2011-02-16

Bandwidth lies and video streaming

I have the joy of living in a great forward thinking country with excellent amenities and pretty good access to services.  I love my country, I'm Canadian through and through.  I've gotta say though, like any one else, I get a little annoyed when my tax dollars get spent on utter stupidity.  For example, an arm's length regulator like the CRTC that has far exceeded its mandate and is trying to regulate things like whether Bell Canada can impose their bandwidth usage limits on third parties who access their system.  This has been in the media lately as Usage Based Billing.

First, we need to define the situation.  Many people don't understand how this works, so I'll try to explain.  High speed phone line internet service (ADSL/DSL) requires that your Internet provider (ISP) be able to communicate at very high speeds over your phone line.  This requires that they have equipment connected as physically close as possible to your home.

Since your local phone company owns the copper lines where you live (probably Bell), your Internet provider needs to work out an arrangement with them to offer you Internet service over those lines.  Now if Bell were just another company that had private property involved, this would all seem much more simple, but that's not the case.  Bell has over the years been given fantastic amounts of taxpayer money by the government to help them provide phone service to Canadians.  As a result of this government-granted monopoly on the service, they're required to allow third-party Internet providers to use those lines at a fair price.

As it stands however, the price Bell charges a third-party ISP is not fair.  And on top of that, with the recent request the CRTC granted, Bell gets to impose bandwidth limits on those ISPs who then end up having to pass them on to you.  Here's the rub: it costs Bell nothing to handle your Internet for that ISP.  Bell has equipment they're renting out to your Internet provider, and the Internet service itself is 100% handled by your ISP.  Bell's feelings about your Internet usage shouldn't be relevant at all.

I'm glad some in our government understand how unfair and incredibly biased the CRTC decision was and have vowed to overturn it.  If the CRTC is going to regulate anything with regards to Internet billing, maybe they should look at usage limits ISPs impose unfairly on consumers in the first place.  But that's another issue altogether.

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