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UBB (metered internet) will restrict innovation

Stop the Belligerrence

New bell ad: stop the Belligerrence; from @ubbtor

UBB (Usage Based Billing / “Metered Internet”) is a hot topic right now, with many Canadians angry over the failures of CRTC and the subsequent forced price hike of the internet, even when using small competing ISPs.

There were arguments about online games (Steam):

Thanks to UBB, I can no longer use Steam in Canada thanks to your ridiculously low caps provided by my ISP. This is total bullshit as I am now forced to use a brick and mortar store to purchase my pc titles rather than committing a little under half of my bandwidth to downloading one new game title.

There were arguments about keeping in touch with one’s family:

I’m in the US military and my wife’s Canadian. During my last deployment, one of the easiest ways for her and I to keep in contact while she finished up her University degree in Ontario was webcam. She had Roger’s internet and they’ve had this bullshit implemented for some time. So, she had some crap 25 Gb max rate and we hit that most every goddamn month just trying to stay in contact. (Yes, in hindsight we should have switched and whatever. That was then, this is now)

And of course many arguments over economic impact on consumers:

I’m about to lose an extra $200 a year just because some large corporate giant says so: Recently, Bell Canada has had the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) make a decision that aims to take more money out of the pockets of Canadian consumers and ruin online services that are competitors to Bell Canada.

A quick video intro to what’s happening: Strombo Talks About The Impending Metered Internet

And many many more arguments about why metered internet is a bad idea. Here, I’ll talk about how Usage Based Billing will disrupt (in a bad way) Computer Science education, innovation, and as a result, the software industry.

– Coffee shops (traditionally hubs for exchange of ideas and birth place of innovations) will no longer be able to offer free wifi, in a fear of punitive per-GB charges. The stereotypical image of the next Silicon Valley entrepreneur starting a company out of a coffee shop will vanish, and with that a pool of innovation.

– Students will be limited in exposure to new technology. Proposed 25 GB download caps are just too small. Software downloads can take up a large chunk of the allowed quota: iPhone SDK is 3.5 GB, the latest version of Linux (Ubuntu) is 0.7 GB (plus all of the updates!). Tinkering with new types of operating systems and making applications for one’s phone is the inspiration that’s necessary to get students interested in the pursuit of technological education, but such can easily hit the allowed bandwidth cap, and will likely be discouraged in low-income households.

– Online learning resources will take a hit. TED.com is an amazing resource that delivers ideas that are persuasive, ingenious, inspiring, and informative. Of course video streams quickly add up to the bandwidth caps. Schools have just started moving towards the internet to better teach the material, but now rich media (videos, interactive applications, etc) will likely be reconsidered, in other to keep the resources equally available to all students.

The Cloud is the bleeding edge of technological innovation. As companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft innovate new ways of thinking about communications, data, and computer resources; Canadians are getting locked just to their local machines. If we can’t backup our data (Dropbox) and stream music (Pandora), then we are not in an environment where we can create such companies.

– Limit of research with large datasets. The Netflix Prize is the first that comes to mind where open experimenting lead to development of better technology. Twitter offers even larger data streams, offering insights into everything from geopolitics to the stock market. A Canadian example would be the the Goldcorp Challenge, when in 2000 Goldcorp has released its geological data to the world in an attempt to save a gold mine in Red Lake, Ontario from closing. Many submissions came in, including those from students. The mine ended up finding over $6 billion (that’s billion with a B) worth of gold. Open access to large datasets has clear impact on innovation that results in new technology, insights, and creation of resources. There’s more data than ever available on the internet now, but exploration of such will be discouraged with metered bandwidth fees.

– Similar to research on large data sets, contributing to distributed scientific research will become discouraged as well. Folding@home is a distributed computing platform, researching diseases “such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s disease, and many Cancers”. Bandwidth caps will discourage contributions to this and similar research models.

The initial counter argument might be: “just pay more to get as much access as before”, but this is not that simple. Price-conscious University students will start second-guessing if they should explore their innovative ideas, when data consumption is met with punitive fees. High schools students often have limited say over the connections in their household, and low-income families might get into a conflict between providing an open learning environment and paying extra costs.

It’s clear that telecommunications companies such as Bell and Rogers fear technological innovations that was brought by Skype, YouTube, and Netflix; but pricing such innovations out of the market will have a far greater impact on the environment that allowed for such innovations (and many many more) to be developed in the first place.

What can you do? http://www.reddit.com/r/canada/ is our battleground; a lot of information and ideas are posted and discussed there. Excellent list of actions one I take. Sign the petition. Attend a rally in downtown Toronto. Let everybody else know how this change will affect them. Join the discussions: @OpenMedia_ca, @ubbtor.

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Discussion

  1. Posted by Tweets that mention UBB (metered internet) will restrict innovation | CompSci.ca/blog -- Topsy.com | January 31, 2011, 2:50 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tony Targonski, Programming/Tech. Programming/Tech said: CompSci.ca: UBB (metered internet) will restrict innovation: New bell ad: stop the Belligerrence; from @ubbtor … http://bit.ly/hbneLz [...]

  2. Posted by Abhineet Kumar | February 7, 2011, 5:02 am

    Wow. Usage based billing could change the way net functions. Insightful piece of writing there.

    Reply to comment

  3. Posted by Rogers_Chris | February 10, 2011, 12:26 pm

    Hi, this is Chris from Rogers’ social media team. I just wanted to clear up any confusion and share our post on Redboard on the topic:

    http://redboard.rogers.com/2011/rogers-high-speed-internet-customers-not-impacted-by-crtc-decision/

    Cheers,
    @Rogers_Chris

    Reply to comment

    Tony replied on: February 17th, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Sorry for the delays — large backlog of spam to filter through.

    It’s good to see all sides joining in on the discussion, but I don’t think there was much confusion regarding Rogers. The CRTC decision had to do with small ISP. It seems fairly clear that the decision will not impact Rogers’ customers — Rogers has had UBB for some time already. 6 tiers of service and

    “each of our service options now includes a usage allowance”

    as seen on http://www.hispeed.rogers.com/bband/content/keepingpace/

    Reply to comment

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