McDonald’s menu style Internet offerings in the future? Here is an interesting (and scary) update:
I have been following the ongoing news regarding Bell Canada’s decision to throttle their reseller’s traffic. To those arriving late, Bell Canada owns the lines used by third party ISPs such as TekSavvy and recently decided to throttle bandwidth usage on those lines much like they throttle traffic from their own internet customers. Bell cites “fine print” in their Fair Usage Policy which, according to the company, allows them to do this if they see “excessive” use of their network. Why don’t they upgrade their infrastructure with the capital from all those record profits instead of giving us the story that someone is downloading too many movies. Oh, that’s right, it wouldn’t be profit anymore. Everyone can clearly see that the true reason Bell decided to throttle ISPs such as TekSavvy was to stop the move of costumers away from Bell services to more quality service where you get what you paid for, that is, the bandwidth you were promised.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago. Bell Canada is now is now lobbying to scrap mandated access by competitors to its network. That is, they want to get rid of a whole chunk of their competition all together. It would ultimately leave us with Rogers and Bell to choose from for Internet access. It is easy to see how this would translate into very bad news for consumers and economical progress in Ontario, and Canada as a whole. Without competition, the “free” market simply does not work. Consumers will not be able to vote with their wallets and the monopoly that is Bell and Rogers will dictate how things play out from then on.
If they can get away with this how can we determine where this will stop? Say good bye to VoIP. VoIP must run through your ISPs network, and if that ISP is Bell or Rogers (i.e. direct competitors to VoIP providers) who is to say they will not choke out the competition in the same manner they are planning to do it with internet wholesalers? Who is to say they will not consider things such as the upcoming high quality Youtube streams as “abusive” use of their network? Afterall, Youtube competes in one way or another with Bell’s and Roger’s TV service. Will we get to the point where internet service is tiered and chopped into nicely designed marketing-approved McDonald’s menu style offerings where I have to pay extra if I want to use SSH or attach large attachments to my e-mail? Will I have to pay extra if I want to use gmail instead of Sympatico’s own web mail? Would you like FTP traffic with that order?
As a software developer, avid internet user, and consumer, the potential for a future as described above scares the living crap out of me. The majority of people see the issue of Netneutrality as something that matters only to geeks. Sadly, what they don’t realize is that this wonderful progress the Internet has brought to the world is largely due to the existence of that openness, of that “neutrality” of the service. The ability for my neighbor to listen to online radio stations or play online games while I surf the web or e-mail clients without our service providers “deciding” for us what form of usage is more “valuable” is what keeps this wonderful progress going. Bell Canada’s move to eliminate competition this way introduces a slippery slope that will see this progress come to a halt.
I am not a fan of the government stepping into citizens’ lives and setting unnecessary and damaging market roadblocks, however, when one considers that the free market cannot work under this conditions, I think it is time for the Canadian government to step in and put an end to this. To many, the Internet has become a utility with importance almost as high as that of the telephone system, gas, water, and electricity. Considering that Bell’s infrastructure was largely paid by tax payers dollars, I think it is time we decide how we use those lines and for Bell to stay off OUR Internet!.