Mark Goldberg

Fox Group Dispatch

Price tiers aren’t “usage caps”

To my knowledge, no ISP has imposed a “cap” on internet usage. A “cap” would mean there is an “upper limit“.

Yet the pejorative term found its way into a Globe and Mail headline: “Eastlink plan to cap ‘Rural Connect’ service draws scorn in Nova Scotia“. The article describes Eastlink’s plan to bundle 15 GB of data usage into its $46.95 monthly fee for “Rural Connect” service, with a charge of $2 per GB, up to a maximum of $20 in overage fees.

In other words, Eastlink will offer unlimited internet usage for $66.95.

How is that a cap on Rural Connect service?

Usage tiers allow entry level internet users a lower fee, without restricting their ability to use more internet services if they choose. Having a cap on overage fees, especially a low $20 fee cap, provides unlimited access at an affordable price.

Price tiers aren’t usage caps.

Solutions for unsolicited and illegitimate calls

The CRTC has “launched a public consultation to better understand the technical solutions that are currently offered to help Canadians manage unsolicited telecommunications and illegitimate telemarketing calls.”

Recall that last October, the CRTC reported to Industry Minister Moore that it was having a tough time keeping up with ‘miscreants’ placing unwanted telemarketing calls to Canadians.

“A major challenge has emerged in the form of caller identification (ID) “spoofing,” which is the falsification of the phone number that appears on consumers’ caller ID displays.”

In recent months, a Mexican resort company has used caller ID spoofing to launch a barrage of calls to landline and mobile phones that appear to come from a local caller; the call ID matches the area code and exchange of the person being called. The message says that you have been selected based on recent flights or hotel stays, and it claims to be from a major travel partner, such as Marriott, Westjet, Air Canada among others.

So, the press release announces that “The CRTC is also exploring new and innovative solutions that could enhance consumer protections, including those that may reduce illegitimate caller identification (caller ID) spoofing.”

Canadians can participate in this consultation by sharing their views on:

  • the technical solutions available to help them manage unsolicited or illegitimate calls
  • barriers they may face to adopting or using these solutions, and
  • new and innovative solutions that could help them manage unsolicited telecommunications and illegitimate telemarketing calls.

Notice of Consultation 2015-333 has a deadline of September 4 for preliminary information filings and interventions are due by October 16.

So far, the government and the CRTC have tried to stop spam and unwanted calls by through regulations and legislation that have burdened legitimate businesses with expenses and restrictions on their operations. It is not clear that Canadians have seen a meaningful impact on harmful and malicious calls and emails that justify the costs. Earlier this week, the CRTC announced that its costs of enforcement are going up 20% next year – ten times the rate of inflation – and a further 10% the following year.

A friend of mine told me that she started blocking calls from the numbers that were calling her. The problem with that approach is that the calls aren’t really coming from those numbers. So her blocking will prevent one of her real neighbours from reaching her without really stopping the Mexican resort. Banning Caller ID “spoofing” will serve as an impediment to people working from home.

So how do we stop the bad guys?

The notice of consultation is officially called “Empowering Canadians to protect themselves from unsolicited and illegitimate telemarketing calls”.

In March, I suggested a simple, inexpensive, innovative but distinctly un-Canadian solution to empower us to protect ourselves: Just hang up.

Canada still silent on low income broadband

Yesterday, US President Obama unveiled ConnectHome, a new initiative to bring Internet connections to low-income households, targeting students living in public and assisted housing.

A new analysis by the US Council of Economic Advisors shows a strong correlation between household income and internet use, a relationship that I discussed more than 4 years ago.

As the White House background paper says, students in low-income households risk a widening “homework-gap”:

While many middle-class U.S. students go home to Internet access, allowing them to do research, write papers, and communicate digitally with their teachers and other students, too many lower-income children go unplugged every afternoon when school ends. This “homework gap” runs the risk of widening the achievement gap, denying hardworking students the benefit of a technology-enriched education.

Industry Minister James Moore issued an update on its Digital Canada 150 “digital strategy” that still doesn’t address the need to increase adoption of digital technologies among Canada’s lowest income households.

As part of its submission to the CRTC’s “Review of basic telecommunications” proceeding, the Affordable Access Coalition has put forward an “Affordability proposal”, to “provide low-income Canadians with a monthly subsidy to use on the telecommunications service of their choice (broadband, home phone or cellphone service) and from the service provider of their choice.”

As Rogers has demonstrated with its Connected for Success program, the private sector in Canada can be a partner in delivering a solution for many low-income households. A story in the Globe and Mail indicated that Rogers is currently providing 7000 households in Toronto Community Housing with service for just $9.99 per month.

It is gratifying to see the issue brought forward by the Affordable Access coalition.

How will industry and government policy makers respond?

Who is on the net?

The Pew Research Center recently released a report that looked at 15 years of data collected to study internet adoption by Americans.

In the report, Pew explores some of the major demographic trends behind the adoption numbers and highlights:

  • Age differences: Older adults have lagged behind younger adults in their adoption, but now a clear majority (58%) of senior citizens uses the internet.
  • Class differences: Those with college educations are more likely than those who do not have high school diplomas to use the internet. Similarly, those who live in households earning more than $75,000 are more likely to be internet users than those living in households earning less than $30,000. Still, the class-related gaps have shrunk dramatically in 15 years as the most pronounced growth has come among those in lower-income households and those with lower levels of educational attainment.
  • Racial and ethnic differences: African-Americans and Hispanics have been somewhat less likely than whites or English-speaking Asian-Americans to be internet users, but the gaps have narrowed. Today, 78% of blacks and 81% of Hispanics use the internet, compared with 85% of whites and 97% of English-speaking Asian Americans.
  • Community differences: Those who live in rural areas are less likely than those in the suburbs and urban areas to use the internet. Still, 78% of rural residents are online.

You should read the report [or download the 13-page pdf].

Can lessons learned south of the border be extrapolated to Canada?

With reductions in data collection by Statistics Canada, are policy makers at the CRTC or Industry Canada concerned about access to similar information for Canadians?

Shining lights on the fog

A couple interesting articles are worth highlighting:

The TELUS fibre to the home story is a follow-up on the company’s announcement a week ago about a $1B investment to rewire the city of Edmonton. A few days later, Bell announced plans to bring FTTH to Toronto and there was a follow-up story about potential plans for TELUS to expand its program to Calgary.

Cisco’s press release talks about a six-pillar approach for its IoT System:

  1. Network Connectivity
  2. Fog Computing
  3. Security
  4. Data Analytics
  5. Management and Automation
  6. Application Enablement Platform

Many of these areas were part of the panel and keynote discussions at The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit by various companies. But Fog Computing is an area that hasn’t had as much coverage. Cisco describes it as:

‘Fog’ is a distributed computing infrastructure for the Internet of Things (IoT) which extends computing capability – and thereby data analytics applications – to the ‘edge’ of networks. It enables customers to analyze and manage data locally, and thereby to derive immediate insights from connections. Cisco predicts that 40% of IoT-created data will be processed in the fog by 2018.

The evolution of the network, including orders of magnitude shifts in the number of things being connected, will impact so many aspects of our businesses and our communities.

The Cisco press release resonated with me as I thought more about the telephone companies’ fibre expansion plans.

Which communities and which industries will adapt first to take advantage of the array of platforms that enable a digital economy?

Be sure to listen to talks by some of the industry leaders who spoke at The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit. What themes provided an inspiration for you?