Internet Access: Caps, Regulation, and All that Crap

A bandwidth-meter program I have installed on this PC tells me that in one hour I used 128MB of traffic having an ssh session open to do development on a web app, and load webpages relating to that app. That's an entire gigabyte of traffic within 8 hours. Face it: mere web traffic takes more transfer nowadays than it did in the days of yore. The 'main' page of facebook is half a megabyte of CSS, images, javascript and HTML. Eco-enthusiasts talk of power vampires. I've got a new word for you: Bandwidth Vampires: they're all that crap you have running in the background.

But a few wasted bytes is not a big deal. What is a big deal is the CRTC's screwing around of Canadians by explicitly permitting and encouraging both artificially low bandwidth caps, and also near-criminal overage-rate charges. The 'Real' transfer cost of a gigabyte of data is a few pennies and the CRTC's lowest 'recommendation' pricing (not: restriction) is at least a 50x markup on that. The gouge deep, gouge often attitude is the one that has left North America with a third-world mobile phone network.

I can't say it any more plainly: Internet Access is freedom of speech in the modern age. Bandwidth caps imposed arbitrarily by Bigcrops are de facto government-permitted censorship. Ruinously-costly 'overage' charges inflicted unfairly upon users amount to the same thing.

There's been a massive backlash in Canada over this review board decision, but much of it was too late. I saw at least three posts on facebook from my friends about it after the decision was made. But I very much doubt that mattered very much.

So what's the purpose of regulatory boards? Evidently to screw over average Canadians by having as members people who know zilch about the industry and members who are in directly attached to Bell and Rogers.

What other reason could their be for encouraging an 100x markup on transfer, other than protecting corporate profits from VOIP, Youtube and Netflix. BCE (the parent company of Bell Canada) has everything to lose here. They've just spent an enormous amount of money (1.3 Billion Dollars) to acquire full control of CTV and Netflix has emerged as a significant challenger to the Cable TV market. I use Netflix and it is well-worth the $8/month. That's scary to BCE & Co. And letting them gouge the hell out of smaller resellers is just another low blow. Bell may own the lines, but they were paid for with significant amounts of public money and Bell was also granted a monopoly on ownership. In exchange for this public good they cannot be permitted to lock out legitimate competition.

Moreover, who is in charge here? People elect the government, government appoints the regulatory boards. When the regulatory boards start to screw over the people, and the government says no you can't do that, the decision is overturned in court. If we can't say no, we don't want this, then why does the CRTC exist?. This is the same organization that laughably wanted to mandate Canadian content on the web while not realizing that the web is not print and broadcast media.

Preventing competition is also on Bell's agenda. As the President of TekSavvy (a company affected dearly by UBB) explains:

In fact, Bell has much to gain from UBB [...] (1) it wants to make as much as it can on its existing infrastructure, deferring upgrades for as long as possible. (2) It wants to protect its ever-expanding content businesses, which are threatened by over-the-top services like Netflix.

Not that this Co-opetition between government and Bigcorps doesn't exist elsewhere. I'd best not give them ideas, lest we suddenly require an expensive license to use the Internet too.

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