interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘wikipedia’

Why Suspicionless Surveillance Matters

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 2, 2013

Edward Snowden was unable to accept the Chaos Computer Club‘s “Whistleblower Award” in person, so Jacob Applebaum accepted for him, and read Edward Snowden‘s written statement at the ceremony.

“It is a great honor to be recognized for the public good created by this act of whistleblowing.

Edward Snowden  (CC by Laura Poitras / Praxis Films) via Wikipedia

“However the greater reward and recognition belongs to the individuals and organizations in countless countries around the world who shattered boundaries of language and geography to stand together in defense of the public right to know, and the value of our privacy.

“It is not I, but the public, who has effected this powerful change, to abrogation of basic constitutional rights by secret agencies.

“It is not I, but newspapers around the world, who have reason to hold our governments to the issues when powerful officials sought to distract from these very issues with rumor and insult.

“And it is not I, but certain brave representatives in governments around the world who are proposing new protections, limits and safeguards to prevent future assault on our public rights and private lives.

“My gratitude belongs to all of those who have reached out to their friends and family to explain why suspicionless surveillance matters. It belongs to the man in a mask on the street on a hot day, and the woman with a sign and an umbrella in the rain, it belongs to the young people in college with a civil liberties sticker on their laptop, and the kid in the back of a class in high school making memes.

“All of these people accept that change begins with a single voice, and spoke one message to the world: governments must be accountable to us for the decisions that they make, decisions regarding the kind of world we will live in, what kind of rights and freedoms individuals will enjoy are the domain of the public, not the government in the dark.

“Yet the happiness of this occasion is for me tempered by an awareness of the road traveled to bring us here today. In contemporary America, the combination of weak legal protections for whistleblowers, bad laws that provide no public interest defense, and a doctrine of immunity for officials who have strayed beyond the boundaries of law, has perverted the system of incentives that regulate secrecy in government. This results in a situation that associates an unreasonably high price with maintaining the necessary foundation of liberal democracy: our informed citizenry.

“Speaking truth to power has cost whistleblowers their freedom, family or country. This situation befits neither America nor the world. It does not require sophistication to understand that policies equating necessary acts of warning with threats to national security inevitably lead to ignorance and insecurity. The society that falls into the deterrent trap known in cultural wisdom as ‘shooting the messenger’ will quickly find that not only is it without messengers, but it no longer enjoys messages at all.

“It is right to question the wisdom of such policies and the unintended incentives that result from them. If the penalty for providing secret information to a foreign government in bad faith is less than the penalty for providing that information to the public in good faith, are we not incentivising spies rather than whistleblowers?

“What does it mean for the public when we apply laws targeting terrorism against those engaged in acts of journalism?

“Can we enjoy openness in our society if we prioritize intimidation and revenge over fact finding and investigation?

“Where do we draw the line between national security and public interest, and how can we have confidence in the balance when the only advocates allowed at the table of review come from the halls of government itself?

“Questions such as these can only be answered through the kind of vigorous public discussion we are enjoying today. We must never forget the lessons of history regarding the dangers of surveillance gone too far, nor our human power to amend such systems to the public benefit.

“The road we travel has been difficult, but it leads us to better times. Together we can guarantee both the safety and the rights of the generations that follow. To all of those who have participated in this debate, from the highest official to the smallest citizen, I say thank you.”

Edward J. Snowden


Edward Snowden photo by Laura Poitras / Praxis Films is released under a under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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Celebrate Software Freedom Day

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 17, 2010

Saturday September 18th is

a graphic sun rises over a green hill

All around the world people will be celebrating Software Freedom Day on Saturday. The idea is of course to both celebrate and raise awareness of Free Open Source Software issues.

I believe the first software freeing license was the GNU General Public License

Free Software Foundation is probably the heart of the Free Software movement which is defined by Richard Stallman’s Four Freedoms.

Free Software Foundations line drawing of the GNU mascott/logo

Free software is a matter of the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it means that the program’s users have the four essential freedoms:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

A program is free software if users have all of these freedoms. Thus, you should be free to redistribute copies, either with or without modifications, either gratis or charging a fee for distribution, to anyone anywhere. Being free to do these things means (among other things) that you do not have to ask or pay for permission to do so.

GNU: Richard Stallman’s The Free Software Definition

Saturday september 18 2010 softwarefreedomDOTorg Celebrate the day Software Freedom Day
These revolutionary concepts, like any good idea, have crossed over into other areas, such as copyright. As corporations work to lock creative works under increasingly restrictive copyright law, creators of art and music, like creators of software before them, have been offered the chance to achieve freedom from the chilling effects of the repressive copyright through Creative Commons licensing.

Creative Commons licensing is growing. There are branches around the world, like our Creative Commons Canada, which allow creators to license their creations in the way that they want in conjunction with their own country’s copyright law.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to attend the Software Freedom Celebration being put on by KWLUG and Kitchener-Waterloo Chapter of Ubuntu Canada and the the Working Centre being held in Kitchener’s Kwartzlab hackerspace.

Visit the Software Freedom Day website to find out what cool Software Freedom Celebration is happening in your neck of the woods.



Other Important free software links:
Tux the Penguin is the Linux Mascot

operating systems

We’ve all joked about how evil Windows is for years. And now Apple seems to be striving to be the Big Brother their ads used to decry. Is it any wonder that more and more people are switching to GNU-Linux operating systems?

I’m in the process of switching to Ubuntu, which is currently the most popular distribution. But there are scads of them out there. The ones I can name off the top of my head are Debian, KDE, Fedora, Linux Mint, Red Hat and Arch. Naturally Wikipedia can give you a more comprehensive list of GNU-Linux distributions. The safest bet is to select the distro that whoever gives you computer support knows best.

balloons

microblogging

Identi.ca is a free software microblogging service, based on the StatusNet software. It is possible to connect Identi.ca with the proprietary Twitter service and the data flows into Twitter, but, being proprietary, Twitter does not share well. (For this reason people like me who use both services tend to post from Identi.ca, simply broadcasting to Twitter. The problem for me has been that replies from Twitter don’t reach me, although switching from Windows into the Ubuntu free software operating system allows me to use Gwibber to connect the two services. Because the software is open, people can set up their own StatusNet servers to precisely serve their needs.

In a world of 140 character limites, URL shortening is important too. You can’t go wrong with ur1 generator. The cool thing is that even when your URL is shortened, hovering over it in Identi.ca allows you to see where the shortened URL will take you.

preservation, advocacy & reporting

TechRights is an excellent resource on breaking free software issues. Following Dr. Roy Schestowitz on Identi.ca or on Twitter keeps me up with the latest.

UK Tech Journalist Glyn Moody is one of my best resources for open tech issues. His blog Open … clarifies important issues like ACTA and the UK legislative fiasco known as the Digital Economy Act. I’ve learned about a few Canadian issues first from Glyn Moody, who I follow on Identi.ca and on Twitter

A few other groups advocating for Internet Freedom worth mentioning are:

And since special interest groups are trying to use copyright law to suppress Internet freedom, these are some excellent Canadian copyright resources as well:
NO Canadian DMCA

Anyway, that should do for starters. 😀

Happy Software Freedom Day!



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Parody: Downfall

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on April 23, 2010

Canadian Copyright

Johnny Wayne holds a brush under his nose to compliment his Hitler Hairdo as Frank Shuster reads from the script at a CBC microphone

the past

Growing up in Canada, had I thought about it at all, it would never have occurred to me that parody was not protected under Canadian copyright law. After all, parody has long been a major staple of Canadian comedy. Who could forget the classic CBC comedy specials featuring the famed Canadian comic duo Wayne and Shuster?

Wayne and Shuster were parody. Generations of Canadians grew up laughing at their comedy.

Who could possibly forget Johnny Wayne in Spock ears…?

Or a a bald Frank Shuster captaining the Love Boat…?

Wayne and Schuster satirized, lampooned and parodied anything and everything over the course of their career which spanned decades. In those days, producers of the American television programs that Wayne and Shuster parodied probably had no idea that Canadian copyright law was any different than American copyright law which does allow parody. It would never have occurred to any of them that they could have sued the CBC on the basis of Wayne and Shuster content. In those days the big media companies were just happy Wayne and Shuster gave them such great free publicity.

It is absurd that parody is NOT protected under Canadian copyright law

Canadians have contributed a vast amount to the world of humour over the years. The fact that parody is not protected in Canada is probably one reason why so many Canadians in the funny business have emigrated south. Yet Canadians are always willing to laugh at ourselves and our foibles through parody. Parody helps us let off steam so we don’t take to the streets and storm the Bastille.

Yet in today’s world Canadians reckless enough to who commit parody in Canada expose themselves to legal penalties for copyright infringement.

“the” parody meme

There is a powerful scene in a 2004 German movie called Der Untergang in the original German, more familiarly known to English speakers the world over under the name Downfall. This one scene from this film is quite probably the single most re-mixed bit of video in the history of the world.

The first time I saw a Downfall parody re:mix it was lampooning ill advised Canadian government activities.   But that was not the last time I saw a Downfall (Der Untergang) parody. There have been many many more.

I had never even heard of Constantin Film or Downfall (Der Untergang) before the subtitled parodies of began surfacing on YouTube a couple of years ago. I think that’s probably true for most of the world’s population outside of Germany.

But over the last couple of years this one Downfall scene has been subtitled, and subtitled, and subtitled again, and uploaded to YouTube, to illustrate a wide variety of issues and causes. Some are political minefields, while others are purely frivolous, like this anti Comic MS font Downfall parody.

But even though parody has been protected under American law for many years, the American DMCA allows take down notices on the basis of mere allegations. Contrary to the body of law that came before, this reversal puts the onus of defense on the accused, and allegations of infringement are treated as proof, and it YouTube seems to pull videos at any rights holder request, whether under DMCA or not.

This puts the accused in the dubious position of guilty until proven innocent. This also means the rights holders can censor parody by saying it copyright infringement.

MIT Free Culture has created an internet research project called YouTomb, to track videos taken down from YouTube for alleged copyright violation. You can see their Constantin Film Produktion GmbH results here.

A few days back UK blogger Glyn Moody passed along an online article warning of that Constantin Film the company that made Downfall decided to take action against these parodies.

“Also, someone really needs to make a video about Hitler being upset that Constantin Film is DCMAing Hitler parodies.”

MG Siegler, Techcrunch: Hitler Is Very Upset That Constantin Film Is Taking Down Hitler Parodies

Of course, in true internet fashion, the reaction to this is, naturally enough, a parody. I learned about this new parody clip, easily the funniest parody version I’ve yet seen, from a Malaysian friend who was heard about it from a New Zealand friend who was ReTweeting the Electronic Freedom Foundation. I hope it stays on YouTube as long as possible. Because not only is it funny, it makes some excellent points about copyright. In the interim, by linking to it here I may help a few more folks see it: The Downfall Parody in response to the Downfall Parody take-down notices

I can certainly understand that the film makers who crafted this ultra serious historical film Der Untergang might have a hard time accepting the fact that what is probably one of the most powerful scenes in the film has been transformed into a re:mix parody meme. At the same time, this has enormously raised the visibility of both the film and the film company on an international level. I know at least one person who intends to purchase a copy of Downfall (Der Untergang) specifically because the scene that has been parodied so many times is clearly so well done.

Another other notable copyright reform parody was created by E.F.F. director Brad Templeton, whose parody Hitler, as “Downfall” producer, orders a DMCA takedown promoting parody and the Electronic Freedom Foundation was actually taken down, but is now back online. You can read all about it in his blog Brad Ideas. At the end of Brad’s film he gives a link to the E.F.F. Fair Use page

I hope that Constantin Film decides to change their position on this issue. Clearly, they have a name that is now known around the world because of this much parodied film clip. And although some factions of the American Government are pushing for A.C.T.A., United States copyright law does clearly protect parody. Should this go to court, not only will Constantin Films have alienated a vast potential audience, but they are likely to spend a fair bit of money prosecuting an un-winnable court case.

what could Constantin Film do?

special features text graphic

The best idea I’ve heard for a  Constantin Film solution was Canadian Bob Jonkman‘s suggestion to release a Downfall YouTube Special Edition. Naturally this DVD set would contain the original film in German, with subtitles in all appropriate languages. The special features would include all the YouTube parodies.

Perhaps Constantin Film could even put together a special interactive “make your own captions” feature that would allow you to caption your own and upload it to YouTube. I’m not sure if that would be technically feasible, but if it was I’d guess it would be a huge moneymaker.

The beauty of a strategy like this is that it would not alienate a potential global audience, but would instead sell them a lot of DVDs.   Once people have bought the DVD, they are rather likely to watch the actual film.

Win-Win, don’t you think?

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Trollbusters

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on April 1, 2010

Trolls: Sometimes Trolls are Welcome.  There are many different types of Troll.  This Troll was the hit of a D&D convention.  The one place trolls are never welcome is on the internet.

StopUBB seems to have acquired its own troll.
(Click on the troll to see a larger image.)

Instead of simply leaving my responses to troll-dom buried in the comments, I thought my time would be better spent with an article about Internet Trolls.

No Usage Based Billing

Internet Anonymity

One of the strengths of the Internet is that it usually possible to comment anonymously. The reason that this is a strength is that it allows people to share information — whistle blowing information in particular — with less personal risk. This is good for society.

Another strength of the Internet is that it is largely “self-correcting”. Because commenting is encouraged most places, and an awful lot of information is available for user-editing, when someone gets something on the internet wrong, there is usually someone who will correct them. So if a “whistle blower” turns out to be someone spreading malicious information, they will be outed and discredited very quickly. This is fabulous.

Now, I have never made any secret of the fact that although I deal with a lot of technical things in this blog, I am not a technical person. If I get something wrong, I want to know about it, so that I can correct it. That’s one reason that my name and email address are plastered all over my blogs. It has to do with credibility. If you want to correct me loudly, you can do it in a comment. If you prefer to do it quietly, you can send me email. (Don’t worry, thanks to some really smart tech people I have a very good spam filter.)

The reason I started this blog was to help other non-technical internet users understand the issue of Usage Based Billing. As an ordinary person myself I have to first learn about the issues and processes before I can hope to write about them. I have lately increased the scope of this blog to cover internet freedom issues like Net Neutrality and ACTA which will also impact negatively on ordinary Internet users. The point of this blog is to demystify the computerese so that ordinary people can understand the issues that will affect us all. Computers and the Internet are no longer luxuries.

I am fortunate in that I’ve had some good instructors, and for things I’ve researched on my own I’ve had excellent feedback. As well I know I have a few very technically astute readers who will not hesitate to provide technical correction where warranted.

European troll with a walking stick stands on a city street.

Trolls

A problem that has emerged out of Internet anonymity is a type of commenter which has come to be known as a “Troll”. Trolls comment wherever they think they can do damage. In forums, Facebook, blogs, and news articles.

Some trolls are just the internet version a vandals; they want to wreck things, or stir things up. Some delight in the power they feel in arguing about anything or everything. They will jump into any argument and take the contrary position just for the fun of it. This type of troll has been around since the earliest days of computer Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes were the early forums on independent computer networks that predate public access to the Internet of today).

As the Internet has achieved wider readership and acceptance, there has emerged a new class of troll, Professional Lobbyist Trolls. I’m guessing that at least some of these trolls receive a paycheck for their efforts, although it’s conceivable that some simply work for the corporation they are lobbying for. Whether they are officially remunerated for troll comments or not, I consider these people to be Professional Trolls because they engage in troll behaviour for gain.

The first kind of troll exists because they feel empowered through the argument. These trolls often engage in bullying tactics. The standard advice for dealing with these amateur trolls is “Don’t feed the troll.” This means that they should be ignored, because they will never back off. The more you respond, the worse they get. By ignoring them you deprive them of their power. Unfortunately this doesn’t always work because some of them will simply continue to escalate the abuse until a response is forthcoming.

The second type of troll exists because a special interest group – usually a corporation or a political party – is engaging in activity or behaviour that the public will not agree with because it is not in the best interests of the public. The professional troll’s job is to con us into thinking that it will be in our best interests, or if that doesn’t fly, that it’s necessary to make a sacrifice for some reason.

When CBC online runs a story decrying a bad corporate behaviour or government policy, something that triggers thousands of public online comments, often the special interest group behind the bad behaviour or policy tries to stem the tide of public negativity by sending in Professional Trolls. These trolls spread misinformation intended to muddy the waters and try to dissipate or minimize the public outrage. Trolls will attempt to deflect criticism by suggesting a different scapegoat, or more commonly by trying to cast doubt on the credibility of the information. Professional trolls have a whole arsenal of weapons for attacking an idea on every front except merit. That’s the biggest problem professional trolls have to overcome — a lack of valid arguments.

You can usually spot a Professional Troll because they are arguing against the good of society. The corporation, political group or ideology that the troll is advocating/lobbying for, will always gain something at the expense of others, usually the public. Because ordinary citizens don’t have lobbyists.

The StopUBB Troll

First I’ll reprint the Troll Comments I received today followed by my Comment Reply. Then I’ll break the troll’s comment down and analyze the flaws.

lol said
March 31, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Wow so much FUD in this article. Not a Rogers employee, but your understanding of how the DPI works is nonsense, and guess what, carriers all pay on usage, broadband customers can to. You will one day, don’t worry and suck it up. Move from your parents basement and become productive.

Laurel L. Russwurm said
April 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Lol the Troll is spreading misinformation again… Although protesting that it is “Not a Rogers employee”, Lol the Troll‘s email address is through an offline “holding company” website with a Rogers IP address. Certainly looks suspicious.   Lol the Troll claims that “carriers all pay on usage”. Either Lol the Troll truly doesn’t understand (intelligence is not a pre-requisite for troll-dom) or is being disingenuous. Bell Canada is a “carrier”.  I doubt Bell Canada pays usage to anyone.

Admittedly, Rogers is also a carrier. Rogers doesn’t usually have to pay for internet access on it’s own cable, but there are some parts of Canada where Rogers is forced to go through Bell Canada’s Gateway Access System (GAS), so I expect at those junctures, Bell is charging usage to Rogers. You would think that Bell and Rogers would be able to play nicely together, but neither share very well, and though they seem to work in conjunction at times, both want to be the only Canadian Internet monopoly.

The Independent Service Providers… that is to say, the Independent ISPs that Industry Canada mandated into the Canadian Internet market in order to provide Canadian consumers with access to competition, must purchase access to Bell Canada’s GAS as well. My understanding is that the Independents are ISPs not carriers. They do in fact pay a great deal for their internet access.

The Independent ISPs have contracted for blocks of bandwidth access with Bell Canada. Bell Canada was able to set the excessive prices they wanted, and the Independent ISPs agreed to pay the high prices Bell Canada set.   So Bell Canada is already being paid for the bandwidth the Independent ISPs get through GAS. These independent ISPs do business by packaging the bandwidth differently than Bell Canada does. Bell Canada is already being paid for the bandwidth that these ISPs re-sell to their own customers.

Usage Based Billing would mean that the Independent Service Providers’ customers would be forced to pay Bell Canada for “usage” that has already been paid for. The Independent ISPs are fighting against UBB because they don’t believe that their customers should have to pay more for the same service they get now. Usage Based Billing will also force the Independent ISPs to use Bell Canada’s pricing system, which will unfairly shackle their business model and most likely put them out of business.

Lol the Troll also attempts to discredit me personally as someone who doesn’t pay for my own Internet connection. Lol the Troll is accusing me of being an unproductive young person, without life experience, living in my parents basement, presumably off my parents.

First of all, a young person living in their parent’s basement is not necessarily unproductive. And age does not always bring life experience.   Considering that Lol the Troll made a second post with the same type of denigration on the About UBB and Me a page that very clearly says who I am, it is reasonable to think that Lol the Troll just wanted to try to discredit me, not caring about accuracy.

Now for the point by point Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Wow so much FUD in this article. “
Broad statement. Opinion, not fact. Attempt to establish street cred by using the acronym “FUD”. This actually backfires since the wikipedia definition points to someone with a marketing or political background. Precisely the demographic for professional trolls.

FUD: Fear, uncertainty and doubt, a marketing or political strategy.

Wikipedia

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Not a Rogers employee,”
Attempting to discredit my information without any validity. I’m sure Rogers has competent as well as incompetent staff just like any other large corporation. Working for Rogers wouldn’t make me an expert. Anymore than not working for Rogers would.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “but your understanding of how the DPI works is nonsense,”
Saying the information is wrong without any supporting information. aka “Because I say so”. Lol is spouting nonsense. Thanks to research I quite understand why DPI is illegal in Europe, and ought to be here. At minimum it needs oversight.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “and guess what, carriers all pay on usage,”
Argument based on Fallacy. Partly correct, not remotely logical. Having just read the Wikipedia page I am amazed… the fallacy page is pretty much a Troll Primer. If you think a comment was made by a troll, chances are their argument will contain at least one of the fallacies listed on the Wikipedia page.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “broadband customers can to.”
Presence of the incorrect “to” indicates someone overly reliant on spell check.
The argument is specious. The points have nothing to do with each other.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “You will one day, don’t worry and suck it up. Move from your parents basement and become productive.”
Inept inaccurate personal attack as a means of discrediting the accurate information I provide.

As mentioned, the other appearance of Lol the Troll is on my About UBB and Me page.

a naked rainbow haired troll doll, a naked blue haired troll doll with blue gem inset at navel, yellow haired and pink haired baby trolls wearing bibs and nappys, a white haired baby troll in a bunny suit, and a yellow haired troll wearing balloon trunks

My younger sisters were quite into troll dolls when we were kids. I couldn't see the attraction.

I actually saw this one first.

lol said
March 31, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Move out of your parents basement and stop whining kid. Usage based billing is out transit has worked in the carrier space for decades, it will come to broadband and will make the internet cheaper for average users, and more money for torrenting brats. Guess what, I’m sorry your mom got mad that you cost her an extra $25 downloading your porn!

Since the attempt at putting me down is so patently “out there” I didn’t bother arguing the point.

Laurel L. Russwurm said
April 1, 2010 at 8:26 am
Ooohh look— StopUBB got its very own troll! My very own troll! Awesome.
And not only that, a troll who can’t read!
Even funnier, one who is parroting misinformation. Guess that’s why it calls itself “Lol”.

Now for the Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Move out of your parents basement and stop whining kid. “
Ridiculous attempt at a personal attack especially considering that it is made directly below my biographical information.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Usage based billing is out transit has worked in the carrier space for decades, it will come to broadband and will make the internet cheaper for average users, and more money for torrenting brats. “
Aside from the incoherence, it appears that Lol the Troll is trying to sell the lie that Usage based billing will make the Internet cheaper for people who do not use torrents. Usage Based Billing charges will be assessed in addition to what users currently pay in Internet rates. Nowhere in any part of the official Bell Canada Usage Based Billing submission to the CRTC did Bell ever make any claim that any user would be paying less than they are paying now. But trolls can say what they want.
Lol the Troll is also attempting to imply that all torrent traffic is illegal or bad in some way, when readers of StopUBB know that isn’t accurate.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Guess what, I’m sorry your mom got mad that you cost her an extra $25 downloading your porn!”
Another vague attempt at personal attack in combination with casting aspersions on the excellent BitTorrent protocol, which is not only legal, but used for many excellent things, like distribution of Free Open Source software. Or Project Gutenberg.


I hope this article has made troll spotting a little easier.

I’ll leave you with my kid’s favorite web comic XKCD‘s take on amateur trolls:



[Image Credits:
D&D Troll photograph by Benny Mazur (benimoto)
European Walking Stick Troll Photo by HuBar, Wikimedia Commons
Troll Family Group, photo by Felicity Green, aka mygothlaundry, Flickr
the Troll in the “Troll Busters” logo was provided by Roixa RRG You can see more of her work in her ROIXA RRG blog
And of course thanks to Randall Munroe for publishing XKCD under a Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution Non-Commercial license which allowed me to reprint his comic in its entirety.]

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

A.C.T.A. is BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 7, 2009

Hollywood taught me about Democracy

Jesse Brown reported a very scary story How do you say “clueless” in Italian? on his Search Engine site.

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

Four Google execs may face jail terms because they didn’t pull an offensive video from their site BEFORE anyone complained about it.

Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to be a very big story, yet it is a perfect illustration of the incredible danger facing the internet. There is no way that large busy websites or the ISPs that host them can possibly monitor all of the material that is uploaded to the internet without seriously curtailing what is being uploaded to the internet.

For instance, when logging into Flickr I am told:

“There were 2,710 uploads in the last minute ”

Thousands of people upload images to Flickr every minute. It would take thousands of people to screen those images. If Flickr was forced to hire thousands of people to police the images members upload to the site, suddenly what Clay Shirky calls “ the transaction cost” would stop being nearly nil because the cost to maintain Flickr would skyrocket. It is doubtful that Flickr or YouTube or any other wildly successful website could cope with this without going bust.

Wikipedia, for example, has many people all over the world contributing articles and changing other people’s articles all the time. You would think that this would result in all kinds of internet vandalism happening.   But it doesn’t.   Sometimes people make mistakes, and the way Wikipedia works is that other people can fix those mistakes, And they do. And Wikipedia users also correct deliberate misinformation or vandalism.   So even if someone attempts to do a bad thing and vandalize wikipedia articles or disseminate misinformation on Wikipedia, Wikipedia is policed by its own editor/users.

As soon as anyone complains to Google, or YouTube, or Flickr about offensive content, the content is taken down. Now, I have to tell you, even though I am not by any means a young pup, in terms of understanding the internet, “I am only an Egg.” The internet we know today didn’t exist twenty years ago.

Like most people, I’ve been busy, so I wasn’t paying very much attention. Every now and then some new toy or gizmo having to do with computers would pop up — like iphones or ebooks or blackberrys. Or some new uber-cool thing like blogging or facebook or twitter or VOIP would suddenly be everywhere. And we can’t forget endless tales and dreams of dot com millionaires. The way the wold works has been changing very very fast. Six months ago I had no idea what Usage Based Billing was. About two months ago I started writing a simple little article explaining the mechanics of how the internet works. It turned out to be incredibly difficult to learn, let alone explain and mushroomed into “the alphabet series”. Simple? No, and the more I learn the more important I realize Net Neutrality is.

So I do understand why most people don’t even realize that this stuff is going on, or even that it matters. But the thing is that the internet has been slowly growing up and becoming more important in the world, and at the same time a much larger force for change. Which is why it is so important that there be Net Neutrality. Because the internet has come so far so fast it is especially important that it not be turned against it’s users.

Alongside Net Neutrality people in this brave new world are also talking about file sharing, “3 Strikes laws” and ACTA. Terms like piracy and theft are being hurled around and “copyright infringement” has been elevated to a near executable offense.

Why now?

It is no secret that governments around the world have been lobbied long and hard by the “copyright lobby” large media corporations, music and movie companies who are attempting to legislate prograss back into the twentieth century and change the way we think. They have been turning their media might into a propoaganda tool of epic proportions. Because of the incredible power that they can bring to bear, copyright laws around the world are being changed to appease these lobbyists.

Hollywood taught me spying on citizens is bad.

Hollywood taught me spying on citizens is bad

Copyright law “improvements” enrich the lives of Americans

An inflammatory Chicago Sun Times headline reads Woman arrested for trying to record ‘Twilight’ on digital camera. The article recounts a story about a young woman who is being criminally charged– to the same extent and in the the same way a professional bootlegger would be charged– for recording scenes of her sister’s birthday party at the movies. The video picked up about 4 minutes of movie fragments. This is the equivalent of charging a teenager with one joint as a drug dealer, or the child who swiped a tempting lollipop from the grocery store with grand theft. It is simply not reasonable.

I’ve taken photographs of family and friends on special occasion trips to the movies. I’ve made videotapes of birthday parties. If you make a video of a child’s birthday party and a movie or video game was playing on the TV in the background, you too could be criminally charged. Under ACTA what will happen when you email a copy of this copyright infringing video to Grannie in England? Will she be fined or jailed or will you?

These laws are already absurd. And then… here comes ACTA.

All of the citizens of the world are being deliberately excuded from all ACTA negotiations. President Obama, so recently praised for his commitment to Net Neutrality, believes this to be a matter of National Security.

There is a huge difference between “personal use copying” and “commercial bootlegging” which the copyright lobby is lumping together as “piracy”. This is all a wrongheaded attempt to legislate away progress. Instead of trying to adapt with the technology, the copyright lobby has chosen to pour millions (billions?) into lobbying for this legislation that will not in fact do anything to stop commercial bootlegging. To give the appearance of doing something they instead choose to criminalize the mostly young citizens who are not harming this special interest group. Personally, I would rather see the best and brightest of Canada’s younger generation find themselves in universities rather than jail.

ACTA is bad. Very Very Bad.

Hollywood Influences

Growing up I learned a lot from “Hollywood”.

Like most Canadians of my generation TV and Movies gave me a better understanding of the American legal system than the Canadian.

Hollywood taught me that:

  • free enterprise is admirable.
  • free speech is important
  • individuals have rights
  • democracy is good, and good government is responsive to the wishes of the citizens
  • communism is bad, because the government spies on its citizens
  • a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty

BUT.

Hollywood taught me "innocent until proven guilty"

Apparently that was all just “content”.  ACTA makes it pretty clear that Hollywood’s true objective is for governments around the world to:

  • suppress free speech,
  • shackle their competitors,
  • dismantle democracy,
  • spy on citizens and
  • throw out the rule of law to punish people on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations.

The saddest part is that it isn’t for some misguided ideological reason that they think will improve the world. This is pure greed.

ACTA links

“Canada and its international trading partners each have distinct copyright policies, laws and approaches for addressing the challenges and opportunities of the internet. Canada’s current framework provides strong intellectual property protections and our copyright laws apply in the digital context, including on the internet. Moreover, Canada’s regime for

the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights is fully consistent with its international obligations.”

The Honourable Tony Clement, The Hill Times – Canada’s Politics and Government Newsweekly

YET.

Somehow Canada continues to participate in the secret ACTA treaty negotiations.

“Secret ACTA negotiations would criminalize Canadian internet use” says New Democrat Digital Issues Critic Charlie Angus, who demanded that Tony Clement reveal the ACTA negotiation mandate letter. Tony Clement Responds To Concerns That ACTA Will Circumvent Canadian Copyright Law

Ambassador Kirk: People would be “walking away from the table” if the ACTA text is made public . Maybe that is what should be happening.

Russell McOrmond tells us about:

Word manipulation, hypocrisy, and the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in it world.

Bytestyle TV’s Shelly Roche tells us a few things about ACTA, including the fact that it is being undertaken as an executive order, and therefore will not require ratification by the U.S. Congress. If it’s any consolation, American citizens are being kept just as much in the dark as Canadians, and, well, every other country in the world. ACTA: Internet Users Guilty Until Proven Innocent and ACTA: Will Corporate-Run US Government Destroy the Internet?

The Electronic Freedom Foundation Senator Bayh Responds on ACTA illustrates just how badly informed Americans (including Senators) are about ACTA.

Fortunately all Senators weren’t created equal. Senators blast Obama’s secret trade talks as Fox head calls for ‘3 strikes’

Michael Geist brings us: EU ACTA Analysis Leaks: Confirms Plans For Global DMCA, Encourage 3 Strikes Model

Where Paolo Brini passed along the news that the ACTA “negotiations now are not compliant with the Lisbon Treaty, which has come into force the 1st of December” EU negotiators show too many incompatibilities between ACTA and EU laws and Telecoms Package: 3-strikes forbidden in Europe He says further that “The agreement between the Council and the Parliament led to a new amendment which clearly forbids 3-strikes, in the sense meant by ACTA, and restrictions to fundamental rights without following very precise parameters (not respected by ACTA).”

Jamie Love’s blast from the past: Seven Secret ACTA documents from 2008 which includes the link to a PDF of the “Canada Non-Paper on institutional issues under the Agreement” is then discussed in Howard Knopf’s EXCESS COPYRIGHT: Canadian Proposal for ACTA Secretariat

Wired Magazine weighs in with the Threat Level column: Privacy, Crime and Security Online Report: U.S. Fears Public Scrutiny Would Scuttle IP Treaty Talks

New Zealand would like to know: Dunne: What are we signing up to, Mr Power? – 4 December 2009

Last week on BoingBoing Cory Doctorow passed along Javier “Barrapunto” Candeira’s information on the Spanish activists issue manifesto on the rights of Internet users which was created to battle the proposed suspension of due process “in the name of ‘safeguarding Intellectual Property Laws against Internet Piracy.”

1 .- Copyright should not be placed above citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy, security, presumption of innocence, effective judicial protection and freedom of expression.

2 .- Suspension of fundamental rights is and must remain an exclusive competence of judges. This blueprint, contrary to the provisions of Article 20.5 of the Spanish Constitution, places in the hands of the executive the power to keep Spanish citizens from accessing certain websites.

3 .- The proposed laws would create legal uncertainty across Spanish IT companies, damaging one of the few areas of development and future of our economy, hindering the creation of startups, introducing barriers to competition and slowing down its international projection.

4 .- The proposed laws threaten creativity and hinder cultural development. The Internet and new technologies have democratized the creation and publication of all types of content, which no longer depends on an old small industry but on multiple and different sources.

5 .- Authors, like all workers, are entitled to live out of their creative ideas, business models and activities linked to their creations. Trying to hold an obsolete industry with legislative changes is neither fair nor realistic. If their business model was based on controlling copies of any creation and this is not possible any more on the Internet, they should look for a new business model.

6 .- We believe that cultural industries need modern, effective, credible and affordable alternatives to survive. They also need to adapt to new social practices.

7 .- The Internet should be free and not have any interference from groups that seek to perpetuate obsolete business models and stop the free flow of human knowledge.

8 .- We ask the Government to guarantee net neutrality in Spain, as it will act as a framework in which a sustainable economy may develop.

9 .- We propose a real reform of intellectual property rights in order to ensure a society of knowledge, promote the public domain and limit abuses from copyright organizations.

10 .- In a democracy, laws and their amendments should only be adopted after a timely public debate and consultation with all involved parties. Legislative changes affecting fundamental rights can only be made in a Constitutional law.

The Spanish government withdrew the draft law that would have legalized punishment without due process.

Spanish Blogroll:

[this is only a smattering of the websites bearing the manifesto… a Google search shows “de aproximadamente 351,000 de manifiesto en defensa de los derechos fundamentales en internet”]

and the list goes on….

Bravo Spain.

Talk about this.

And please, contact your MP, Prime Minister Harper as well as the Honourable Ministers Clement and Moore.

Because ACTA is bad. Very very bad.

STOP Usage Based Billing

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Why Stop Usage Based Billing?

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 17, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

The first time I heard about Usage Based Billing was in mid-August, just after the CRTC’s ill advised ruling. I’m referring of course to Telecom Order CRTC 2009-484 the one that gave Bell Canada provisional permission to implement Usage Based Billing in 90 days. I didn’t understand the issue at all. I didn’t even understand what most of the words meant. I’m certainly not particularly “knowledgeable” about this kind of technical issue.

Dammit Jim, I’m a writer not a technician!

One thing I have learned is how to do research, so I made it my business to inform myself about Usage Based Billing. I didn’t think it could really be as bad as it sounded. After all, to paraphrase one of my favorite Lazarus Long quotes, I’m an optimist by nature but a pessimist by design. Surely Usage Based Billing only appeared to be so bad because the jargon had me so confused. Surely the CRTC could not have possibly given permission to Bell Canada to charge bill people who are not even their customers Usage Based Billing. The very idea was mind boggling.

Initially it was just going to be one little in the wind blog post.   But the more I found out about Usage Based Billing the worse it was. And there are related issues like Net Neutrality that I’m still learning about. Although I’d only been blogging for a few months, I understood enough to know that I didn’t want the Usage Based Billing issue to take over in the wind so I decided to start a public service blog to pass the Usage Based Billing information I was discovering on to other ordinary Canadians.

Something that I’ve said before that bears repeating: I am still learning about this. If I get something wrong, please let me know.

One thing I >do< know is that Usage Based Billing is a very bad thing. This is an issue that will affect all Canadians, not just the people who understand the technical bits.

I think that both Bell Canada and the CRTC assumed that that “nobody” would notice until it was a done deal. After all, the only people who can even understand the UBB jargon are computer people.

Over six thousand people told the CRTC that the Usage Based Billing proposal was a bad idea. And since the issue has been virtually invisible from the start, I assume that those six thousand complaints the CRTC so cavalierly ignored ignored were most probably from technical computer people. Because nobody else knew. But the CRTC went ahead and did it anyway. After all, what’s six thousand complaints in a country of 33,487,208 (estimated July 2009)?

Channel 4's The I.T.Crowd cast

Channel 4's The I.T.Crowd cast

In the same way we don’t have to understand the mechanics of an internal combustion engine to be able to drive a car, most computer users only have a vague understanding of how computers or the internet actually work. This is brought home amazingly well in this YouTube clip from the British televison series The I.T.Crowd when Moss shows Jen “This is the internet”,

The fact is, most us us don’t need to know how the internet works, we just need to be able to access it. We’re getting to the point where most of the population uses computers, most of which are connected to the internet. Usage Based Billing will affect all of those Canadian computer users. But since most Canadians haven’t even heard of UBB they can’t join in the protest. And like me a little over a month ago, even if they have heard of Usage Based Billing they probably don’t understand what it is about yet. This Stop Usage Based Billing blog exists to inform ordinary people about a very important issue. I’m particularly proud of Usage Based Billing: A Glossary.

One of the reasons I keep checking the http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/website is to see how many signatures the petition has garnered.
It’s an excellent indication that more and more Canadians are finding out about UBB all the time. I expect that a lot of the people who complained directly to the CRTC haven’t signed the petition. Having been totally ignored makes it easy to think that there is nothing we can do.

I don’t believe that. It ain’t over ’til it’s over. And maybe I’m naïve, but I have this idea that if enough Canadians know about Usage Based Billing it may still be stopped.

After all, the ruling was only “provisional”

But as long as the government and the CRTC only perceive the Usage Based Billing issue as being a problem for a special interest group that only numbers around six thousand, as long as the rest of the people who will be affected don’t know about it, Usage Based Billing can be implemented quietly. Once implemented it is unlikely to ever go away. And it may not seem like such a bad thing… after all, it will really only be doubling moderate users internet costs.

Of course that’s only short term. If Usage Based Billing goes ahead the Independent Service providers will cease to be able to offer any effective alternative to the Big three. They will be lucky to survive. Canada will no longer have anything resembling competition in internet service. We’ll be back to an internet monopoly. If the CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to double internet costs without even pretending to provide any extra value to customers now this won’t be the last time. It will happen again.

Could Canadian Wikipedia Use really be affected by Usage Based Billing?

One reader questioned the validity of my comments about Canadian wikipedia participation.

After “spread the word” and “sign the petition” probably the thing I have been saying the most often is a variation of this:

“If the Usage Based Billing ruling is allowed to stand, it will harm Canada’s economy because it will change how Canadians use the internet. The insidious thing about Usage Based Billing is that the only way it will allow Canadians to keep our internet rates within our budgets will be for us to curtail our internet use.”

— From Dear Mr Harper

In listing the things we would do differently I always include a mention that Canadians will be less likely to contribute to Wikipedia.

I was regularly using Wikipedia long before I had any idea what a wiki was, so I know and value it as a resource. Reduced Canadian participation would be a tragedy. Surely UBB wouldn’t cause that.

After all I’ve heard it said that editing a wiki page requires “virtually” no data transfers

Virtually does not mean none.

There are many different ways people can contribute to Wikipedia.

The most common way is to edit errors in the articles you read. Editing a sentence here and there, say as many as one a day, isn’t going to do much to your bandwidth usage. Of course, you have to actually take the time to read articles before you know if and what you’re going to edit. A little more bandwidth used, but still not very much. Then of course you might be communicating with other people through wikipedia. Discussing Wikipedia stuff. A little more bandwidth. Still not very much.

Another way that people contribute to the sum of Wikipedia knowledge is by contributing an article. Usually someone will notice a lack and in most cases will contribute a “stub”, or a minimal “starter” article. In time people who know about the subject will fill in the necessary information. Another tiny bit of bandwidth.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

It didn’t even occur to me to do an article piecemeal. So my first contribution was an entire biographical article (about a Canadian). First I had to learn how everything worked. That used bandwidth. Then I wrote the article online in wikipedia. Even though I’ve been been learning XHTML Wikipedia isn’t exactly the same, it has its own code conventions. (As does WordPress.) So when using Wikipedia or WordPress I do it by by working online, so I can see what parts of the layout work and what doesn’t. So that will consume more bandwidth as well.

Because Wikipedia wants links for everything, while working on the article I’d be checking information about the subject in different tabs. Or looking up internal links. More bandwidth.

The 3264 x 2448 pixel photograph I uploaded to Wikipedia Commons for my article was 3.53 megabytes. Images use a lot more bandwidth than text.

I’m pretty sure that there are a lots of other ways of participating in Wikipedia. Some people run programs to find errors of various types. There seem to be people who function as greeters. There are people who answer questions. There are people who assemble lists of things, like this List of Canadian musicians There may even be forums. I really don’t know how much bandwidth any of these voluntary jobs would consume. Some, but probably not very much.

So, how much bandwidth does making a wikipedia contribution use? When you start adding up all the tiny bits, it will add up.

But I really have no idea how much it will use. Which is the point.

So far I have not heard how this Usage in Usage Based Billing will be calculated.

What I want to know is how will we know how much bandwidth we’re using?

Are we each going to have our computers fitted with little meters that tell us how much internet bandwidth we have used and how much is left?
If not we won’t have a clue.

I don’t know about anyone else but I’d also want to know how much bandwidth it would take for each thing I do online. How much bandwidth will the flash banner ad I’m ignoring on that website I went to by accident cost me? Or how much bandwidth will that stack of spam ding me for? If we knew in advance what everything would cost in terms of bandwidth, Canadians would be watching our bandwidth usage. Like a dieter counting calories, we would be careful about what we used. But I rather think we won’t know. And without knowing the easiest solution is to use as little as possible.

Maybe my Wikipedia use costs almost nothing in terms of bandwidth. How much is almost nothing? People working out estimates of how much what bandwidth will cost and it looks remarkably like a a mathematician working out an algorithm. Rather beyond me. So how will I know? If cost is an issue, and I’m getting close to my cap, I’m certainly going to be super careful not to exceed my precious bandwidth limit.

Wikipedia exists because of a great deal of work by volunteers. It’s satisfying to participate, and it’s always fun to boost your country or share information. You get to do something good for the world. Not many people are likely to contribute to Wikipedia if it causes economic hardship. Just learning how to use Wikipedia or a blog is time consuming. But now it will be Bandwidth consuming too.

The first time we met Cody.

Jamcam: Cody on the Deck...this is the Original Size 18.5KB

Maybe the bandwidth Canadians need to contribute to or access Wikipedia is next to nothing. That’s not the same as nothing. If I don’t understand it, especially if I’m close to the cap, I’m certainly not about to risk it.

Adventures in Computer Technology

When floppy disks were floppy

When floppy disks were floppy

When I first began writing on a computer, I spent a few days doing DOS tutorials before I was able to realize that I didn’t need to know most of that, and what I really needed to learn was WordPerfect which I used in combination with a program called SmartKey to format scripts. It worked a treat.

This is the part that some of you will have trouble swallowing: the computer I was using had a double floppy drive and… wait for it: no hard drive. Can you imagine? And the floppies? Well, they weren’t 3½” disks, these were the 5¼” disks that were actually floppy.

These floppy disks held a whopping 360 kilobytes to a disk. My boot disk had a very early version of DOS (version1.11 or something) on it as well as WordPerfect and SmartKey. The second floppy disk was the one where I put my documents.

The first digital camera I saw was my sister’s jamcam, which took 18.5 kilobyte pictures like the photo of Cody on the Deck. 18.5 kilobytes. Not very big. Almost no bandwidth.

Cody in a Field original size 141KB

Cody in a Field original size 141KB

Several years ago I bought a $50 computer and added the biggest hard drive I could afford (60 gigabyte) so I could scan and store my family photographs. There was one problem: it was impossible to make back ups, because none of my digital photographs were small enough to fit on a 3½” disk… after all they only held 1.4 Megabytes per disk.

By that time I had a digital camera of my own which took photographs in the 1918KB range. That was the original size of the Cody at the beach photo. Funny how fast 60 gigabytes can go.

Everything gets bigger.

Nowadays, the photographs I take are larger still. The original size of the Cody at Soccer picture was 4241 kilobytes. That’s quite a substantial increase from the jamcam’s 18.5 kilobyte image. At a soccer game or a family gathering I’ll typically use up my 8 gigabyte flash card.

Nowadays my computer capacity is larger still, with something like three terrabytes. Of course its mostly photographs and home movies. Images take up a lot of room.

People access the internet for all kinds of reasons. Most people do more than one thing online. Because everything is bigger the amount of bandwidth we use will be bigger too. It’s not just going to be one thing that we change, everything we do is connected.

Cody at the Beach original size 1918KB

Cody at the Beach original size 1918KB

If you followed the link above to the YouTube I.T. Crowd clip, it is entirely possible that you didn’t just watch that one clip. If it was your first exposure to The I.T.Crowd I wouldn’t be surprised if you found youself watching a lot more clips.

How many clips would you have to watch before you reach your Usage Based Billing cap? I don’t know. And you don’t either. Clips come in different sizes.  And how will this all affect families? Maybe you have three or four people, perhaps a teenager or two all sharing a single connection. Those limits are going to be used up in a heartbeat.

And what about throttling?

Since Bell Canada is throttling our internet service, they are artificially inflating how much bandwidth we actually use. So when they bill is us for Usage, we will now have to pay for what we use, as well as what Bell Canada deliberately spoils.

The only people who understand this issue and still support it are those who expect to profit by it.

But what they don’t seem to realize is that implementation of Usage Based Billing will not be the cash cow Bell Canada expects. We may be emerging from the recession but most Canadians don’t have money to waste. Inevitably a lot of Canadians will limit our internet use so that we can stay
within our budgets.

Ways to fight Usage Based Billing:

Cody at Soccer Original size 4241KB

Cody at Soccer Original size 4241KB

  • I’m switching my landline from Bell Canada to Teksavvy to will help manage Bell Canada’s unreasonable price increase.
  • Tell your MP how you feel about having the CRTC dramatically increase your internet rates.
  • Write letters to the editor, or make online comments wherever appropriate.
  • Tell everyone you know about this.

The petition’s up to 7863 signatures!
Don’t forget to sign the online petition at http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
If you’ve already signed it, please encourage others to as well.

[P.S. note: It has been impressed on me that once published online no changes should be made without noting them.

When I finally completed this monster post, I was somewhat tired, and there were a few editing artifacts that were just to irritating. So I’ve followed blog convention, so when you see underlined words they are post publishing inserts; where there are struck out words they are words I would have deleted had I been awake when I pressed “publish”… oh yes, this note is ALSO part of the second edition, but since it’s obviously a p.s. I’ve chosen to not underline this note.]

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Dear Mr Harper

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 11, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing


Dear Mr. Harper:

You were quoted as saying:

“The potential benefits of expanded broadband services are enormous, particularly for the thousands of Canadians who live in rural and remote communities,” said the Prime Minister. “The jobs of the future will increasingly depend on people in communities like Thetford Mines having consistent and reliable access to broadband services such as distance education, telehealth coverage and new online business opportunities. These are services that more and more Canadians rely on; they should also be services that all Canadians can count on.”

30 July 2009-Press release: PM announces major improvement to broadband internet access in rural Canada

I am writing to you today to ask,

“Will you stand behind your words?”

If you really believe what you said, how can you allow the CRTC’s approval of Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing to stand? Implementation of Usage Based Billing is diametrically opposed to those words.

The CRTC’s own website lists the overwhelmingly negative comments from Canadians at 2009-03-13 – # 8740-B2-200904989 – Bell Canada – TN 7181 – General Tariff – Gateway Access Service

Independent Internet Service providers asked the CRTC to deny the Bell Canada request for Usage Based Billing. Several thousand Canadian internet users (also known as Canadian Citizens) submitted comments to the CRTC website site asking the CRTC to deny Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing proposal.

In the face of this strong opposition from two sources, the CRTC went ahead and ruled that Bell Canada could in fact implement Usage Based Billing. The only reason they seem to have ignored their mandate in order to do this was because Bell Canada wanted them too.

“The CRTC’s mandate is to ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public.”

CRTC Website

CRTC

CRTC

If the Usage Based Billing ruling is allowed to stand, it will severely compromise the ability of the Independent Service providers to compete, and so destroy all real competition in the Canadian Internet market. This decision will particularly damage the Independent ISPs since Bell Canada is continuing its practice of flagrantly ignoring the earlier CRTC ruling which directed Bell Canada to provide the Independent ISPs with equitable access.

Destruction of the independent service providers would certainly compromise any hope of “consistent and reliable access to broadband services” for Canadians.

This will not serve the Canadian public.

If the Usage Based Billing ruling is allowed to stand there will be an enormous problem in accurately measuring internet usage (I have read of accuracy variations divergant by as much as 800%). Industry Canada’s department of Weights and Measures doesn’t seem to be either prepared or equipped to deal with verifying and policing the accuracy of the measurement of “usage” necessary in usage based billing.

Making matters even worse, Bell Canada’s CRTC approved practice of “throttling” artificially inflates the “usage” figures. Throttling means that accurate measurement of usage will be virtually impossible. Most Canadian internet consumers like myself are not prepared to simply accept Bell Canada’s unsubstantiated word in determining what my usage is. In the absence of a fair and trustworthy means of auditing the measurement of Usage Based Billing by Weights and Measures Canada, I really don’t understand how Usage Based Billing can implemented at all.

This will not serve the Canadian public.

If the Usage Based Billing ruling is allowed to stand, it will harm Canada’s economy because it will change how Canadians use the internet. The insidious thing about Usage Based Billing is that the only way it will allow Canadians to keep our internet rates within our budgets will be for us to curtail our internet use.

  • Canadians will be in the unenviable position of paying the highest rates for internet service in the world. Certainly not because we’re getting better service, but because the CRTC has given Bell Canada permission to charge extortionate rates. This means that small businesses who count on online advertising revenue to pay for their websites may not get enough traffic to maintain their websites.
     
  • It means that many Canadian performers, artists and writers and film makers will not be able to afford to strenuously promote their arts and our culture, because suddenly it will cost too much. It means that many private Canadian citizens who have been making sure that Canada and Canadian achievements are adequately represented on wikipedia will no longer be able to do so once UBB makes it too expensive.
     
  • It means that many Canadian scientists and inventors will be limited in the use they can make of internet research because it will now be too expensive. Canada may never produce another Corel Draw, we may never create another Blackberry.
     
  • It means that families will have to consider how much to restrict our internet use so we can stay within our budgets. It means that some families will not be able to afford access to the internet at all. It means Canadian children will be at a disadvantage.

It is true that “The potential benefits of expanded broadband services are enormous” but the CRTC’s implementation of Usage Based Billing would restrict that potential, limiting or eliminating any benefits for Canadians, while citizens of the other countries will be free to realize that potential.

This will not serve the Canadian public.

Usage Based Billing will negatively impact on “The jobs of the future” as well as the jobs of today, here and now in the recession. Not only will Canadians not be able to rely on broadband access, many of us will not be able to count on access at all.


http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
6670 signatures

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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Why Usage Based Billing Won’t Bring Bell Canada the Profits they Expect

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 8, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will stop being bold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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Usage Based Billing: A Glossary

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 22, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

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

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

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

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

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

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

UBB: A Glossary

bandwidth

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

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

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

Bell Canada

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

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

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

Big Three

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

Canada

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

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

CanCon

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

Carrier

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

CRTC

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

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

Deep Packet Inspection (or DPI)

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

Deregulation

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

Dissolve the CRTC

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

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

dsl

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

GAS

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

Independent ISP

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

ISP

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

In Canada this includes:

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

Net Neutrality

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

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

Regulation

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

Rogers

Rogers Communications

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

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

Telcoms

Telecommunication Companies

Telus

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

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

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

Throttling

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

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

Transfer Cap

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

Usage Based Billing

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

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

VoiP

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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Thing One: Speak Up

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 19, 2009

I’m going to try to do one thing to fight UBB every day. Today I went to Honourable James Moore’s website and selected “Contact the Minister” to send my message to The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

This is the message I sent electronically through his online form:



No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

I am very upset about the CRTC’s decision to allow Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Pricing. Inexplicably the CRTC is also allowing Bell the unprecedented right to charge UBB to non-bell customers.

As “a big fan of information technologies” you need to understand the gravity of this threat to Canadian internet access. As one of the overseers of the CRTC it is imperative that you look into this matter immediately.

I can tell you right now that if this ill advised system were already in place I would never have undertaken to create the russwurm.org web page (heritage).

Or made contributions to wikipedia (promoting Canadian Culture).

Or begun blogging (culture again).

Personally I have been working hard learning to make good use the internet but this extortionate pricing will most certainly force me to modify my internet behavior. The ramifications are simply frightening, particularly in the area of Culture.

These reply forms are awkward to use, so perhaps the best thing would be for you to visit the blog I’ve begun which is dedicated to this issue: https://stopusagebasedbilling.wordpress.com/

In addition to voicing my own concerns, my Stop Usage Based Billing blog also links to as much of the other internet online commentary on this and related issues that I have been able to find (and which I will continue to update). Perhaps you’d be interested in becoming a contributor to this blog when you get up to speed on this issue.

I believe that it is imperative for Canada to be able to participate in the Internet to the fullest capacity. The worst side effect of this decision is that it will curb Canadian internet use, which will certainly put Canada at a global disadvantage.

Like me until recently, most Canadians have no idea that this is happening. If it is allowed to be implemented, I expect that the Canadian response will not be a happy one.

Sincerely,
Laurel L. Russwurm



Canadian Flag

Canadian Flag


You can also contact the Minister by snail mail at:

The Honourable James Moore
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Amazingly enough, I believe that it is still free to mail letters to government officials in Canada.



If you wish to become a contributor to this blog contact laurel.l@russwurm.org



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