon Polsky is the President & CEO of AM¡NAcorp.ca as well as the National Chair — CAPAPA More background can be found in Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) Highlights

Image credit:
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “Every Canadian Needs A Copy” released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence by Bitpicture on Flickr

Advertisements

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

UBB NOT Overturned

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on February 5, 2011

No Usage Based Billing
Various members of the government have said Usage Based Billing will be overturned.

After the CRTC review.

The CRTC says that Bell has requested an extension for implementation of UBB. Bell? Pardon me?

Bell?

Bell asked for UBB and has fought for it. Why an extension? Suddenly they don’t want this massive price increase?

What does “Overturn” mean, exactly?

When Tony Clement talks about “overturning” Usage Based Billing, is he talking about overturning the tariff decision:

the details of the cap and bandwidth overcharges?

OR

Is he talking about overturning the CRTC’s May 2010 approval of 3rd Party Billing UBB?

Will they really overturn it?

Particularly now that the Federal court has struck down the Globalive decision?

It’s not over yet.

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



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 14338 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: , , | 2 Comments »

UBB Choice? Smoke and Mirrors

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on February 4, 2011

No Usage Based BillingNow that various politicians of every stripe seem to have weighed in on UBB, and the announcement that it will be overturned has been made, the UBB front is quieting.

There has been shock and surprise that Bell requested a delay in UBB implementation. Of course it makes perfect sense… it will have died down in a couple of months. Will the same level of consumer outrage be there? We’ll have to see. Bell has been playing politics in Canada since it was formed by an Act of Parliament.

The lack of care for consumers as a crucial Internet stakeholder was apparent in that the CRTC allows the regulated Industry a three month appeal process, yet Implementation of UBB (including notification) to consumers was a single month.

And the CRTC is planning a “review.”

In von Finckenstein’s effort to defend UBB, he failed to recognize that there is a world of difference between supporting the choice of an ISP to implement UBB and a regulatory model that leaves an ISP with no other alternative. The CRTC’s UBB decisions are wrong not because UBB is wrong, but because they undermine the potential for competitors to make alternative choices.

Michael Geist, The CRTC’s Faulty UBB Foundation: Why There is Reason to Doubt the Review

Michael Geist is right.

The biggest tragedy is that Consumers are deprived of choice.

It doesn’t matter that Industry has choice if consumers have none.

The biggest failing of the CRTC is that the ONLY thing they take into account is the needs of the industry. Throughout the whole UBB issue, they have totally and utterly ignored the public. I first heard about UBB when the CRTC had closed the comments after the first proposal by Bell. At that time 4,000 consumers had filed complaints about UBB using the proper CRTC process. Yet when the CRTC approved UBB, it dismissed this incredible level of citizen input with a single line that consumers had commented. That’s THOUSANDS of responses made about something that had NO press coverage.

Throughout the entire UBB process, the CRTC has completely ignored citizen needs and issues. Incredible since their mandate is to look out for consumers.

If you don’t think that is a mammoth number, look at the number of participants in last year’s Digital Economy Consultation – which *did* have press coverage:

“Between May 10 and July 13, more than 2000 Canadian individuals and organizations registered to share their ideas and submissions. ”

Minister Clement Updates Canadians on Canada’s Digital Economy Strategy

The CRTC has consistently ignored consumers, while ruling in the Interests of the large telcos. What UBB seeks to do to Independent ISPs is terrible.

But I believe it is most terrible because of what it will do to consumers.

NO CRTC

CRTC #FAIL

Right now, today, in 2011:

  • many Canadians only Internet option is dial-up.
  • many Canadians have but ONE Internet ISP “choice”.
  • some Canadians have two Internet ISP “choices” – legacy telephone or cable ISP
  • some Canadians have the choice between the legacy telcos (aka the carrier-ISPs) and Independent ISPs.

The only “choice” many Canadians have, the only way to choose a different ISP, is to move to a different geographic location. You know, sell your house, get a new job. etc.

Which is no choice at all.

The past two years has consisted of a great deal of time and money spent by all the ISPs. Lawyers fees alone would have been staggering.

If all of that money had been spent on expanding service areas, think of where Canada would be now.

No matter what happens, this has been an incredible #FAIL on the part of the CRTC.

In SPITE of the CRTC, there actually are a few UBB free choices, regardless. According to Reddit: UBB-Free ISPs yak.ca and eyesurf.net don’t get their Gateway Access through Bell. There probably are more like them scattered across the country.

It’s not over yet.

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



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 14099 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Responsibly against Internet Throttling *and* UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on February 3, 2011

or, Why David Eaves Is Wrong about Usage Based Billing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at “throttling”:

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

Understanding Bell Throttling, excerpt from C: Deep Packet Inspection

POLICING

Policing

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

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

Traffic Management: Forced Through A Bottleneck

Traffic Shaping or Throttling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bell Canada’s throttling does neither.”

–Bob Jonkman, Sobac Microcomputer Services

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

What Bell Canada means by “Throttling”

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

BELL Logo

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

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

–Bob Jonkman, Sobac Microcomputer Services

RESET

Bell Canada gets to decide the fate of our packets.

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

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

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

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

Congestion

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

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

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

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

Artificial Scarcity

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

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

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

People Don’t Understand Bandwidth

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

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

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

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

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

hogwash

Hogwash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not over yet.

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



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

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

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

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

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

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

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

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

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

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



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

Has Bell Upgraded Internet Infrastructure?

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on January 17, 2011

No Usage Based Billing

Paul asked in a comment:

The statement that Bell has not upgraded their infrastructure is a powerful argument against the need for UBB. Could you please advise where you found this information so I can reference it in my own discussions? Thanks.

Paul’s Comment on “There are no bandwidth hogs”

My only connection with any Canadian ISP is as a customer. I don’t have access to data, financial reports etc.

So I am looking at this issue clearly from the outside. And this is what I see.

When the Internet was first made available to the public, Canada quickly became a world leader. When Bell and Rogers entered the High Speed Internet market, they offered Canadians top speeds, and low prices for unlimited access. (They did such a good job that they killed off all the competition.)

Cheap and fast access is why Canadians so whole heartedly became early Internet adopters.   And that’s why Canadians are currently some of the most Internet savvy and Internet connected people in the world.

Even though the costs consumers pay have gone up and up and up.
It is not cheap anymore. In fact, we are paying some of the highest rates in the world before implementation of UBB.

What happened? Why does Canada lag behind on every study?
(I discount so-called “studies” paid for by the Internet carriers; those are advertising.)

If you like graphs, this website Website Optimization: November 2007 Bandwidth Report shows where we were in 2007.  (If you dig farther into the archives of this site you’ll likely find indications of the time when Canada was a leader), the figures here were not only borne out, but noticeably worse for Harvard’s 2009 study.

Or Oxford.

And here’s an article explaining the numbers, 10 Gigabytes Per Month! (one of the things I have trouble with)

The absolute best speed available to Bell Internet consumers are — for a premium — Upload speed: up to 7 Mbps.

No speed is guaranteed, everything is: “Up to.”

One of my main reasons for putting my oar in on this subject is because I’m a parent. That’s why one of the saddest things I’ve read on this subject is this highly personal account of Canadian access woes dating back to 2009.

If I do a Google Search for:

bell canada upgrade infrastructure -site:bell.ca

or

and a Google News search: bell canada upgrade infrastructure -site:bell.ca

The only things that come close are upgrades to their cell phone systems (HSPA). But for the Internet the single Bell upgrade is their DSLAMs, which provide only a tiny boost in service. As I understand it, this is not considered “part of the back-haul infrastructure.” These DSLAMs were deployed in limited locations, and Bell fought to be able to deny Independent ISPs any access to the increased speeds. Ultimately the CRTC forced Bell to share the speeds with the Independent ISPs.

Of course, that CRTC ruling won’t matter to Bell anymore if the Independent ISPs are forced out of the market by UBB.

Beyond the fact Bell is offering essentially the same bandwidth speeds as they were when they rolled out broadband service, it certainly doesn’t look like there has been any infrastructure improvement.    If there had been can’t imagine why Bell would not be trumpeting it.

Bell’s best (per Bell website): up to 7 mbps
Japan’s best (per New York Times 2009): 160 mbps

Bell’s dual strategies have been to technically throttle customers, and now to introduce “economic traffic management.”

Both of these policies are designed to force consumers into less Internet access while still keeping Bell highly profitable.

If Bell actually improved the service they offered, they wouldn’t need to apply for permission to charge UBB. The traditional way for a corporation to justify increased rates has long been to provide added value. It seems that is no longer necessary in Canada.

Obviously Bell has made out very well indeed thanks to CRTC rulings.   Recession or no, they seem to  have  enough disposable income to now buy the entire CTV Television Network.

So I’m not aware of any large-scale back-haul infrastructure upgrades performed by Bell. And you can’t prove a negative.

We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11684 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

There are no bandwidth hogs

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on January 16, 2011

[note: I’m supposed to be offline getting my novel ready for publication, but I had to respond to this recurring red herring that came up again in UBB Questions.]No Usage Based Billing

There has been an ongoing effort made to convince consumers that bandwidth consumption is expensive.

It shouldn’t be.

The story goes that your neighbor’s high bandwidth use somehow comes out of your pocket.   To support this, they often cite the example of a buffet restaurant.  

The fact is that bandwidth consumption does not impact on actual cost. Whether you use 1GB of bandwidth or 300GB of bandwidth the real costs are the same.

That’s why Bell and Rogers entered the Internet market offering unlimited bandwidth. The only REAL cost of the Internet is infrastructure.

Once in place bandwidth consumption costs virtually nothing. (maintenance, electricity) If Bell is having problems in bandwidth provision, it would be because they have been taking record profits without bothering to reinvest in infrastructure. Canada used to be an Internet leader but isn’t any longer, because Bell has not upgraded.

The only “hogs” are the corporations who are already charging Canadian extortionate prices for something that costs them next to nothing.

Think about it: are you using the same computer you had ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? Even if you are, you will have upgraded parts of it.

Yet Bell has not upgraded their infrastructure in even longer.

Which is why the top speeds Bell can offer customers is in the tens of Megabytes per second (Mbps), while Internet users in other parts of the world routinely get speeds measured in the hundreds of Mbps.

So, while Canadians who use the Internet services we pay for are characterized as “hogs”, and throttled if we use the Internet service we pay for at peak times, the speeds we pay for are rarely (if ever) what we get, and the costs have been going up to where we are now.

[note: Bell’s definition of non-peak time is when most Canadians are either (a) sleeping or (b) at work]

Before UBB is is even implemented Canadians pay top rates for mediocre Internet access. The excessive rates Canadians already pay would have more than underwritten Internet infrastructure upgrades. But so long as the CRTC will grant Bell their every wish on the backs of consumers and the Canadian economy, Bell doesn’t have to upgrade.

This is why Canada’s Internet service is in freefall. Even though upgrading the Canadian infrastructure to provide such vast improvements in service and catch us up to the rest of the world, it would cost much less now than it did then. Remember when a new state of the art home computer system used to cost around $3,000 ? Today it’s more like $500.

That the CRTC believes that there is a “the potential negative outcome of high-consuming bandwidth end-users” is indicative of their incomprehension of the Internet.

The CRTC is simply not doing it’s job.

PIAC’s report principally recommends that “policy makers and the regulator stop trying to make decisions based on untested economic theories and make sure that markets actually work for consumers”. ‘

Tele-management: Unproven economic models hurting Canadian consumers

You can download a PDF of PIAC’s full report here. (Note to PIAC: it would be far more accessible if it were made available in an Internet friendly format, like say, HTML.)

The CRTC’s UBB ruling isn’t simply a mistake, it’s an indication of CRTC disfunction. If implemented, UBB will do active damage to Canada’s ability to compete in the global digital economy. That’s bad.

We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11674 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: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 8, 2010

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

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

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

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

Bell Canada Logo

MISCONCEPTION #1

This only applies to Bell Customers.

WRONG.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help Spread the Word.



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

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

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

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



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

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 »