And now… a word on Usage Based Billing.

Let’s get something out of the way first, shall we?

Internet service is NOT like a utility service such as electricity or natural gas – and therefore can not be billed in the same fashion, nor should it be.

When your local utility service provider runs a meter on your electricity consumption or how much natural gas you use to heat your home, they do that for a very specific reason: it’s costs money to generate that electricity via power dams, windmill farms, solar power arrays, etcetera… and it costs money to develop that natural gas from the sources deep in the earth – you have to pay people to run the drills, process the elements, sail the natural gas tankers, or build the pipelines.

Now… I’m not saying that it doesn’t cost money to string wires and buy network switches – but in no way, shape, or form does it cost anything near what it costs to develop utility services.

In Canada, the largest internet service providers are trying to implement a “usage based billing” scheme upon their subscribers in the same way that you’d be billed for leaving your lights on at home all the time – except with the difference being that you’d have a flat rate up to a certain gigabyte level that you’ve agreed to in a package deal… and then, when you’ve passed that level – let’s say 60 gigabytes, you’d have to pay a steep overage charge of between $1 and $5 per GB.

The things that you should keep in mind going forward is that – according to network specialists that don’t represent Bell, Rogers, or Shaw – it costs anywhere between 0.0013 and 1.15 cents to send one gigabyte of data through Canada’s internet infrastructure – which is nowhere near the 100% to 500% markup that the large ISPs are demanding.

These ISPs had hoodwinked the Canadian Radio And Telecommunications Commission (the equivalent of the F.C.C. in the United States Of America) into agreeing to allowing these companies to charge their own customers these exorbitant fees PLUS forcing independent internet service providers (who purchase their internet backbone access wholesale from Bell Canada et al) to pass on UBB charges to their own customers as of the beginning of March 2011.

This would, in effect, remove all of the unlimited internet use packages available to subscribers of the smaller ISPs – which was, and has always been their major advantage in attracting internet customers away from the major ISPs who tend to offer firmly defined data caps (60GB, 125GB, 200GB, etc.).

By forcing the little guys to bill the same way that the big guys do, the CRTC had completely leveled the playing field – save for those few independent ISPs who had their own internet equipment that did not rely on Bell.

In Bell’s own words as they appeared before the government panel investigating UBB on February 10th, 2011: “…it (UBB) prevents them (independent ISPs) from differentiating their offers from our own.”

Gone would be the all you can eat internet buffet for $50… which an independent ISP could offer to attract new customers, which I’m sure pissed Bell Canada and it’s corporate allies off to no end because their corporate culture was based around screwing their customers any way they could through oppressive overage schemes.

In today’s world of ever-growing data bandwidth, a gigabyte doesn’t go as far as it did in days gone by… even in as little as five years ago.

In 2011, internet users have so many choices available to them online that are fairly data intensive: YouTube, Flickr, streaming Quicktime, Steam, and services like Netflix.

Even those people who like to haunt Facebook and Twitter are pulling down large chunks of data when playing Farmville or watching videos of their nephew’s little league game.

Bell Canada, Rogers Communications, Shaw Media, and the other large ISPs are entitled to make money… nobody is suggesting that they should give away internet service for free.

What has caused nearly half a million people to sign a petition, and what most people would agree to when asked on the street, is that the large ISPs should collect fees that reflect the actual costs of doing business – to have their billing practices be strongly rooted in reality.

Yes… there are an increasing number of Canadians using more than 200GB a month, but the problem is that Bell Canada and it’s friends don’t want to spend the money necessary to bolster their national infrastructure to accommodate this rising tide – and instead of doing the logical thing (building new and better data transmission networks), they want to stifle those 200GB+ users though harsh tariffs.

This is purely greed – nothing else.

The UBB pressure is aimed at maximizing profit.

Profit is good, yes… but obscene amounts of profit is simply evil – and the Canadian public is beginning to rise up against this unparalleled cash grab that isn’t replicated anywhere else in the world.

In a word, it’s uncompetitive – but that makes it too simple.

There are so many businesses in the Canadian marketplace that depend on a reliable, uninterrupted, and unlimited internet for everyone.

Do you think that places like internet cafes could remain in business if they’re forced to pay for their customer’s overages? I mean… I’m sure that you can’t offer internet to everybody who walks through the door and not blaze past 200GB in a month with little effort.

How about your local municipal library? Quite a few of them offer free internet access to their patrons… but would that concept still be viable when the library is being charged $5 for every gigabyte?

Don’t kid yourself: city hall would put a quick stop to that in very short order.

However, the biggest problem with UBB from an internet business standpoint – at least for those businesses that aren’t Bell & Co. – is that the UBB policy unfairly discriminates against companies like Netflix and YouTube that rely on their customers/visitors to be able to consume all the data they can put in front of their eyeballs.

This comes in direct competition to Bell & Co.’s own Media On Demand services – which generally have less content available than Netflix-type services – and results in lost revenue for the large ISPs.

So, again, instead of spending money to bolster their Media On Demand services, they want to quash those of you out their who would go to Netflix as a superior alternative by raping your wallets and bank accounts – forcing you to consume their paltry wares instead.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen such a clear-cut conflict of interest… such a blatant anti-competitive attack on consumers who dare to use anyone but the large ISPs and their various media holdings (CTV, Global Television, etc.).

Interestingly, the UBB provisions that the CRTC gave the okay to, are now in limbo as the federal government had told the CRTC to reconsider or be overruled point blank at the legislative level.

I say interesting because the Conservative Party Of Canada – the current party in power – is very, very friendly with Big Business.

To take a stand against the Big ISP lobby is contrary to party beliefs, and can only be interpreted as being responsive to public uproar – and a deft move to head off the opposition parties from gaining a political foothold that’s rooted in popular unrest.

Yes… it may be snide electioneering, but for the time being, the Government Of Canada is on the side of their electorate instead of giving away everything to Big Business.

How long this lasts is anyone’s guess… but I’d wager it will last as long as the Conservatives winning the next federal election – which is going to be sooner than later, after which time they won’t feel as threatened by the average Canadian citizen who uses the internet.

So, for now, do your part in trying to prevent Big ISPs from getting away with murder.

How?

Write a letter to your local MP… write a letter to your local newspaper’s editor… make a video about your views and post it on YouTube… call into a local radio show and tell them – and all the listeners – how you feel about the large ISPs trying to sodomize your cash flow.

Or… simply visit www.openmedia.ca and take advantage of their resources.

But, don’t take my word for it.

Go online – while you can afford it – and see what the average Canadian internet user thinks of UBB.

How The Canadian Population Just Got Raped

…And we’re not even allowed to feel dirty about it.

The Canadian Radio and Television Commission today ruled against the tax paying public in favor of the Canada’s two privately-held national broadcasters.

Assuming that the Federal Court of Appeals doesn’t rule against the CRTC in the coming  months, each and every Canadian citizen that has to subscribe to a cable or satellite television service will now have to pay the long discussed ‘TV Tax’ come 2011.

Why does that matter?

$10 may not seem like a lot of money when it’s going to support Canadian networks – but it really is when you consider most Canadians already pay approx. $80 a month for their service – meaning they’ll be paying $90 come January.

In Ontario, this is doubly worrisome.

Come July 2010, all of Ontario’s cable/satellite subscribers will have  to pay an additional 8% on their subscription bills due to the blended HST kicking in – bringing that bill closer to $97 in January.

Getting back to the ‘TV Tax’, some of you are saying it’s okay because that $10 per person is going to go towards more local and Canadian content.

Nope.

On the same day as announcing the TV Tax, the CRTC also dropped the minimum requirement for Canadian Content hours to zero and mandating that the total CanCon percentage drop from 60% to 55% – meaning your local TV station can carry 5% more episodes of C.S.I.

The only good thing – and I say ‘good’ loosely – is that the CRTC declared that CanWest Global and CTVGlobemedia (CTV) must spend 30% of the money they take in on Canadian produced material such as news programs, public interest programming, etcetera.

An additional 5% of the network revenue must be spent on programs of ‘national interest’ – which translates to Canadian-based dramas, telefilms, and documentaries.

So in some ways, Canadians have made gains in the things they watch, but are being penalized for that privilege.

The glaring issue here is that the CRTC has once again sided with Big Canadian Media without at all listening to Little Canadian Taxpayer – which is a hallmark of the party currently controlling the CRTC’s strings: the Stephen Harper Conservatives (and I made that distinction on purpose).

Steve Harper and the assorted cronies that he’s put in charge of the plethora of Canadian governmental institutions have all come from business backgrounds and are more than happy to sell the country out to private interests.

Never in the history of Canada has Big Business had such an advantage over Small Taxpayer – especially in the media sector.

From the signing on to ACTA behind closed blast doors, to letting the networks rape our pocketbooks – there is no company or industry’s ‘special interest’ lobbyist that Harper won’t invite into the Prime Minister’s Office in that most vaunted of buildings in Ottawa.

With Harper seeing that the Liberals are polling neck and neck with the Conservatives, Steve has to know that the next election – which is going to be sooner than later – is probably not gonna work out for him and his associates.

Which means that now is the time that he needs to sell out the country before it’s too late

It’s a FIRE SALE, folks!

Everything must go!

…Must go to the country’s billionaires, that is.

What can you do, John Q. Public – other than vote the bastards out of office next election?

Nothing, really.

You know… other than bend over, grab your ankles, and let Big Canadian Media sodomize you without the courtesy of lubricating first.

Did you really expect anything else from this guy?

The Battle For Canadian Television

Have you watched Canadian television broadcasts in the past month or so?

If you have, then chances are you’ve seen the advertisements from the dueling TV camps.

There’s this one – for example – from the group representing CTV, CanWest Global, and the CBC (to a lesser extent):

Or this one, sponsored by the cable television providers in Canada (not the most popular ad at the moment, but representative):

The problem with this battle for your TV dollar is that both side are right… which is presenting a massive headache for the CRTC (the federal agency responsible for policing Canada’s airwaves).

What to do?

Canada’s cable and satellite television providers both pay cross-border carriage fees for American broadcast channels which allow you to watch network content from stations operated  by ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX affiliates.

Cable and satellite companies also obviously pay money to carry programming from American and Canadian premium content providers such as HBO, Super Channel, The Movie Network/Movie Central.

They also pay fees to carry mid-level content from well-known providers like Discovery Channel, Bravo, National Geographic Channel, Showcase, and others – which are all operated by either CTVGlobemedia (owned by Bell Canada) or the former Alliance television division that is now owned by CanWest Global.

These fees paid by the cable and satellite companies goes toward content broadcast by the individual providers and is completely understandable since you can’t create programming for free.

At a glance, it wouldn’t seem so bad that Canadian broadcast channels want some extra money – especially considering the cable companies essentially are charging Canadians money for something that is free by its very nature.

However, this argument is flawed.

Do you buy bottled water?

You do?

Why?

Water is free! Hell, it’s one of the most abundant substances on the face of the planet!

What’s that? You can’t find any clean water where you are?

Ah… now that’s the rub, ain’t it?

The same principle applies to broadcast-via-airwaves television signals: some people can’t tune into a pure TV signal from all the broadcasters – whether it be due to geographical location or too much electromagnetic clutter in their area.

Rabbit ears only can do so much in Canada’s analogue television landscape – which is precisely why people pay for television service from companies like Rogers or Shaw Direct (formerly Starchoice)

However, there is a mitigating factor in this battle and its name is Advertising.

Canada’s big three traditional broadcasters – namely CTV, Global, and CBC – support their on-air programming through selling advertising time to large corporations like Coca-Cola, General Motors, Telus, or the Bank Of Nova Scotia.

In turn, these companies pay X-number of dollars per minute of air time – sometimes in the range of millions of dollars per minute during the most watched programs – thus ensuring that their products are seen by the maximum number of eyeballs that their money can achieve.

The money broadcasters take in via selling advertising is then turned around and spent on on-air programming that you and I watch – whether it be the local news, or the latest episode of C.S.I.

The problem for the broadcasters in this day and age – meaning the current economic recession – is that the companies that need to advertise have less money and therefore are less willing to part with those dollars, and that drives down the amount of money Canadian broadcasters are taking in.

This leaves them in a bit of a bind: spend money on expensive American programs which guarantees people watching their station and it’s paid advertising, or spend money on homegrown content like local news.

Canadian broadcasters are also left with smaller operating budgets necessary for operating their networks across the country.

Some of you out there might have already noticed smaller stations going off the air coast to coast – stations that just weren’t bringing in enough revenue to their owners via advertising market share through no real fault of their own other than being in a city with 800,000 citizens versus one with 3 million.

The biggest bug in the ointment – and what this whole debate centers on – is the fact that the Canadian broadcasters essentially want to tax the viewers for their own failing business practices, which is completely unacceptable!

Yet… the cable companies are making money on things they have paid zero dollars to create.

So, as I said at the top, both parties are right – and both parties are wrong.

What is the answer to this problem?

I personally think that it’s a bit of COLUMN A and a bit of COLUMN B.

Canadian broadcasters should invest in Canadian-made content that people actually want to watch – shows that don’t completely suck a plate of dog bollocks – which will inherently be cheaper than foreign-originating programs and be much better for their operating capital.

To a degree, CTV and CBC have occasionally done this, but their successful programs are very far in between.

Seriously… what was the last Canadian drama or comedy program that you watched as much as you do an American alternative?

Also, the cable and satellite companies need to kick in a few bucks WITHOUT passing on the costs to their subscribers because that’s very much dishonest.

My cable bill from Cogeco is already $90 for a mid-level digital package that has all the basic tier programming, channels like Discovery, 10 a-la-carte stations, and a time-shifting package that has channels from the east and west coast – and does not include anything like a digital video recorder or any of the other fancy ad-ons like VoIP phone service or internet.

The suggested carriage fee of $10 per subscriber would bring my bill to $100!

Is television worth $100 to you?

Come on now.

Be honest.