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UBB overturned - Canada no longer biggest internet loser. (thestar.com)
191 points by ashchristopher on Feb 3, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments



The second half of this article reads like it was written by Bell or Rogers.

The problem with UBB is not caps, per se, but the fact that the caps were absurdly small and overage fees grossly exceeded the cost of bandwidth. Not to mention that they were introduced at the same time as Netflix launched in Canada, and the providers' own TV-over-IP services were exempt.

I dumped my $120/mo Bell Expressvu subscription last month in favor of Netflix and AppleTV. Why should I pay over a thousand dollars a year when I don't watch 98% of what it provides? UBB is just Bell saying 'screw you, we'll get that pound of flesh one way or another.'


The second half of this article reads like it was written by Bell or Rogers.

Indeed. There were a few lines which particularly stood out to me as having been written by someone who doesn't really get the situation:

> To encourage competition, major telecom operators that have spent heavily on infrastructure are required to lease bandwidth on their networks to small providers.

I get that the system is maintained by these large companies, and I'm sure they have spent a lot on the infrastructure, but (and correct me if I'm wrong) I believe the system was built largely with taxpayer dollars, and it continues to be heavily subsidized by same.

> Although critics say the CRTC ruling will lead to lower download limits and higher rates, major Internet service providers say usage-based billing based is fair because it means heavy users pay more than those who just surf the web and use email.

There are two problems with this. First, internet isn't like electricity. Electricity must be generated at a cost, and those who consume more cost the generating company more (perhaps not directly, since unused electricity is simply lost, but at least indirectly by requiring higher generation to accommodate peak usage). With the internet, however, the lines are already laid and it's merely a matter of sending the information down the wire. There is almost no additional cost associated with higher usage (see next point).

Second, the 'incremental cost" of bandwidth appears, from what I've read recently, to be somewhere around a penny per gigabyte, if any exists at all. Let's give the companies the benefit of the doubt and say that it's actually 2.5 cents per GB. Now let's give them a 100% markup to be nice. So now we're calling a "reasonable markup" on this service to have a price of 5 cents per GB. Bell wanted $2 per GB for folks who go over their limit. They wanted 40 times what I just gave as a reasonable number. Even if you want to use the most conservative estimate I found, which was the CEO of TekSavvy who said maybe it could get as high as 30 cents per GB, then Bell would still be asking us to pay 666% (<obvious joke here>) of the actual cost. That's one hell of a markup.

Also, and again using the 30c/GB estimate, Bell's offer in Ontario of a 25GB limit would equate to a $7.50 cost? Anyone want to take a guess at how much the service actually is actually priced at? I'll give you a hint: it's not $7.50.

Sorry for the rant, but I've been worried about this decision and I have a lot of pent up anger about it. It's nice that the government has actually stepped up to support the small, reasonable ISPs and the consumer.


A random nitpick that you might find interesting: in fact unused electricity is not "simply lost." Where would it go? Because of the law of conservation of energy, it would have to go somewhere, and we're talking about what might be a lot of energy.

Electrical systems actually must generate exactly the required amount of electricity at all times. One particularly interesting tidbit I learned in one of my engineering classes: hydro dams are like giant capacitors. If you can't "push" more energy into the power grid, then you also can't push more water through the turbines; it gets harder to turn the turbines due to electromagnetism. And so the dam starts to fill up, more or less automatically, because of the laws of physics.


One particularly interesting tidbit I learned in one of my engineering classes: hydro dams are like giant capacitors. If you can't "push" more energy into the power grid, then you also can't push more water through the turbines; it gets harder to turn the turbines due to electromagnetism.

In dynamo-generated power it's harder to turn the tubines when the electricity is "used," that is, when there is current flowing. The more current that is flowing the harder they are to turn.

Turning the wires of the coil in the magnetic field sets up an emf. If you allow that emf to drive a current, you now have current-carrying wires moving through a magnetic field feeling a force opposite their motion. This is felt as resistance by whatever is driving the turbine. So, when you "use" the electricity the turbines are harder to turn, not easier.

This also makes sense in terms of conservation of energy. You are taking the energy out of the water and using it to power the users connected to the electric grid. The more power you want to supply, the more you must take out of the water (or steam, if you are using steam to drive the turbines).

So the inability to push more water through the turbine is due to the turbine delivering max current (that is, it is at full load). Any less load means less current and less resistance.

In fact I understand (not an expert on their construction) that it is a problem when the load reduces at some types of plants because you are still driving the turbines with the same fuel but their resistance drops. You have to adjust the fuel to the turbines to keep everything balanced.

With Nukes this may be a slow processess, so that is perhaps why you hear of plants "dumping" energy-- using it in some (wasted) way just to keep the current in the coils high enough to provide resistance to whatever is driving the turbines.

I've heard of places that pump water into elevated storage so as to use it again when demand suddenly picks up- kind of a capacitor effect- but I don't know anything about it first-hand.


Well, now I feel like an idiot. That comment was based on a poorly recalled statement regarding the ineffectiveness of Earth Hour. If you don't use electricity, it'll flow to the next guy, so your lack of use doesn't really have any effect. Still, you need to generate enough electricity to cover everyone's potential needs. Whether that electricity is used or not (where not means that unused electricity dissipates as heat or.. whatever happens to unused electicity?), it still needs to be available, and at a cost. Unused bandwidth doesn't need to be generated. It's simply a quiet line.

Thanks for reintroducing logic to my brain. The rest of my argument mostly holds up though, right?


> whatever happens to unused electicity?

Re-orient your thinking a little and it will make sense. We're talking AC systems (not a SWER) so it is a closed-loop as far as the electricity is concerned. The electricity doesn't go anywhere, it constantly oscillates. What you are actually generating in a meta sense is ability to do work. You are overcoming the electrical resistance from all those users' machines doing work.

Does that analogy help?


I understand the closed loop. I did a bit of research when I wrote my last comment and when I read that line is when I realized how dumb I was.

So.. electricity gets pumped into the grid from some power station, and then [a given unit of electricity] loops repeatedly around the loop until it's either consumed by an appliance or is converted to heat by the resistance inherent to the transmission lines themselves?


I agree that the caps were low and the overage rates seemed high, but it's not actually about the incremental cost of delivering the next gigabyte, it's about the cost of building an infrastructure that can handle hundreds of thousands of people using Netflix all at once at peak capacity. That's an entirely different calculation.

Also, at Bell you can buy 40GB extra for $5 if you pay in advance, which equals $0.125/GB.

http://www.bell.ca/shopping/popups/personal/internet/usage_e...


The fact that you can buy "overage insurance" is telling and shows that UBB isn't about capacity, but instead a new revenue stream. If there was a legitimate concern regarding bandwidth and infrastructure, insurance wouldn't be offered and there would be hard limits to usage.


Revenue == funds to build capacity. If everyone really wants to stream Netflix 24 hours a day, the capacity will be built but it isn't free.

This is how every single element of the economy works.


Where has the profit from the past 10 years been going? They should have been improving capacity all along knowing this explosion of bandwidth would come.


Stop pretending this is some ridiculous amount of bandwidth people are attempting to burn through. 25GB is about a dozen TV shows on Netflix and a couple decent sized game on Steam over the course of an entire month.

Plus, if the ISPs really want usage based pricing, then they should do that instead of this arbitrary download cap stuff that is nothing about usage based pricing.


Who is pretending anything? What a trollish comment.

Yes, 25GB is an absurdly low cap. Most providers have a basic plan that provides 60GB, with a usually quite inexpensive way to dramatically increase the cap. People keep quoting the $2.50/GB bit which is just shockingly ignorant -- if you know that you'll use more (which not everyone will. The casual user will not and Avg Facebook and Email User has no reason to subsidize the "everything through my internet connection" guy), it's more like $0.12/GB.

This whole discussion is a perfect example of how people can embrace positions wholeheartedly just because they selfishly want them to be true.


You're pretending that this argument is about people who want to "stream Netflix 24 hours a day" and that everyone in the country will be doing so.

And even if people tried to stream Netflix 24 hours a day, it makes more sense to throttle the connection then to just toss around ridiculous overage charges as if the problem is the amount of data being downloaded in a month is the problem rather than the amount of bandwidth being consumed at peak times.

Sure, people can increase their cap by buying the "insurance", but with the low level caps, that basically becomes the true price of the connection for anyone who isn't using their internet for trivial uses (from a bandwidth) perspective. It's there in the hopes that you worry about going over your cap and being screwed in charges rather than as some benevolent gesture on the part of the ISPs. If they had any decency, they would just automatically upgrade your connection to the higher level if you go over the initial cap. Why is that such an unreasonable action to take?


You're pretending

I'm not pretending anything. Quit with the trollish tactics. The service adapts to the market.

Sure, people can increase their cap by buying the "insurance"

You realize that terminology was coined by Teksavvy right? That company has done a brilliant job playing the public like a fiddle, and you're playing just the note they want to hear.

I'm with Cogeco. I have a 60GB cap. I've gone over it once. For $6 more I have a 125GB cap and a higher throughput, so $0.09 per GB. For a few dollars more I would have a 150GB cap. And so on. The same is true at Bell, Rogers, etc.

It's there in the hopes that you worry about going over your cap

ABSOLUTELY! That is, without a doubt or question, exactly why they have caps. They don't want you to come anywhere close to your cap. They would rather Joe Average uses 5GB / month of their 60GB cap. On my cell phone I have a 5GB cap, and in an average month I use about 200MB (always around WiFi).

However every provider warns you as you approach your cap. One whiny complainer was posting a screenshot of how he went over his cap and there was big letters on it explaining exactly what happened and how, asking him to upgrade now.

They do exactly what you ask for. Turns out that some people are just irresponsible.


Absolutely, and I'll freely admit that I don't know how to calculate that. I made a major assumption in my last post, that I'll explain here:

Most quotes I've heard recently put the cost of bandwidth at around 1-2c/GB. I assumed, quite possibly erroneously and I'll go hunting for the source in a moment to confirm/refute said assumption, that when TekSavvy's CEO said that a conservative estimate (read: "highest reasonable estimated price") of bandwidth could be 30c/GB, I was assuming that he was taking things like administrative costs and possibly infrastructure costs into consideration. I made this assumption because of the extreme disparity between the two cost points - 1c/GB from some versus 30c/GB from him.

I realize that I didn't make this clear in my original post - I didn't even hint at it, actually - so I apologize for that.

Also, when I just now checked my wording in my original post, I noticed that you edited your comment to include a back-of-the-napkin estimate of Bell's incremental cost of delivery to be around 13c/GB. In my opinion, this only strengthens my assumption, since I sincerely doubt Bell would provide additional bandwidth for less than cost.

Looking at Bell's website right now, I see that their "Performance" plan in Ontario lists 6mbps speed with a 25GB cap for $31.95 per month.

Using your calculation of cost of bandwidth being 13c/GB, this means that full utilization of the cap would cost them $3.25 per month, leaving $28.70 for administrative costs and upgrading.

In a completely unfair comparison, I'll mention that Rogers charges me $6.95 per month (last I checked, anyway) as a usage fee/basic fee/system access fee. Let's nearly double that up to $12.72 (to make the next calculation easier) and call that the cost of doing business (tech support, paper pushing, general administration). This brings the total up to $15.97 a month, which is HALF of what Bell charges for this plan.

Bell then gets to choose how much of their 100% profit they want to use to upgrade their network, and how much they want to use to give their CEO a raise.

As far as the overage is concerned, let's note that when I called bandwidth costs 13c, that was on the assumption that Bell made no profit from their "insurance" option. Anyone who doesn't pay insurance gets to pay $2/GB, of which at least $1.87 is pure profit. Their overage would be 1538% of cost - a nice markup.

Edit: I just noticed[1] that the true cost of this plan is actually $41.95, but they offer $5 off for the first twelve months and an additional $5/mo discount to be used towards their satellite service. I'm not going to bother doing more calculations, but I thought it was worth noting.

[1] http://www.bell.ca/shopping/jsp/pageblock_styles/Pricing/fle...

(I had to disable JavaScript to get that link. The JS-Enabled version requires you to drill down two links to get the full details to appear, so it was impossible to get a direct link to the JS-Enabled version of these details)


It's very difficult to accurately price bandwidth by the GB.

At the wholesale level, bandwidth is sold as a committed throughput rate. Essentially like an "open pipe" of various diameters (to use a semi-bad analogy).

Wholesale bandwidth is currently around $15/Mbit/mo. This means that for $15 you can get a 1Mbs connection to a wholesale Internet provider for 1 month (not really, because they generally want you to buy at least a 10Mbs handoff). If you leave this connection completely idle, you pay $15/mo. If you saturate it 24/7, you pay $15/mo.

Because of the bursty nature of Internet traffic, ISP's will typically resell multiples of their committed bandwidth. You might have a 100Mbps handoff, but could sell 500 or 88Mbps worth of traffic to your customers.

Bandwidth really doesn't get metered down to the MB or GB until you get to the consumer level. This is mostly done to "shape" demand somewhat, and allow for a billing method to charge users who are heavy users (eg: if your customers all tried to actually use that 800Mbps you were selling them and you really only had 100Mbps of available bandwidth, you're going to have to do something about that...). For higher-level datacenter type customers, it's typically a 95th percentile billing method, not a direct $/GB overage charge.

You can do some math and take your operating costs and divide by your bandwidth and figure out your cost/GB, but that's not going to be highly accurate. In many cases you can go from say a 40Mbps connection to an 80Mbps connection with all the exact same equipment, and just pay the upstream for the extra 40Mbps/mo. This would mean the same infrastructure cost is divided over a larger amount of bandwidth, resulting in lower cost/GB (until you need to add another card to your edge router, or add another router altogether...).

I think that part of the problem people are having with coming up with fair and realistic pricing for bandwidth is that unlike gas or water or electricity, you're not really delivering a physical commodity with costs that vary directly by quantity used.


That's the clearest explanation of the problem that I've read so far.

I've always known that there was something inherently wrong with charging by traffic, but I could never put my finger on what it was. A clear explanation, such as you've just provided to me, on exactly how the internet works and is billed at higher levels makes things obvious.

Traffic is a problem, but only insofar as it contributes to saturation of the overall available bandwidth of the existing infrastructure. Calling the problem "traffic" is just a convenient scapegoat for other concerns that can't be directly billed as easily, even if traffic isn't the real problem.

Thanks. I'm always impressed by the quality of discourse on Hacker News.


Very succinct analysis, thank you. Living in Australia, which has an entrenched monopoly cable co. and a steadily consolidating comms market, I find this whole story very relevant. Let this be a warning to anyone who thinks integrated media distribution and network infrastructure companies can self-regulate.


I definatly agree, wrote an article about it already - http://adamdomoney.posterous.com/bandwidth-problem-metered-g...

To sum it up - Extra bandwidth does cost money, but $2 a gig is outlandish. If the crtc is to be involved, it should be involved in regulating the price - maybe a $20 access fee and $.25 per gig.


Not to mention that they were introduced at the same time as Netflix launched in Canada, and the providers' own TV-over-IP services were exempt.

Caps were in place on the vast majority of Canadian connections (meaning direct customers of Bell, Telus, Rogers, Cogeco, etc) long before Netflix came to Canada. The UBB decision impacted a very small number of customers on services like TekSavvy.

Not saying it's right, but just want some context in there.

Further, I hope you can appreciate how a provider's own internet services don't carry the same demands and costs as an outside source. Though perhaps they should be forced to allow Netflix to colocate a distribution server in each of their distribution points to deal with that.


If I recall, Netflix already colocates their servers with ISPs in advantageous nodes all over the US, and we still have that count against our bandwidth usage while the providers services are still granted free passage...


The UBB decision is separate, but the major providers have coincidentally decided to start enforcing the caps simultaneously. The two are linked since they can now charge whatever they want for bandwidth without worrying about competition.


Unfortunately for Canadians, I believe it's far from over. Business/Politics are known to make ambit claims [0] that are hard to fully remove as there's a tendency of the well-meaning of compromising is exploited. Examples can easily be seen with Obama administration with the Republicans [1] .

Canadians would have to ask for more than a reversal. It might be an overhaul of the organisation due to widespread assumptions of regulatory capture [2] that's serving the needs of monopolistic industries over the public interest.

As long the department continues to exist even though they had the sheer audacity to implement it despite public submissions; this issue is not going away.

Well done. To me, it's a small step however.

[0] https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Ambit_claim

[1] http://i.imgur.com/1ULKE.png

[2] https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Regulatory_ca...


Believe me, many Canadians are well aware that Bell's move was an ambit claim (a term I've just now learned because of you, so thank you for that).

I've read a number of claims on reddit, even before Minister Clement made his comments, from people who were fearful that the government would smack down this decision only for Bell to come back with a slightly less bad offer.

It remains to be seen what we'll eventually get out of this deal. At this point, however, we have the three largest political parties in the country against this, and I've heard (but haven't seen citations) that the other two major parties have stated their opposition. The Prime Minister has personally come out against the issue[1] as well, so it looks like there is a fair amount of political resistance to UBB in general.

The CRTC needs to be disbanded. This will be the second government overruling of their decisions in as many months[2], so perhaps it will make them a little more measured in their approach should they again approach the UBB issue. If the CRTC constantly needs to be kept in check by the government, then perhaps it will incentivize the government to disband the CRTC as the government will already be doing their job for them anyway.

[1] http://twitter.com/pmharper/status/32526091855863808 [2] http://news.gc.ca/web/article-eng.do?crtr.sj1D=&mthd=tp&...


In some ways, I'm envious of Canada's swift reversal of this horrible idea. In the US, we wouldn't have the populist outcry to force action, and even if we did, it would be met with only a token change to the legislation that would succeed at shutting most people up.


No need to be envious, threat of an election is a powerful motivator. Liberals are itching to bring the government down and have a new election, there are rumors that the opposition is gonna bring the government down in late-march/early April. Conservatives don't want to be on the wrong side of the public opinion on a populist issue like this going into a potential election. This is pure politics at work. I hate to be cynical but if an election did not look imminent I doubt the government would have acted so quickly.


It strikes me that a somewhat-comparable public outcry occurred late last year concerning enhanced TSA patdowns, but, we all know how that turned out.


Yes we CAN.


Thank God.

Seriously, this restores some of my faith in bureaucrats.

[edit] Interesting information from replies. I'll not be so quick to restore faith in the future.


The bureaucrats (CRTC) were the ones who tried to force this on the population. Elected officials decided to reverse the decision. The Conservatives first said they would send the decision back for "reconsideration" and then Harper chimed in with a more definitive reversal stance. The Liberals came out earlier saying they were against UBB. The New Democrats have always been fairly progressive about the web and are also against UBB. Even the separatist Bloc Quebecois and Green Party were both voicing concern with the decision. There was no major political party in favour of the decision.

We get into these kinds of messes because the CRTC is a bunch of unelected bureaucrats playing musical chairs in and out of executive positions at Rogers, Bell, Telus, etc.. It is most perplexing because if you've dealt with other bureaucrats in Canada, most of them at least care about their jobs and try to look out for the public good. We can joke at their expense about how they have all these perks and what not. But most do uphold the laws and regulations they're sworn to. And since they tend to outlast elected governments, these are the people that actually keep programs that we depend on, like health care, running. But the CRTC? It's the lone hold out of the bunch. I pretty much have nothing good to say about that organization. I would not be sad in the least if they were dissolved.


I think it's safe to say that, with two major reversals in a year, the CRTC has lost any credibility it may have had (although it did not have much to lose).

My vote would be for dissolution - maybe then they can create a regulator that actually employs people who understand what they're regulating.


They know what they're doing. The problem is that they're biased.

It's fundamentally the same issue that plagues financial regulation. The people who are the most qualified to understand the technological and regulatory issues are the most biased, because almost by necessity they're products of the same industry they're supposed to regulate.



On reading more about this I was depressed to see very little in the way of proposals to avoid the phenomenon, except (surprise! it's Stigler) don't regulate.

But I did find some interesting ideas at the end of this paper: http://www.icgg.org/downloads/Boehm%20-%20Regulatory%20Captu... (pp. 23-24)


I don't think they need to be disolved, as in theory they perform a necessary function. Instead, merely sack all of the directors and hold parliamentary hearings for their replacements. Make it open and accountable, and you won't see the kind of patronage happening.


See "regulatory capture" wiki link below. What'll happen is what always does in the US. They'll assume the only people who know what they're doing are the regulatED, and there's your revolving door.

Pretty sweet choices: idiocy or corruption.


What was the other major reversal? I'm a bit out of the loop.


The decision to block Wind Mobile from operating as it didn't meet Canadian ownership requirements.


I wouldn't get too far ahead of myself. I'm a former employee of the CRTC. We had one guy who was ~60 years old making decisions on what the definition of Broadband was, having no prior experience using said service. He was happy with his dialup back home...

As far as he was concerned, the Bell/Telus/Rogers Mobile internet devices were MORE than adequately priced and provisioned for in the broadband category.

Edit: My point is, anticipate more decisions like this.


The Liberals may be forcing an election soon, and after tens of thousands of complaint emails, the decision was an easy way to gain a couple percentage points in the polls. This was a no-brainer for the incumbent Conservatives, but their swiftness in resolving the issue was really impressive.


They weren't particularly swift. Every other party had come out strongly against UBB while the conservatives would only say they would be "paying close attention" to the ruling. This was simply such a wildly unpopular decision that it would have been political suicide to support it, and once every other party had come out against it the Conservatives couldn't be the only ones not to do so. The Conservatives are well-known for being anti-regulation and pro-big business, which aren't very popular sentiments in most of Canada. They couldn't afford to wear this albatross around their neck.


They could not come out against it before the ruling was made. They are the gov't, and the CRTC is an arms length agency. It's not the government's place to interfere with an arms length agency, at least before they've announced a decision.


It's actually in the CTRC's mandate that while they are arms-length, parliament has the right to overrule any of its decisions.


They weren't particularly swift. Every other party had come out strongly against UBB while the conservatives would only say they would be "paying close attention" to the ruling.

Opposition parties are always quick in reacting because there is little to be lost. They get zero credit for that.

This was simply such a wildly unpopular decision that it would have been political suicide to support it

Again, let's be rational here- the UBB decision impacted a very small number of users (although its competitive impact may have been larger over the longer term). Further there is a political risk in taking action like this in that now the opposition has the ammo to say "Well can't you let the experts do their job? Isn't this what they're supposed to do?" (see also: Census).

It isn't as clear cut as you proclaim at all. Now Bell can intentionally cripple their pipes for a bit, blame bandwidth hogs, and the Consveratives will be in hot water.


I'm annoyed that I didn't even know about UBB until earlier today, when I stumbled across Reddit Montreal and saw something about the organization of a protest.

Then again I'm getting all my news from here and Slashdot these days - haven't watched any TV in ages.

My ISP already posted up new rates conforming to UBB - if it does get overturned, I hope they'll return to the old rates: $29 a month for unlimited bandwidth (soft capped at 100GB). I'm due for renewal at the end of this month, so there's not much time to figure out if I need to be switching to TekSavvy.

Somewhat offtopic - I never visited Reddit except when it was linked via posts on Hacker News, and I'd always heard complaints that HN was becoming Reddit, but finding out today that they have forums for my city and other interesting things like a fitness subforum - why did I never go there earlier?


HN is fairly anti-reddit because a lot of the people on here were early reddit adopters who left when it ceased to be programming and tech-centric, and when the site got big enough that the quality of the average comment dropped. That said, there are some great subreddits on there, you just have to cut out most of the main ones. I dropped r/pics, r/atheism, r/worldnews, r/gaming, and r/reddit.com. I added r/humor, r/netsec, r/python, r/java, r/math, r/depthub, r/truereddit, and a few others. It's a much improved experience, now.


> HN is fairly anti-reddit

I don't get that impression here at all, quite often you'll see Reddit articles on HN linked back to Reddit. I agree HN is more industry focused and professional and Reddit a lot more laid back but still can be professional at times.

HN and Reddit are similar but also quite different, I go to both and sometimes even digg (I know!) and whatever else I can find, I don't get this mentality that you're only allowed get to choose one social news website to view.


Any discussion of reddit here usually ends up being people complaining about it. Yes, there are often reddit links posted here, but whenever reddit is brought up, people will usually complain about how it's full of /b/tards, it's all just memes and pun threads, there's no useful comments there, etc. While this may be true for the larger subreddits, my point is simply that there are some great small ones where the quality of discussion is much higher.


r/coding is an excellent place to hang out too :)


Yeah, the sub-reddits are what make Reddit great. If you are stuck reading the default front page, you're doing yourself a great disservice. Browse through, there are a lot of excellent sub-reddits.


At the risk of being pedantic (and maybe too American), isn't this a promise from politicians that it will be overturned? The title might be masking that a little bit...

(The important words in my question being "promise" and "politicians," for hopefully self-evident reasons)


Yeah true, but action is set to happen in parliament tomorrow, so if they are just lying it will be evident very soon.


In Canada you would never come out and say that a highly disliked legislation piece is going to be overturned and then not overturn it. You would be incinerated at election time.


If it were a big enough issue you'd just get recalled by your constituents and then you've got to justify it to try to get re-elected.


Well if that isn't a ray of sunshine in a turd-sea of announcements regarding the state of the Internet.


I don't understand what happened. Why was the government able to set internet rates at all? Is there a monopoly here or not? Why weren't we (I'm Canadian) paying per usage before -- was it a law or did a flat rate grow from convienience?


From what I know, the CRTC didn't set any rates - they approved a request to adjust rates/use a new model. They are a regulatory body which oversee a highly regulated industry.

The industry is regulated, I would guess, because (a) it has been (and might still be) heavily subsidized, (b) it's an essential service and maybe even because (c) there's an extremely high cost of entry for a new player, thus little competition.

edit I'm not suggesting they were doing what they are supposed to do, which I would describe as balancing what's right for consumers and what's right for the industry (not always the same thing). And I'm certainly not saying that, in this case, they made the right decision. I'm merely trying to describe the process, from my limited knowledge, with respect to the parent's question.


You can reference the diagram in my post here (and the more detailed one in the response to my post): http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2158888

This was mostly about Bell's ability to bring UBB to bear on the 3rd party ISPs that are leasing their lines (and thereby forcing all of those ISPs' customers onto a usage-based-billing model). Thought if you read that full thread you'll see that there's was a bit of debate over exactly what part of the infrastructure most of the 3rd party ISPs are leasing from Bell.

I'm of the mind that so long as the ISPs aren't going over Bell's peering connections to the wider internet (meaning that they have their own), then Bell shouldn't be able to force usage-based billing onto those ISPs. If any of those ISPs want to use Bell's peering connections to the internet.... then I don't know.

Of note is that Bell is the only one allowed to lay new last-mile phone lines. So if a 3rd party ISP wants to hook-up customers with their DSL, they have to go over Bell's last-mile lines (to the DSLAM at least).


Right, so this decision changes nothing for Bell's own customers, who will still face UBB, unless competition from 3rd party ISPs forces Bell to change its billing structure.


Right. But by allowing Bell to force UBB on 3rd party ISPs, it is effectively forcing UBB on everyone, not just Bell customers. Now it's just limited to Bell customers.


Your diagram there was unfortunately wrong. Swannie's variation was actually correct.

The issue here is not about the last mile. I'll say it until I'm downvoted to oblivion, but people keep restating this incorrect statement.


The big providers in Canada own the "last-mile" network infrastructure connecting residences and businesses with the internet backbone.

The decision being overturned is the one that allowed the big providers, who were leasing the last mile to independent ISPs (because the CRTC set regulations compelling them to do so), charge said independent providers by the gigabyte at the same rate as charged to customers. The regulation was later amended to give the independent providers a 15% mandatory discount - still a whopping markup of well over a thousand percent.

The big providers are still allowed to charge more or less whatever they want to customers, and will continue to do so.


Yeah, the main issue here is that a few big telcos and cable providers own the majority of the infrastructure for broadband in Canada. As a result, it was mandated that they had to have "wholesale" rates available to any smaller competitors who wanted to utilize their networks (since many of the networks were paid for with tax payer dollars anyway).

The big telcos wanted the ability to enforce the same rules they put on their own clients onto the wholesalers, which meant restrictive caps and lower speed packages. That would have effectively pinched off what little competition there was already...


This is wonderful news. I was planning to attend my first 'rally' on saturday to protest UBB. I was shocked at how even non techies cared so much about this issue.

I hope the monopolies(rogers&bell) don't try less subtle ways to achieve their goals.


Non-techies cared, in this case, because it was pretty easy to see how this would affect you personally - you would have to pay more. Period.

If you asked the average person who is opposed to UBB (read: practically everyone), very few could actually present a nuanced argument as to why it's bad for a number of reasons. Instead, they can simply equate UBB to paying more, which it turns out is good enough for collective action.

So democracy wins, but only because this can be framed as a pretty black-and-white issue in the eyes of most Canadians.


To be more precise, it would actually be paying more if you are on an indie ISP, by reducing competition.


I hope it leads to change in the future. We still have the fundamental flaw that third party ISP's need to piggy back on the big 3.


Dear Hacker News Canadians:

Please continue to write your MPs. This is far from over, and we need to keep on top of it. We can't stop now that it looks like it will be overturned, because Bell will fight back. I urge every one of you to write a letter to your MP (or another one if you already have).

If we show any slowing in activity against Bell et al, they will just swoop in and come up with something just as bad.


Sometimes you have to ask yourself who are those people in charge? How did they get the job?


Depending on which people-in-charge you're referring to, generally by false-promises, cooperative back-scratching, and a proven ability to squeeze dollars from sand.

It really shouldn't be so surprising, all things considered.


After an Egyptian protest in internet petition form, I'm glad the Canadian government had some sense in them to hold on to a future in tech innovation in Canada.

I can only imagine what kind of immediate effect this would have had on tech startups.


I'm very happy, and I hope that a lesson has been learned and that people will not only be more vigilant about caps, but also realize that Canada is far behind when it comes to broadband (speed, prices, competition, etc).


I wish there was UBB that was remotely based on the transfer cost as opposed to some number that a C-Suite jackass picked out to make their profits SOOOOAAAAAAAR.


This has not been overturned yet! I hate misleading titles.


I have to wonder if the whole thing was just a big political maneuver to make the Conservative Party look good right before calling an election.


Woohoo - Australia's back on top!


You mean New Zealand, right?


New Zealand is rather isolated geographically, it's expensive to build infrastructure on the periphery of the network. This is true for the South Pacific islands in general.

This is a snapshot of the current undersea infrastructure in the Australia-New Zealand area: http://i.imgur.com/K1t4y.png


Right. And the expense is(/was?) typically picked up by the isolated edge node rather than shared between the two end points.

ie: There's a lot more value to New Zealand in connecting to the rest of the internet, than for the internet to connect to New Zealand.


Switch to TPG unlimited.


Considering how bone headed the original caps were, I have a feeling this isn't over.




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