Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

The Open Internet at Risk

Monopolies, fading Net neutrality & DRM

End Monopolies | Net Neutrality | DRM

A red Internet sign hangs on the side of a building.

The Internet at Risk

Undemocratic forces are working to destroy the Internet we know and love — a magical place of dank memes and video streams, the essential backbone we use to communicate with our loved ones, our families, and our government.

 

If they get their way, many of our favorite websites and services will be slowed to a crawl, and we'll end up with an “Internet” that looks more like cable TV — a boring, money-making machine for telecom giants.
OpenMedia
Having access to the internet doesn't matter if you don't feel safe using it. Online threats from trolls, viruses, hackers, or even that general sense of anxiety that comes from doom-scrolling are now the norm.
CIRA: What's up with the internet?

We're Creating More Content Than Ever Before

We upload a lot of data to the Internet.

From the dawn of civilization until 2003, humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now we produce five exabytes every two days…and the pace is accelerating.
Eric Schmidt in 2010

The Guardian reported in 2015 on the huge amount of data that is uploaded to the Internet on a regular basis:

Those numbers have only increased as has the numbers of people online.

Return to top

End Canada's Telecom Monopolies

Mergers Destroy Competition

The big telecoms are buying up smaller players. These mergers eliminate competition, remove options for consumers and bring higher prices.

The scale of the July nationwide Rogers outage shows Canada can no longer tolerate monopolized private telecom companies that function without public accountability or oversight.
OpenMedia

It's time to take a shot back at Rogers, Bell, and Telus.

Overthrow MonopoLIES in Canada.

Overthrow Monopoly Rule in Canada!

Tired of being at the mercy of monopolies? Left with limited options and soaring prices time and time again?

It's time to take a stand against power-hungry giants that control Canadian industries — from telecom to banking and grocery industries.

Right now, we have a GOLDEN opportunity for change — getting the government to ACT on their promises to reform our Competition Act, breaking the power of these monopolies for good.

Email Industry Minister Champagne TODAY demanding he acts to fix Canada's faulty competition laws NOW!

Sign the petition!

Canadians Pay Too Much

Canadians pay some of the highest cellular and Internet access rates in the world.

One-in-five Canadians cannot afford Internet or TV services.

PCMag noted in 2020 that Canadians are not offered the sub-$30 cellular plans easily available in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Instead, Canadian cellular companies only advertise their $80 plans. Cheaper plans are unadvertised and usually only available through the company's “low rate” carrier.

Small cellular operators (MVNOs) that would offer more reasonable rates are blocked from operating in Canada.

Internet No Longer a Luxury

Have recently tried to get off-line help from the tax department recently? The local CRA offices that dotted communities across Canada have closed shop, offering only regional or national offices. Phone lines are full.

Because access to the Internet is no longer a luxury, both the quality of service and the pricing needs to be addressed.

Broadband is a human right, the nervous system of the 21st century. It is far too important to be left up to the whims of monopolists building atop public infrastructure without any commitment to the public interest.
— Cory Doctorow — Activist, Author, and Journalist

Most government and financial services are increasingly available only online. Companies force you to use PDF bills sent via email. Where available, paper bills via snail mail are seldom more than summaries.

Internet Access Rates Out of Line

Canadians pay some of the highest rates in the world for Internet access.

FIVE Times the Rate of Inflation

A CRTC 2014 hearing noted that Internet fees in Canada have increased at five times the rate of inflation.

A July 2021 study found that Internet prices rose 6% in Canada the previous year. That was prior to inflation rates rising in 2022 for the first time in 20 years.

Wireless

Wireless costs in Canada are out of line.

A 2020 report from Finland-based telecom research firm Rewheel found that Telus, Bell, and Rogers ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd most expensive amongst 168 wireless carriers operating in 48 countries around the world.
OpenMedia

Notice that Canada (far right) is by far the costliest per gigabyte of data:

Total mobile service revenue per GB.

The root cause of the high Canadian wireless prices, as we shown in our 2019 study, is the fact that the Canadian wireless market is a de facto network duopoly.
Rewheel

Broadband

Our wired Internet isn't much better: a 2022 study found that out of 135 countries, Canada ranks a dismal 103rd for lifetime broadband affordability.

Canadian internet prices are notoriously among the most expensive in the world. …Canadians currently pay an average of $102 per month for their home internet plan. That's well above the $25–85 that the vast majority (73%) report considering reasonable.

 

The majority of Canadians surveyed feel they are already overpaying for their internet plan each month and prices have risen 6.42% on average in the past year.
WhistleOut, July 2021

The Previous CRTC was Pro-Industry

The CRTC under Ian Scott was not a consumer-conscious watchdog.

Under the leadership of Ian Scott, a former Telus executive and self-described personal friend of Bell CEO Mirko Bibic, the CRTC has issued a rash of anti-consumer decisions that have led to more expensive prices for Canadians over the past few years.
OpenMedia

The decision to reverse the more favourable wholesale rates is only one of many anti-consumer decisions made by the CRTC.

While the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) lowered wholesale rates larger carriers can charge internet service providers (ISPs) in August 2019, they reversed the decision in May 2021. The CRTC said the decision was erroneous.
MobileSyrup

The CRTC should be there to protect Canadians, not enrich companies already protected from foreign competition and enjoying 45% profit margins.

Instead, the CRTC allowed telecoms to continue to overcharge.

[H]ealthy competition in the broadband sector is key to ensuring that all Canadians can benefit from all that the internet brings to our lives.
Competition Bureau

Sneaky Pricing Tricks

Telecoms use fine print in their contracts and sneaky pricing to confuse consumers and make it even harder to compare plans between providers.

Telus Adds 1.5% To Bills

Telus went to the industry-favouring CRTC to get permission to add an additional 1.5% to the bills of customers using credit cards without any corresponding reduction in consumer billing.

The original intent of the court order that allowed charging credit card customers was based upon the claim that credit card costs were built into pricing and this change would lead to reduced costs for customers not using credit cards.

Just like the added fees for retaining paper billing, this was another ploy to increase profitability at customer expense.

Credit card merchant fees are part of any business's expense and Telus is far more profitable than most. Only a monopoly would attempt such a sneaky move.

$100 for a Few Texts to U.S.

Telus billed $100 for a few texts sent to the U.S. from my wife's cellphone even though their most expensive plan was $29.95 per year.

She is no longer with Telus Mobility but our choices are narrowing rapidly as telecoms buy out their competition thanks to Minister Champagne's approval of the Shaw buyout.

MVNOs are Low Cost Cellular Alternatives

MVNOs (or MNOs) are a significant factor in reducing cellphone prices.

What are the factors that determine mobile prices? Market concentration (no. of MNOs) has a statistically significant effect on 4G & 5G monthly and gigabyte prices. The higher the no. of MNOs the lower the price.
Rewheel

Tell MPs: For Low Cell Phone Prices, Go MVNO!

It's time to tell our MPs to lower our cell bills and GO MVNO! Sign the petition.

People in Canada pay some of the highest prices in the world for our phone plans. People in much of the rest of the world pay just $1/day for cell service or even less!

 

The secret to bringing our inflated prices down is no secret at all: We need more competition. The fastest globally proven way to create that competition is to allow low-cost alternate mobile providers — MVNOs to fully operate in Canada.

 

Join the chorus! If enough of us tell our MPs to "Go MVNO!", we can bring lower prices and more choices to everyone in Canada!
OpenMedia

Sign the Petition

Tell MPs: For low cell phone prices, go MVNO!

Canadian Internet Quality Varies Widely

The speed and bandwidth available to Canadians varies mainly between urban and rural areas but also between provinces.

There are definitely challenges of geography since most of Canada's population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border. The advantages of a north-south market is very limited compared to other countries that have populations more evenly spread, such as the continental United States.

However, most Canadians live in larger cities that justify lower prices regardless of the nature of the geography.

This advantage is not found in rural areas nor in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, or the Yukon.

Big Telecoms Attack Netflix and the Internet

Since there was a limited number of channels (simultaneous time slots) available on cable TV in the 1990s, the content needed to be regulated to ensure that there was variety and that cheaper U.S. content would not dominate.

That isn't true on the Internet.

Unlike cable TV, there are no limits to viewable content in any time slot.

Every person in Canada could watch a different program on the Internet without interfering with the ability of any other to do the same.

The only reason to restrict access is to ensure the profitability of the big telecoms.

Monopolies Call for Regulation

Rather than change to suit the current technology, Canada's telecoms are calling on the government to regulate the Internet to ensure profitability.

The calls for an Internet tax would be used to fund Canada's big telecoms and limit Internet access with restrictions. CanCon is a confusing rating system designed to benefit Canada's big telecoms rather than truly promote Canadian content.

We're seeing the results of that poorly-thought-out plan in the disastrous Bill C-11 and C-18.

Both bills will enhance the profitability of Canadian Big Media yet have an adverse affect on Canadian content worldwide, ignoring or imperiling international copyright and other agreements.

In less than two months, the government has reshaped the Internet in Canada with Bills C-11 and C-18 leading to streaming services that may block Canadian users and platforms that may block news sharing. The result is a cautionary tale for Internet regulation initiatives with Canada emerging as a model for how things can go badly wrong.
Michael Geist

Bill C-18 is badly designed legislation that fails to achieve its objectives. Worse, it will likely lead to the collapse of local news coverage for Canadians.

Prime Minister Trudeau then propped up Canadian news by financing nearly the full cost of their budgets, destroying the objectivity of Canadian journalists in the process. Canadian news has essentially become a mouthpiece for the Liberal government rather than providing the critique expected of journalism.

Netflix Threatens Profitability

Unlike cable TV, each viewer on Netflix can watch whichever program they want according to their own schedule. While the content is not unlimited (like the Internet itself), you are not forced to watch any program just because there is nothing else available in a particular time slot.

If people were getting what they want on cable TV, Netflix wouldn't be a threat.

Netflix threatens their TV subscriber base because their service frequently lacks viewable content unless you're a news or sports junkie.

Competition Banned in Rural U.S.

Several U.S. rural communities decided to take matters into their own hands and built community broadband in areas the big ISPs refused to service.

The response? The ISPs lobbied to ban community broadband in 19 U.S. states, calling it “unfair competition.”

Remember, these were areas that commercial operators refused to provide broadband service because it was unprofitable.

Legislation protected huge profits by limiting bandwidth and competition.

Return to Top

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality

The Internet was designed as a neutral platform for open, unrestricted access to the data we wanted to obtain.

We need the Internet to be fast, cheap, neutral, and accessible everywhere.
Larry Lessig

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality means that all data is treated equally — all sites and services on the Internet have an equal footing.

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers providing consumer connection to the Internet should treat all data on the internet the same, not giving specific advantages or penalties in access by user, content, website, platform, or application.
Mozilla

It allows us to choose what we watch and when we watch it.

Just Like Electricity

The plug in the wall doesn't ask what you're using it for. It simply serves electricity.

That is how we need our electronic data to be served: neutrally — just like electricity.

Imagine plugging in your new electric kettle only to find that it wouldn't work because it wasn't an “approved” brand? What if it worked, but you were charged a higher rate just because it was a kettle, not a toaster?

Delivering Content Without Interference

Net Neutrality delivers the site(s) you request without any extra fees or censorship.

No site is artificially slowed or sped up. There is no fast lane for privileged services such as free access to a particular music or movie service ONLY if you're using that ISP's services.

Net neutrality is a simple concept that ends up being very politically complicated. It's the idea that your internet service provider (ISP) — whether that's Comcast, Verizon, or someone else — shouldn't have the ability to pick and choose which service or content you can see, or make sites pay to have their content load quickly.
Mozilla Blog

Save Net Neutrality in Canada

Remember when big media controlled everything you read and watched?

They'd like that control back.

Canada's big media companies don't want net neutrality:

The federal government has repeatedly stated its commitment to Net Neutrality, but Canada's Telecommunications Act is currently under review.

 

And we know lobbyists — and now the CRTC — are pushing for looser regulations, following the U.S.' Net Neutrality repeal as an example.

 

The federal government must reject any effort by the CRTC to weaken Canada's Net Neutrality framework.
OpenMedia

Why You Should Care

The loss of net neutrality affects much more than corporate profitability.

Removing net neutrality sees some services promoted; others slowed down or banned altogether.

Neutrality deals with whether companies will be allowed to build more toll booths on the road. Net Neutrality is the best way to insure that no one is in control of the flow of information.
David Mengert
You should care because net neutrality is about way more than packets of data — it affects competition, innovation, speech online, and user choice.

 

Losing net neutrality would ultimately mean you have fewer choices for content, applications, and services online, in ways we can't possibly imagine today.
— Mozilla

Government's Failure to Represent Constituents

Government seems to have the ear of the huge mega-corporations, not the people they are supposed to represent.

Without net neutrality, Facebook, Netflix and Twitter could never have become the mega corporations they are today. No future competition could ever emerge.

Compromised Personal Data and Fake News

Tim Berners-Lee, known as the inventor of the Internet, describes the problem:

Over the past 12 months, I've become increasingly worried about three new trends, which I believe we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity.

Those three new trends:

  1. compromised personal data;
  2. fake news that he says has “spread like wildfire;” and
  3. the lack of regulation in political advertising, which he says threatens democracy.

Domestic Spying

Large scale spying on ordinary citizens and opposition to encryption are two of the ways government has turned a basically free and open Internet into a data-collection nightmare.

Both government and corporations cry foul when you try to block these attempts.

Bill C-51 provided greatly increased surveillance powers to the police but at the cost of personal privacy. Unfortunately, this loss of freedom will not ensure protection against terrorism or crime.

U.S. Already Seeing the Results

To understand the dangers of a net neutrality-free Internet, one has only to look to our neighbours to the south.

The US voted to kill off net neutrality on December 14th 2017 in spite of overwhelming support for net neutrality by U.S. citizens.

The ISPs in the US are taking full advantage of the repeal of Net Neutrality.

 

A new research study proved that video streaming has been throttled across the board since the repeal.

You Need to Take Action

Since governments are listening only to big media, you need to step up and take an active part if you want to see net neutrality remain.

Change Your Browser

Which browser you use and your "home" or startup page make a great deal of difference.

If your browser is the one your operating system set as default with the landing page chosen by Microsoft, Google or Apple, why not choose a safer browser that loads by default something that is important to you?

If Microsoft's News & Interests feed isn't serving your interests, remove the distraction by right-clicking the task bar and choosing to turn it off in the related menu item.

Signing into your Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge may preserve settings, but also provides a lot of information used to profile you while you surf.

Choose Safer Content

I recommend Firefox.

The Firefox Browser has built in tracking protection. That makes it harder for politicians, advertisers, and disinformation disseminators to find you. And with the free Facebook container extension, you can isolate your Facebook session from everything else you do online. More privacy means more democracy.
IRL: Democracy and the Internet

A Lot is At Stake

There are more serious issues than familiarity when choosing a browser.

Google controls about 62% of mobile browsers, 69% of desktop browsers, and the operating systems on 71% of mobile devices in the world.

 

92% of internet searches go through Google and 73% of American adults use YouTube.

 

Google runs code on approximately 85% of sites on the Web and inside as many as 94% of apps in the Play store.

 

It collects data about users' every click, tap, query, and movement from all of those sources and more.
EFF

This Google monopoly now threatens the future of the open Web.

An Open Internet Promotes Innovation

Most of today's big Internet companies wouldn't exist today without a free and open Internet. Startups are in no position to compete with established Fortune 500 companies for limited bandwidth.

Fund Those Working for an Open Internet

Consider funding the organizations working to support a free and open Internet.

Retain a Free & Open Internet

Police are already piling on the pressure for new laws to force you to reveal all of your digital passwords. Telecom giants are jacking up the price of Internet at 5 times the rate of inflation, and Big Media wants to use the upcoming copyright review to turn our Internet into Cable TV 2.0.
— OpenMedia

Retain the current open Internet we currently experience and have taken for granted since we began to use it.

Learn More

More about Net Neutrality:

Return to top

Digital Rights (DRM)

As music and movies have moved from CDs and DVDs to digital they are easier to copy.

DRM is intended to stop piracy while not interfering with legal use.

…trying to make digital files uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet.
— Bruce Schneier

Unlike a physical book or CD you are restricted in your use of digital media including your ability to lend or sell it.

DRM prevents you from doing what would be possible without it.
Defective by Design

Evidence Suppressed

These companies have become much more aggressive in pursuing protective technologies, claiming millions of dollars in lost sales.

The EU suppressed a 300-page study that found piracy doesn't harm sales.

Not everyone that downloads a pirated song or movie would have paid for it. The opposite assumption is behind every law related to claims of piracy.

DRM Affects Privacy

If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we've already failed.
Peter Lee, Disney

Kindle Tracks You

One example of how DRM can affect your privacy is Amazon's tracking of where you are in a Kindle ebook.

By selling texts restricted by DRM, Amazon ensnares readers, controls their access to their books, and infringes on their freedoms.
Defective by Design.

It Locks You In

Telus offers subscribers the ability to “purchase” movies on their digital service. However, unlike physical DVDs, you're then locked into their service. You cannot take that purchase with you if you leave Telus (which could remove access at any time).

Hiding Failures and Fraud

This openness is one-sided.

Companies used DRM to prosecute those that would reveal shortcomings, vulnerabilities or outright fraud.

DRM is wrapped up in a layer of legal entanglements (notably section 1201 of America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which allow similar kinds of anticompetitive and ugly practices that make net neutrality so important.
Tim Wu

Volkswagen Emissions

The Volkswagen emissions scandal is only one example.

Volkswagen gamed the computers in their cars to misreport the actual emissions output so that they appeared cleaner than they actually were. DRM ensured that no one dared to test their results.

We cannot afford to continue to allow companies to threaten our security in order to save face when they fail.

Web Browsers & DRM

Our browsers have become integrated into areas like medical devices and lives could depend upon revealing vulnerabilities and exploits.

DRM has been used to keep these vulnerabilities secret.

As content moved from plugins to HTML5-based content, Netflix and Motion Picture Association of America pushed the W3C to incorporate DRM.

Profitability at Your Expense

DRM places unreasonable restrictions that sacrifice your privacy to ensure corporate profit.

Your privacy is ignored and your ability to control your own information is sacrificed in the pursuit of this goal.

Re-Purchasing Content

You are paying for the content, yet DRM ensures that the consumer pays over and over for the same product simply because technology changes.

With the move from CDs and DVDs to online streaming, the DRM was incorporated into your browser to ensure corporations retained control of your viewing and listening habits.

In addition, streaming content is continually changing. It is hard to get access to all your favourites unless you subscribe to multiple streaming services.

Corporate vs Individual Rights

Legislation enhances the protection for media giants, often overshadowing the rights of both creators (such as writers, musicians, artists, etc.) and end users.

This concentrates control over production and distribution of media, giving DRM peddlers the power to carry out massive digital book burnings and conduct large scale surveillance over people's media viewing habits.
Defective by Design

Increased Corporate Control

TPP and other trade agreements increased corporate control worldwide.

DMCA Abuses

Too often the Digital Millennium Act (DMCA) has been used to stiffle legitimate uses.

It's certainly easier to implement bad security and make it illegal for anyone to notice than it is to implement good security.
— Bruce Schneier

DRM Fallout

Some users report losing copies of their own music when unsubscribing from the Apple Music service after Apple changed their DRM policies.

I also experienced this removal of music NOT sourced though Apple Music.

As a result seldom listen to music on my iPhone or use iTunes anymore. It was simply too much trouble to restore the music I was actually listening to.

VLC Player is DRM-free and allows me to watch without being watched.

Learn More

More about DRM and related issues:

Related Resources

On this site:

Found this resource useful?
Buy Me A Coffee

 

Return to top
RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/internet-at-risk.html
Updated: April 12, 2024