By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 0 Comments
A couple of years ago, I interviewed Heritage Minister James Moore about his then-pending copyright reform bill. I suggested that it would open up the gates for big music and movie companies to sue thousands of Canadians for downloading one or two files, like the companies did to more than 30,000 U.S. citizens.
Here’s what he said:
“I don’t agree… It’s not industry’s business to go out there and sue their customers. The days of Metallica going after filesharing sites are over 10 years old. There’s a new mentality.”
News came today that Voltage Pictures has demanded that Internet service provider Teksavvy surrender the names and contact information of 2,000 subscribers. TekSavvy is refusing to rat out its customers without a court order, which is likely forthcoming. We know this because TekSavvy, a small, independent ISP with pro-privacy policies, has warned its affected customers and gone public with the details on its company blog.
What makes this case different from previous requests for customer info? “The sheer volume” of infringement claims, writes TekSavvy CEO Marc Gaudrault. Continue…
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 4:11 PM - 0 Comments
Last November the CRTC killed Usage Based Billing, the pricing scheme imposed by Canada’s telecom giants on small independent Internet providers that threatened the existence of unlimited (and high limit) download plans. When the news came, the 500,000+ Canadians who had protested against UBB celebrated their victory over big business. That lasted for about a minute.
Almost instantly, indie ISP’s pooped on their own party. Sure, UBB was dead, but what was it to be replaced with? A “capacity” based pricing scheme that seems fair in principle, but which breaks down when you get to the actual numbers–tariffs set by the same big ISPs without any transparency. These rates varied wildly between providers, suggesting that the big players would still find a way to gouge the little guys out of existence, while keeping unmetered internet out of reach for Canadians. Teksavvy, one of the biggest little guys, called the CRTC’s new plan an “unfortunate step back for Canadian consumers.”
In fact, when I interviewed George Burger, TekSavvy’s formidable representative, he all but suggested that the new pricing scheme would kill OTT (Over The Top Television) altogether. It was too soon to provide numbers, but the implication was that indie ISP customers were about to see their bills skyrocket.
That may have been an overly grim projection. Today, Teksavvy announced its new rates, adjusted to reflect the CRTC’s new pricing scheme. Most customers will pay $3 to 4 dollars a month more for unlimited plans or plans capped at 300 gigs a month (Teksavvy’s most popular plans).
It’s a sizeable bump, but nowhere close to the gouging that would have occurred under UBB. If “cord-cutting” indie ISP customers who get their TV and phone through the internet suddenly saw their rates double or triple, they may have gone running back to the big boys for landlines and cable boxes. But three or four bucks a month seems like a reasonable fee for a one-pipe solution to your every telecom need. What’s more, Teksavvy is turning their own meter off each night during off-peak hours. No matter what plan you’re on, you can download to your heart’s content while your neighbours sleep.
In other words, the unmetered Internet is alive and well in Canada for those who want it. Teksavvy’s bigger problem is that not enough Canadians seem to want it. Or, if they want it, they don’t know where to get it. All of the indie ISPs combined still only hold about five per cent of the market in Canada.
Perhaps Teksavvy (and the other small players) should have done a better job of using UBB’s defeat to make themselves known to the greater public and woo those 500,000+ protesters (and anybody else) over to their services. The media won’t likely pay the same amount of attention to small ISPs again. They could have used their victory to pitch their wares to the overwhelming majority of Canadians who are using more bandwidth than ever.
After all, unlimited access is not just for us BitTorrenting “bandwidth hogs” anymore. As mainstream services like Netflix get bigger, more and more non-geek Canadians are being hit with big overage fees. The only thing holding many of them back from switching to an unlimited plan is a lack of awareness that these plans exist. That, or a general sense that indie ISPs are only for the technologically savvy.
I wonder where they get that idea from?
By Peter Nowak - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 2:56 PM - 10 Comments
The CRTC’s usage-based billing decision is in and boy is it a lot to digest, which is perhaps why there were so many conflicting reports in the media as to who the winners and losers are or will be. After reading and digesting the long document and speaking to a number of the small Internet providers that will be affected by it at the ISP Summit dinner on Tuesday night, it’s hard to see how anybody really wins with this decision. Burdened with the impossible task of trying to make everybody happy, perhaps this was the CRTC’s desired outcome.
To understand the ruling, we need to delve past the headlines and the press release. I swore I’d never use the phrase “the devil is in the details,” but the demon certainly is in the fine print. In the case of this decision, it’s in the appendix, way at the end, which is a bunch of prices. I’m not a network guy so I’m sure I’ll get some of this wrong—even the experts will need a few days to digest and crunch the numbers—so feel free to jump in and make corrections in the comments. Continue…
By Jesse Brown - Monday, July 18, 2011 at 12:33 PM - 29 Comments
File this one under “Streisand Effect.” It’s a story I wouldn’t be writing if I hadn’t been warned not to.
Let’s start with some background: in Canada, we supposedly have Net Neutrality. That means your Internet service provider can’t mess around with the speeds of your connection based on which sites or apps you use. Yet ISPs in Canada still mess with the speed of our connections based on which sites or apps we use. How is this possible? Two reasons:
- Because there are exceptions to the CRTC’s Net Neutrality regulations (if ISPs say they have to slow you down in order to manage “network congestion,” they can).
- Net Neutrality rules are only enforced after they are broken, only if consumers complain, and only if the CRTC bothers to investigate and act.
Recently, Internet law prof Michael Geist obtained public CRTC documents revealing that, though dozens have complained about cases of speed “throttling,” the CRTC has only enforced Net Neutrality once, on a company called Barret Xplornet—a government-subsidized provider servicing rural areas with satellite service.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, May 27, 2011 at 5:02 PM - 21 Comments
Last week I asked you for help with my homework. I promised the folks at Mesh, Canada’s Web Conference, a presentation on how to “unsuck” Canada’s Internet. But while I’m pretty good at identifying the problem(s), I’m less confident about what strategy will actually set things straight.
Should change be dictated by the government through progressive new digital policies? Or has the government done enough harm already, and what we really need is for them to back off and deregulate? Should consumers speak up through petitions and online activism? Or are our interests better served through direct action, routing around the lousier aspects of our networks and voting with our dollars for services like VPN and Usenet access? How can we move past promises and towards Open Government? What’s to be done about all the geo-blocked content? How do we fight back against the erosion of our privacy and digital rights? So much suck, so many questions…
I put them to you, and also to a number of influential voices on the national tech scene. I left it up to each respondent to interpret the “suck” how they saw it. Here’s what folks said: Continue…
By Jesse Brown - Friday, May 20, 2011 at 1:39 PM - 104 Comments
I know, I know—it’s the same Internet everywhere, the Internet knows no boundaries, etc. But work with me here! And consider the evidence:
- Many (most?) of the best commercial sites and services online are blocked to Canadians.
- We haven’t had a single major web startup in Canada, despite the incredible amount of engineering talent that emerges from this country every year (and from the University of Waterloo alone). Continue…