Et tu, Brute?… aka Julius Genachowski, data cap booster (1)

I have some free advice for Chairman Genachowski.

Get an FCC team working on Canada’s experience with broadband caps and get enlightened. He wasn’t saying it for the first time. But telling the country’s cable operators at their annual confab he’s a fan of broadband caps is taking this old debate out for a whole new kind of spin… the operative term being spin.

The Washington Post and others reported yesterday that Genachowski put it like this:

“Business model innovation is very important. There was a point of view a couple years ago that there was only one permissible pricing model for broadband. I didn’t agree.”

Some commentators find it mighty strange hearing this kind of endorsement – especially in the middle of a brawl launched by Reed Hastings over possibly anti-competitive behavior on the part of Comcast. Which announced a few days ago it was experimenting with broadband caps in ways that may or may not turn out to be consumer-friendly.

The Americans should be looking at the Canadian experience to find out just how bad things can get when the regulator and the incumbents get into bed together over caps. It’s one goddam slippery slope – even if I do agree with Pete Nowak’s assessment that, compared to what Canadians have to put up with, the Americans can go cry us a river. Continue reading

Sorry for UBBing, redux: Katz speech *did* upset ISPs

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Katz: Indie ISPs “must do more” about cybersecurity… oops, they already do!

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Update: I’ve just read Dwayne Winseck’s superb critique of the CRTC’s vertical integration and UBB decisions, posted on his blog last Thursday (Nov 29). This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand, as Dwayne puts it, not what the Commission has done in these proceedings, but what it has failed to do – and the opportunities it has thrown away as a result.

(I’ve also added an item at the end to illustrate why cybersecurity is a non-issue compared to obliging ISPs to explain their terms in plain English.)

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Checked against delivery

In my previous post I wrote a critique of the speech that Len Katz, CRTC vice-chair, gave to the ISP summit the day of the wholesale pricing decision (Nov 15). I wasn’t in the room at the time. I’m therefore back on this issue briefly after hearing from some folks who were present for the unkind words and rubber chicken. (I’m coming at this kinda late after flu-related postponements.)

My sources confirm two things. First, Katz gave the speech pretty much according to the published speaking notes – so I wasn’t making it up. Second, I’m told many people in the room were very upset to hear Katz talk about the indie ISPs in such a disdainful way. (For example: “I sat through that dinner and listened to Katz and my blood was boiling listening to him.”) Continue reading

Sorry for UBBing: the CRTC giveth, Katz taketh away?

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Funny how we’re all still talking about last week’s CRTC decision on wholesale pricing for Internet access. The one thing pundits and stakeholders have agreed upon is to disagree about the possible outcomes of the decision. Especially when it comes to the money.

Take Nick Kyonka’s piece in last week’s Wire Report, which begins thusly:

“Incumbent Internet service providers (ISPs) and the smaller players who lease access to their networks are scratching their heads over new billing rates for wholesale Internet access and what those rates mean for long-term competition in the Canadian Internet service market.”

There’s lots more. Michael Geist and Peter Nowak have each been mulling the decision three times in the last week, including posts from each of them yesterday designed to interpret the various interpretations we’ve heard so far: see The UBB Decision Aftermath: Is the Pricing a Killer? (Geist); and On UBB, the fat lady has not yet sung (Nowak).

I have information that may help clear up some of the confusion. Rather than provide you with a hard-headed analysis of network costing issues, however, I’m going to indulge in a little textual exegesis… Continue reading

Digital divides: UBB as part of a much bigger broadband mess

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The blogosphere has been abuzz recently over the FCC’s bold, brave outreach initiative, Connect to Compete. Not in Canada, you say? I do say, since there are four good reasons why Canadians haven’t got a snowball’s hope in hell of seeing a program of this nature until at least 2015:

1) Leadership. The FCC has been making headway with a real broadband strategy over the last 18 months, along with a set of network neutrality rules, because the vision comes from the top – the White House. Harper and his cabinet have never cared about world-class retail broadband, because that would put them on the wrong side of the consumer vs business divide.

2) Social policy. The most laudable thing about the FCC’s action is the agency’s deep conviction that the digital divide is a social issue requiring vigorous demand-side policies. C2C is a people policy, not a wires-and-boxes policy based on the kind of supply-side thinking that has led our nation to the bottom of the broadband barrel, if I may mix my containers. Continue reading

WoW! CRTC moves Rogers P2P/gaming file to Enforcement (5)

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UPDATE. I noted below – citing a report by Multichannel News on the latest Sandvine traffic data – that streaming video is now the primary driver of network capacity requirements, a reflection of the gradual decline of P2P traffic relative to overall consumer traffic on the Internet. The Sandvine study, the company’s Global Internet Phenomena Report for fall 2011, contains fascinating revelations about just how quickly Internet traffic patterns are changing (pdf here). Two points. First, from a business perspective, the emerging problem for ISPs isn’t congestion of the old-fashioned kind, the one which formed the basis for the CRTC’s ITMP framework. Second, from a technical perspective, traffic flows present new challenges for network engineering in the local access cloud.

Take a look at these big-picture numbers from Sandvine (pdf, p.2):

The four largest Internet services on North America’s fixed access networks, by daily downstream volume, are:

•  Netflix – 27.6%
•  HTTP – 17.8%
•  YouTube – 10.0%
•  BitTorrent – 9.0%

Although BitTorrent traffic as identified here would not account for all P2P transmissions, the lead now established by Netflix is still jaw-dropping. And jaw-dropping by comparison with Web traffic (which seems likely to be eclipsed more and more by the use of apps and other highly specialized platforms, as I discuss briefly in the previous post). Then things get curiouser… Continue reading

Beyond UBB: the CRTC’s war on Canadian consumers

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Economic practices are the most transparent ITMPs. They match consumer usage with willingness to pay, thus putting users in control and allowing market forces to work.

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In my previous post, I suggested the consumer ISP complaints revealed recently are bad enough, but only the tip of a much larger iceberg. The more unsettling issue is that the complaints in question were effectively secret and had to be dragged out of the CRTC through an Access to Information request by Michael Geist.

Yet there might be a silver lining in the complaints fiasco. It may prove to be a useful step in moving the debates on Canadian broadband away from the much-coddled incumbents and, at long last, over to Canada’s much-ignored consumers. Peter Nowak wrote a recent post on the fiasco, referring to it as “the net neutrality bombshell” – and suggested von Finckenstein’s inability to create a viable network neutrality framework will be seen as his “biggest failure at the CRTC.” Continue reading

The Cancon Cabal: Rescuing Consumers from the Scourge of Netflix

by David Ellis + Alexandra Birukova

(Get in on the fun while cutting your reading time by 40%: check out the abridged version of this story posted at the Wire Report on April 26. Any similarity to real life entirely intentional.)

Let’s say for the sake of argument you have near-monopoly control of Internet access in millions of homes. All your retail rates are deregulated, because the regulator has identified a force that faithfully eliminates any market distortion: vigorous competition. And yet, paradoxically, you can use your market power to eliminate competitors on the application layer of your network, since the regulator isn’t sure what unjust discrimination and undue preference might look like. You can also cap customer bandwidth any old way you prefer, which not only drives out competition but adds a nice chunk of change to your bottom line from the overage charges that none of your subs could possibly understand, especially after reading the formulas some math nerd provided in your online FAQ.

Recently renovated office of CRTC Chair, with series of tubes (on left) providing connectivity to global series of tubes. Meter not shown.

Continue reading