The Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission approved Canada’s largest ISP, Bell Canada, to implement Usage Based Billing (metered internet). Instead of paying a flat rate for all-you-can-eat internet service, or around 200GB of monthly transfer, you pay $31.95 for 25GB worth of internet usage, and at least $1.90 per gigabyte if you go over that limit.
And here’s the fun part: Bell Canada owns most of the “last-mile” copper connections in Canada, so competing ISPs that use the same lines will also be metered by Bell.
To put this in perspective, let’s take a look at just how much data 25GB is…
Netflix streaming uses about 1GB per hour. So you could watch 25 hours (10-12 movies) in a month, assuming you did nothing else.
A 45-minute TV show or video podcast downloaded via iTunes is about 200MB in size. So, about 125 in a month.
A 1-3 minute video from YouTube is around 5-10MB in size, depending on the quality.
A one-hour (standard definition) stream from Hulu is about 350MB. You could cram about 70 hours of Hulu streaming into one month, again, assuming you only did that.
Online gaming, whether a console game or an MMORPG on your PC, uses very little data. In order to get around network latency issues (to keep the game from lagging badly) games send frequent, but very small, data packets. You probably wouldn’t use more than 50-70MB per hour of gaming, though it could vary greatly depending on the game. Also, voice chat would increase the number significantly.
Streaming Last.fm music will use 30MB per hour using a low-quality 64kbps stream, and 60MB at 128kbps. You would eat through 25GB in 375 hours.
iTunes AAC music downloads generally range from 70MB-200MB per album. That’s about 128 albums per month.
One can’t help but wonder if Bell Canada wishes to prevent Netflix—which just recently became available outside of the United States—from being widely adopted in Canada, so more people will continue to use their cable television service.
How do you explain network neutrality to your less-than-tech-literate friends and family? It’s a broad and complex topic that is rather difficult to persuade people to care about. Of course, the best way to explain an issue like that is to demonstrate how it could effect the explainee.
That’s where TheOpenInter.net comes in. It’s a fancy illustration that demonstrates the general concept of a tiered internet to the viewer as he or she scrolls down the page.
It shows the internet as a series of tubes labeled with names like YouTube, Facebook, Gaming and Skype. They run from the ISP illustration down to a house to demonstrate how data from any source is funneled down to you for a single flat monthly fee. Then it shows the same tubes, only they’re different widths, labeled with price tags, and not all of them lead to the end user. Also, there’s a new, thick pipe marked “ISP Content & Services.”
This is something that is scarily close to happening, given certain ISP’s track records and the looming NBC/Universal merger with Comcast.
Some might say that the site oversimplifies things a bit, but that’s generally necessary if you want non-techies to understand it. Trying to cover every base ends up confusing people, and is partially why so few people know what network neutrality is.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has approved a plan to develop a set of regulations that will help prevent the telcos from modifying web pages, throttling applications’ transfers, “deprioritizing” packets from competing applications or servers, or other dirty tricks along those lines.
The ISPs, phone companies and cellphone carriers have been very vocal in their opposition, and have went so far as to encourage their employees to astroturf. As a result, there has been a lot of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (or FUD) spread about the issue. Some fear that the FCC wishes to impose a version of the old Fairness Doctrine on the internet, which couldn’t be further from the truth. (The regulations would prevent something like that, since they require that any and all lawful content be accessible without discrimination.)
Essentially, these are regulations to prevent regulation or ISP tampering. They’re to make sure that the ISPs stay as what they should be: indiscriminate carriers of unopened and untampered packages.
“While a smartphone user downloads a fraction (typically 1/25th) of the data consumed by a laptop user, the signaling load produced by the smartphone user is much higher and in fact one third of the laptop user on average,” wrote Airvana. “In other words, while it takes 25 smart phones to equal the data throughput from one laptop, it only takes three smart phones to equal the signaling network impact of one laptop (25/3 ≈ 8x).”
The basic idea is that a cellphone does a lot of polling, making various checks and requests as long as the device is on, and most people leave their phone on pretty much all day.
Providers of cellular internet service traditionally have charged steep rates in order to have service for your laptop, and then cap your transfer at an almost unusable level. For instance, the $60/month “DataConnect” plan from AT&T “includes 5 GB of data,” meaning you will pay rather pricey overage rates if you download more than 5GB of data in a month. Unless all you do is check your email, and maybe do some light web surfing, you’re going to blow through that limit pretty quick. (And if you don’t do much more than that, it’s pretty hard to justify paying $60/month for mobile internet service for your laptop.) You’d better make sure your operating system or applications don’t run any software updates, otherwise you’re probably screwed.
I’ve talked about Network Neutrality here before, posting a simple explanation I’d written up. This time I’ve done something better. I’ve rounded-up a collection of videos on the topic.
These Net Neutrality videos are worth a watch, whether you know what Net Neutrality truly means or not. (Hint: If you don’t care about Net Neutrality, you need to watch these videos.) They’re interesting, and very important.
Net Neutrality is very important. For both website operators and the average user. It’s a much-talked-about subject, though far too many people have no clue what it means. Despite the somewhat boring name, Net Neutrality is something that everyone (who isn’t the RIAA, the MPAA, or the big ISPS) wants. Let me try to explain what it is…
An “un-neutral” internet is what is called a “tiered internet,” meaning not all data packets are equal. On a tiered internet, ISPs may speed up, slow, or totally block traffic depending on its origin, destination, or type. Your ISP could stop your from using BitTorrent, slow down your transfer speeds when your accessing YouTube, or redirect you to Yahoo when you try to access Google. Or they could insert some ads of their own into web pages as they travel between server and client. Why would they do that? Money. By blocking BitTorrent, they would prevent you from using as much bandwidth. Redirecting one site to another? They might do that if they were paid enough.
While tiered internet traffic is annoying enough for the end user, it’s even worse for the websites. Let’s use YouTube as an example. They’re already paying for their servers to have access to the internet, right? Well with a tiered internet, a few ISPs could decide to block, or slow down, access to YouTube, unless YouTube were to pay them a bribe to let them through. Insane? You bet.
The concept behind Net Neutrality is “all traffic is equal,” meaning “no tampering with packets as they travel through the tubes.” A simple enough concept, but an important one that needs to be enacted. After all, be don’t want the internet to be like this, do we?
Rogers|Yahoo, a Canadian ISP, has been experimenting with technology that enables them to modify page content before it gets to you. Shown in the Ars Technica linked previously, is the Google.ca homepage with a huge banner proclaiming that the user has used 75% of his or her bandwidth.
The ISP claims that their intended usage is not site specific and that they won’t be displaying ads. However, PerfTech Inc, the maker of the evil software, prominently advertises “ad insertion” as one of the major uses. Though Rogers states that they have no current plans to inject ads into web pages, plans change, do they not? You can bet that ads would come soon after.
Unless laws are put in place to stop the ISPs, this will happen in the United States (and probably other countries eventually). ISPs have no right to modify the contents of web pages before they reach your computer. Besides adding in obtrusive messages and advertising, what else could they decide to change? Suppose Microsoft wanted to cover-up bad reviews of their products. They could pay the ISPs to modify the contents of pages to contain glowing reviews rather than criticism. With technology like this is use, you couldn’t trust anything you read online.
What about inserting advertisements? That’s totally illegal already. By forcing their ads to display when people view your website, the ISPs would be making money off your content without your permission. You spend time and money maintaining a website, and you invest your time creating content. Then the ISPs come along and make money off your hard work.
I think that all of us who maintain websites can agree that we don’t want this.