interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘usage based billing’

Bye Bye UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 16, 2011

 

No Usage Based Billing

Yesterday the CRTC did an about face and reversed the terrible decision to allow Bell Canada to charge Usage Based Billing to the Independent ISP’s customers, effectively pronouncing UBB dead.

Yay.

On the specific decision, the CRTC rejected the UBB model it approved less than a year ago, acknowledging that it was too inflexible and could block independent ISPs from differentiating their services. The issue then boiled down to Bell’s preferred model based on volume and the independent ISPs’ approach who preferred capacity based models. The Commission ruled that capacity-based models are a better approach since they are more consistent with how network providers plan their networks and less susceptible to billing disputes.

With Bell’s preferred approach out of the way, the Commission was left to choose between two capacity models – the independent providers’ “95th percentile” solution and MTS Allstream’s capacity model. The Commission chose a variant on the MTS Allstream model that involves both a monthly access fee and a monthly capacity charge that can increase in increments of 100 Mbps. That model is even more flexible than what MTS proposed, suggesting that the Commission was primarily focused on building in as much flexibility for independent providers as possible. In addition to this model (which the Commission calls an approved capacity model), the large ISPs can continue to use flat rate models which provide for unlimited usage.

Michael Geist, The CRTC’s UBB Decision: Bell Loses But Do Consumers Win?

Although I agree that further changes should be made, I’m not so sure I go along with all of Professor Geist’s suggestions. The CRTC  clearly does not function the way that it should.

The CRTC’s mandate is supposedly to protect consumers.  Looking at the history of UBB it is clear that the CRTC does not.  In practice, consumers don’t even make it onto the their radar at all; the only CRTC concern is the ISPs.

The CRTC continues to allow Bell Canada to deploy:

  • Deep Packet Inspection. This essentially allows Bell Canada total access to all unencrypted Internet traffic. Which means the technology gives Bell the means to read our email, and the CRTC allows this. With zero oversight. The CRTC trusts Bell with their privacy, but I don’t. And although I’m not even a Bell customer, my email is not safe from Bell, because my ISP goes through Bell. This is no more reasonable than giving blanket permission to Canada Post to open postal mail.
  • Gouging Customers. I was aghast that the CRTC didn’t understand that most Canadians pay a lot for mediocre Internet access, and worse, didn’t seem to believe the issue was relevant to their deliberations. Have to move to a different geographical location in order to get an another choice of ISP is not “choice.”
  • Throttling the Internet. This one still boggles my mind today just as much as when I first heard about it. When customers pay for a level of service, and the service provider deliberately impedes that service, providing inferior service than has been contracted for is wrong. And again, Bell is not only does this to their own customers, but to the customers of the Independent ISPs as well. Worse still, Bell decide singles out specific Internet traffic to discriminate against it. The CRTC gave Bell permission to do this, the implication being that is that all encrypted traffic is “Downloaders” It seems to me, even if someone is using the Internet for nefarious means, to illicitly download copyrighted content, say, it should not give an ISP the right to provide less bandwidth than the customer paid for. This argument is flawed; one crime doesn’t justify another.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I grew up in a world where deliberately short changing consumers was considered to be fraud, and when even the government law enforcement officials were required to get a warrant before they read my mail.

These are some of the reasons why I don’t think the CRTC is doing its job of protecting consumers. This could be fixed by making sure that the CRTC reflected its real constituency better. [hint: the CRTC should not be limited to past or present Telecom employees, but should also include consumers.] There shouldn’t have to be a major outcry before the CRTC hears consumer; if the CRTC is going to continue to exist, it needs to be responsive to the public.

If the CRTC isn’t reformed, it should be dissolved and replaced with something that does look out for citizens.

Both Bell and Rogers have far too much control over too many facets of the industries they inhabit. This sure looks like what our American friends might define as “anti-trust.” Where was the CRTC … how did things get this messed up if the CRTC was doing its job?

Rogers is apparently an even worse throttler than Bell, and in fact, “Rogers: The World’s Worst Throttler (Officially)”.

These corporations are not going to behave any better unless compelled to do so. Maybe its time they were broken up; the Internet is an essential service, perhaps it should be administered like any other utility, for the public good rather than the corporate greed.

[Thanks to both Robert & Joan!]

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

Advertisements

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

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

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

UBB is Bad

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on February 6, 2011

“Usage-Based Billing: A last-ditch effort to kill the competition.

By forcing all the small ISPs to cap usage and operate just like Bell, the CRTC has effectively buried any strategic advantage that small ISPs can use in competition against Bell and other major telecoms.”

Andy MacIlwain: CRTC & Usage-Based Billing (UBB): Canada Needs Telecom Competition!

Financial Post: Seeing red over metered Internet gets some of it right, but thinks there can actually be justification for UBB.

“if users do find that their usage is being metered, they are going to change their habits.”

Ottawa Citizen: The CRTC and friends

“There is a huge conflict of interest here being seemingly ignored by the CRTC. Bell-Rogers are limiting their competitors’ ability to compete with their cable divisions, by using their Internet divisions to discourage increased Internet usage. Why is this not discussed more often? Maybe one company should no longer be allowed to own both?”

— Corey Flemming Letter to the Editor, Big carrier Internet conflict

“Although large incumbent operators such as Bell Canada have put in usage caps of between 20 and 60 gigabytes, competitive ISPs like TekSavvy either offer 200 gigabyte caps or even unlimited use. If the rules go into effect, competitive carriers would have to enact similar bandwidth usage limits on usage.”

India Telecom Tracker: Canada’s CRTC postpones implementation of usage-based billing rules

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 14414 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 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 »

UBB: Still Misunderstood

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on February 3, 2011

No Usage Based BillingJohnny Rocket passed this along on the comments page:

Toronto Star: Ottawa to reverse CRTC decision on Internet billing

Oh look, another one: The Vancouver Sun: Harper Conservatives to quash CRTC decision killing unlimited Internet

Sounds like the Government is pressing the CRTC to overturn the ruling.

This sounds promising, but at the moment it is nothing more than talk.

The real story is Jason Koblovsky: CRTC To Appear Before Committee On UBB
That the CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein will be addressing Industry Canada tomorrow, presumably to explain the ruling.
Four days are allotted to the CRTC. Of course, anything can happen.

Nothing has actually changed.

The reality is that Usage Based Billing has been approved and has passed through many appeals &tc. since Bell first asked the CRTC for it in 2009.
Currently all the appeals are over, and there is an intact ruling that the Independent ISPs must implement by March 1st.
That has not changed.

Back in May of last year, the CRTC gave UBB conditional approval, saying UBB would not go ahead until all of Bell no longer had customers with unlimited service since imposition of Bell’s UBB on wholesalers would force them to withdraw unlimited service they provide their customers. So for a number of months, it appeared that we were safe from the spectre of UBB. But Bell appealed the decision and the CRTC renegged, instead allowing Independent ISPs to “grandfather” the levels of service enjoyed by longstanding customers, who had accounts dating from 2007.
(2007? What’s up with that? If they were going to do a grandfather deal, at the very least the cutoff should be from when UBB was approved.)

The CRTC has made incredibly bad rulings in regard to the Internet. There are a couple of other incredibly important longstanding issues that need to be looked at here as well.

Hopefully, Industry Canada will be looking at these when they talk about UBB, because everything is related:

Throttling

A few years ago Bell began “throttling” the Internet. Not just their own retail customers, their wholesale customers’ customers too.
[No, that is NOT a typo: the CRTC allows Bell to deliberately degrade the Internet service of their competitor’s customers.]

When the Independent ISPs brought this to the attention of the CRTC… that bandwidth they pay Bell for was being throttled, the CRTC gave Bell permission to do this.

Interestingly, Bell actually started “throttling” at the same time they were Globe and Mail: Bell launches video download store

Internet Ignorance

The justification for “throttling” was that the Internet was too congested.

Apparently The CRTC bought the Bell argument that the Internet was in danger of getting full and maybe crashing.

Jesse Brown famously asked the chairman about proof, and amidst the waffling, the answer seemed to be that Bell said so.

DPI

The CRTC trashed Canadian privacy protection by allowing Bell to deploy Deep Packet Inspection without the slightest bit of oversight.

If you don’t understand what that means, that’s okay, because apparently the CRTC didn’t understand it either.

The short version is that DPI allows Bell to look at everything on the Internet.

Bell has CRTC permission to read your email without needing a warrant.
Without the slightest bit of accountability.
The CRTC trusts Bell with our private data.

I don’t.

The only way to stop them from reading our email or looking at the naked baby in the bath photo we emailed grandma is to encrypt the email. Of course, the reason Bell asked for and got permission from the CRTC to do this was so that they would know what internet traffic to discriminate against. Because Bell discriminates against encrypted internet activity. On purpose.

“We established independent regulators because they’re supposed to have the expertise, the freedom from partisan pressures, the time and the longer-term perspective to make the painful and complex decisions required to keep industries that are otherwise liable to market failure operating in some semblance of the public interest. ”

Globe and Mail: Richard French “Second-guessing the CRTC comes at a price”

Richard French thinks the problem is that the Government is overturning the regulator.

The sad fact is that Mr.French would have a lot more credibility if he wasn’t parroting the oft cited bogus argument about “heavy users.”

Like the CRTC, Richard French doesn’t understand the problem in getting expert advice from the special Interest Group the CRTC is supposed to be regulate.

The problem is that the CRTC does NOT understand the Internet.

Mr. French is writing for the Globe and Mail which is owned by Bell. Coincidence?

Maybe he should read my article Speculation not Prophecy

P.S. Two More Good Links

A Mainstream Media article that understands UBB Financial Post: Counterpoint: Net users will pay a lot more

And a blog: Barrel Strength: The perpetual error of communications policy

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 13711 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 »

Number Crunching UBB Bandwidth

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 17, 2010

No Usage Based Billing

When the Internet was first opened up to consumers, Canadians we had to pay Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) usage fees in order to connect. We paid by the minute.

Using the internet could be quite expensive that way. So many Canadians did not.

When Bell and Rogers entered the ISP market, they offered Unlimited packages for a flat rate. This was much much more economical for consumers. This is one very important reason why such a high proportion of Canadians went online. Which has unquestionably been very good for Canada’s digital economy.

This caused two huge changes. 

  1. All the Independent ISPs went out of business (or switched to doing something else).
  2. Canadians logged on.   Knowing what the Internet would cost per month made it more accessible.

So what’s the problem?

Once all meaningful competition was gone, even the Canadian Government was able to see that no meaningful competition was a bad deal for consumers.

Now that they shared the market, the phone and cable ISPs rejigged their services, and stopped offering “unlimited” packages. And they introduced “caps.” Prices went from being some of the lowest in the word to being some of the highest. In the few major markets where consumers had the option of choosing between Phone based Internet or Cable based Internet, it seems after a while that the two took turns being the higher priced. Adding insult to injury if you decide to cancel your service you get kit with cancellation fees. My guess is that it averages out over the year.

I don’t know if Bell suspends service when their customers hit their “cap” but I have been told that Rogers does this. By university students.

Being overcharged is bad, but being cut off is unacceptable. Because the Internet is a necessity of life. And I would think that is more true for a University student than anyone else.

Canadian Flag CC-BY lothlaurien.ca

So the Canadian Government mandated competition.

The new Independent ISPs offered unlimited packages. When I switched to TekSavvy I opted to pay a little less for a capped amount of 200GB per month. But my Indie ISP doesn’t cut me off even if I go over a little. They average it over two months, so the next month is likely to be under. I have yet to be hit with an overage charge. So 200GB seems to be a reasonable monthly bandwidth allowance. But that is much higher than the caps Bell is imposing.

One of the biggest problems with the introduction of this type of Usage Based Billing is that consumers can’t see it or measure it ourselves. We don’t understand it. Back when Canadians rejected Minute based UBB at least we understood how much a minute was, so we could understand how much we were being charged.

This is why the knee jerk response– particularly after getting clobbered by an overage bill or two– will be for Canadians to severely curtail our online activity.

Doing the Math

I’m not a math person, but even I can understand this:

“Bell offers 25 Mbps (million bits per second) download speeds, with a 75 GByte cap. 75 GBytes is 600,000 Mbits,

so at 25 Mbps it takes only 6 hours and 40 minutes to use up all your bandwidth for the month…”

Bob Jonkman,
Comment on: Why Do Bell and Rogers Have Customers?

Stop Usage Based Billing



 

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11320 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: Clement1@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 Q&A: the Facts #1

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 13, 2010

No Usage Based Billing

I’m currently in the process of writing my second novel for NaNoWriMo and getting ready to self publish my first novel, so this is a very busy month for me. So to start with, during November when I have any time at all, I thought I’d start answering some of the questions Canadians have asked about Usage based Billing (UBB) BB in the CBC comments section of a couple of the online articles they have published since the CRTC approval this terrible policy.

Correcting UBB Misinformation #1

Starting with the CRTC approves usage-based internet billing

Q:

One of the first comments was a question posed by Tech_2007 (2010/05/06) at 11:48 AM who wants to know:

Does Usage Based Billing mean that if s/he doesn’t use the Internet during any given month
s/he will not have to pay anything that month?

A:

The answer to that is you will pay whether you actually use any Internet bandwidth or not. 

There is zero benefit for Canadian Internet users under this UBB policy.

Although it’s called “Usage Based Billing” here (or “Metered Broadband” in the United States), it starts with the base rate you are charged. The starting point is the amount of money you are required to pay your ISP monthly. That doesn’t change. (Unless you’re on an unlimited plan… then it will.)

Usage Based Billing is NOT INSTEAD of that, it is in addition to that amount you are already paying for access to the Internet.

And of course, you don’t get any added value at all for this increase that will in fact make your Internet fees go up dramatically, particularly if you exceed the cap.

Stop Usage Based Billing

 



 

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11308 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: Clement1@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: , , , , | 6 Comments »