After watching yesterdays sitting of the Industry Committee with the CRTC in the hot seat answering questions about the UBB debacle one can only conclude the the people charged with making these decisions about it are woefully inept at being able to do so.
CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein told the Industry Committee that they were delaying implementation of UBB for 60 days so that they can once again review the situation after a large public outcry and requests for delay from two of the initial applicants for UBB itself, one of which being Bell Canada.
What became clear during the session is that very little research was done on the part of the CRTC when it comes to what they are trying to make a decision about. It seems that much of their information was taken verbatim from Bell itself with no real checks to make sure what they were told was honest and not just self serving.
At one point the chairman was asked about IPTV, to which he responded that IPTV does not use the internet itself, which is technically correct. What it does use however is the very same last mile infrastructure that Bell claims is being over congested by wholesaler customers. They claim that IPTV uses separate channels from the internet traffic, while this may be so it still relies on the last mile infrastructure but also brings up another interesting contention, if IPTV can be sent using separate channels then why can they not also split the wholesalers themselves into separate channels?
After all, when a telco or cable company upgrades their plant by implementing fibre backbones it would be foolish of them not to greatly overbuild these new backbones, which is likely what they did, so capacity on the last mile really should be a non-issue to them at this point. Keep in mind that what Bell provides the wholesalers is little more than a network bridge between the end user and the wholesalers own internet backbone, wholesaler clients do not use Bell’s actual internet backbone.
The reality is that UBB should be a non-issue for ISPs the size of Bell, Shaw and Rogers except on their own internet backbones. Likewise what the competitors offer is of little consequence except when it comes to competing with them, and none of the big players are willing to offer unlimited internet plans because they see the dollar signs with the ability to meter it and charge overages.
The CRTC came to the Industry Committee panel armed with download data from 2009, with the speed of technological changes in an online world this data has little relevance. Since 2009 streaming media has rose to the forefront online, it was November 2009 that YouTube introduced HD streaming to its service, Playstation Network introduced its video store in 2010, iTunes has grown in popularity as consumers look to legitimate sources to purchase music and video content and it was September 2010 when Canadians were first introduced to Netflix Canada and its ability to stream HD movies directly to our screens.
In von Finckenstein’s opening remarks he stated “All ISPs advertise their rates, bandwidth caps and the additional usage charges that apply. Consumers can shop around for the plan that best meet their needs. Internet services are now sold like other public utilities, such as water, gas and electricity. As we reported in our most recent Communications Monitoring Report, Canadians used on average 15.4 gigabits per month in 2009. Most users therefore fall well within the caps currently set by the Large Distributors and would not be charged more unless their monthly usage increased dramatically.“
Utilities are heavily regulated in most parts of Canada, if this is the true that internet should be metered as such then the CRTC needs details about just how much a GB costs to transmit and then only allow the telcos to charge a small percentage over and above their actual cost. Of course this would require outside auditing since you cannot trust the telco to be up front with their true cost. It amounts to an accounting nightmare.
At this point though, what really needs looked at is the CRTC itself. We need people who are familiar with the technology they are tasked with regulating. They need independent auditors giving them numbers rather than just taking the incumbents word on everything and giving them exactly what they ask for each and every time.
In short, UBB is not a solution that is needed because it is essentially a non-existent problem created largely to further line the pockets of the big corporations and as a means of limiting competition in the marketplace.