Net Neutrality - Q&A With Bell Canada Expert

By Jon Newton 4/24/08

On Tuesday p2pnet ran two posts, one based on a Reader’s Write from Invictus, and the second on a later email exchange. The subject was Bell Canada’s efforts to dictate to users what they can and can’t do with their accounts, in the process seriously interfering with freedom of speech and net neutrality.

“Invictus is a former communications specialist —- and an ex-Bell Canada employee,” we said in the second post, continuing, “He’s worked as a consultant in England, Germany, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as for banks, and a major UK tourist company.

Jon Newton

“So when he says, ‘abolish the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Get on the next plane to Berlin, Germany and pick up a copy of the European rules and regulations —- Implement at once,’ he knows what he’s talking about.”

p2pnet contributor Ottawa Gal had a few questions for him:

Ottawa Gal: The CRTC tariffs to wholesale cable are pretty much prohibitive. There’s only one Videotron = wholesaler/reseller and it’s 65$ for 7-meg unlimited, and they serve only the Montreal area. The CRTC tariffs (which I don’t have handy unfortunately, and I get lost searching info on the CRTC web site to be honest) are much much higher than DSL. If it was more cost effective, the wholesaler would be all over Videotron selling their services.

I’m unsure what the problem is with wholesaling Rogers. I believe Rogers claims it can’t offer much in the way of unfettered wholesale access because of “congestion” problems. But I’m not 100% sure. (If you know the reason, I’d love to hear it.)

So, given the cost of wholesaling cable and seeing they’re only offering only 7-meg in 2008, I don’t see anything much better to come by 2010.

But some of the blame has to lay with the CRTC on this because of the prohibitive wholesale costs, and the CRTC allowing the costs to be so high and making it uncompetitive for the wholesalers to even use them.

If things don’t change the monopolies will never change, nor will the situation.

Our government has chosen a “hands off” approach. Is there legislative or CRTC reform needed?

Invictus: The only problem with wholesaling Cable by Rogers is Rogers. They’ve used any and every trick in the book to prevent access to their network. They’ve given a company called 3com/CIA limited access, mainly for VoIP service. 3com has an office in Ottawa. Don’t ever think to use them; they have the worst reputation, especially when itcomes to billing. That Rogers has a congestion problem in their network is pure unadulterated nonsense. Fiction, nothing but fiction.

Rogers has a 18mb/s in the pipeline. (Congestion? What congestion)

In Quebec they did open the cable network to smaller ISP’s. However, I’m unfamiliar with the way they achieved this, and I really don’t want to offer my opinion on something I’m not sure of.

To find the ISPs, just Google them.

The prices are set by the carriers, and in the past, the CRTC has rubberstamped most applications for rate increases.

In Europe, carriers have found it’s more profitable to open their networks to ISPs, and to concentrate on improving it. There was a carrot and stick approach by the western EU countries regarding the opening of networks. The carriers have in the meantime embraced this and are quite happy and making money. The idea that a public television show could not be transmitted in either real time or slightly delayed as in the case of the CBC would provoke a public outcry and probably charges against the carrier.

It’s my humble opinion that the carriers have a long term goal of combining their media with their delivery system. They’ve been doing that for the last few years. It’s strange indeed that the cost structure for both Cable and Telco’s is similar.

I equate this with a growing cancer: first it hurts a bit, you don’t worry, then it hurts more, you start to take Aspirin. Finally you go to the doctor and he tells you it’s too late, you should have seen him when it first startedto hurt.

Look familiar?

Ottawa Gal: Bell’s copper structure is 40 or more years old in many areas. People who should have faster internet access get only 1-meg or 3-meg (and they over 50$ for this!) due to shorts on the line, humidity problems, wires open to the elements, and so forth. Even people who have the new stingers (remotes) in their areas to give them faster speeds are plagued with copper line problems.

What’s the problem with replacing aged copper cable (lets say a defective cable) with fiber? Why isn’t it being done?

I personally had a Bell employee at my own house who told me the cable feeding me is finished and needs to be replaced (it was put up in the 60’s) and that’s why I was having so many problems with my Bell internet and phone.

The Bell technician literally spent four hours trying all available copper-pairs left on the cable feeding our house, ’til he found a pair that was stable and didn’t show a “cross or short” on it.

Millions of people probably have this same issue.

Is the cost really that prohibitive that they can’t replace 40+ year old copper in Canada with fiber?

I’ve seen Bell employees say in the forums that the cost is prohibitive due to the vast amount of copper that would need to be replaced. The Bell Employee’s also said that Canada can’t be compared to Europe (or other places) because the land area is much vaster given the population density.

In other words, the numbers of people in a given area don’t justify the cost of replacing the old copper with fiber.

Any opinion on this? Any opinion on the “population density Versus area” argument as the Bell employees tell people?

Invictus: There’s no reason not to replace most copper cables with fibre optics. HOWEVER, some people in Canada will not get the benefit of fibre optics. A lot of Bell’s cabling is ABOVE the ground, while ideally, fibre cables should be buried. You can’t isolate an above cable from the elements the way you can with buried cable. Trust me, I climbed enough poles in my rookie years. That’s one reason the Asians want to go wireless completely.

In Europe, they’ll have fibre optics to the house. The only copper left will be in the house. Several trials are underway to change that, ie, fibre to the house, wireless thereafter. It would be a higher cost for Bell as they need not only to replace the copper wire, but also the equipment in the central office.

However, this argument doesn’t wash with me.They don’t have a problem putting cell phone towers into remote areas. Therefore, they can provide wireless to remote areas.

Bell will, of course, be whining that this puts a strain on their network.

Complete rubbish.

If a country such as Thailand can provide the service in the remotest of jungle areas (and they do), so can Bell. The climatic conditions in Thailand orVietnam (they both go the same route) are far worse than in Canada. But despite allt he monsoon rains in Asia the phones work perfectly.

Ottawa Gal: I know in Europe they already have 10-meg everywhere and going to 100-meg. If I’m not mistaken, Korea already has residential 100-meg internet. Bell is still having trouble giving people 5-meg. Do you think this will end by 2013?

And do you think the big Telcos are intentionally stalling the deployment of current technology? If so, why

Invictus: The fastest way to improve service lies with parliament. I’m afraid Bell will try to stretch their outdated network as long as they can. The longer the present malaise exists, the more they’ll try to squeeze out of the consumer. Just watch them go before the CRTC, asking for atmospheric increases, because if they don’t get the increases it’ll be Armageddon.

I’ve listened to that story too many times.

Ottawa Gal: Do you have any opinion as to why Bell would want to throttle their wholesalers? Do you think it comes down to them being anti-competitive?

Or do you really think it’s possible that 5% of the internet users who use P2P application actually congested all of Bell’s network and this has to be done (while the rest of the civilized world goes to 100-meg fiber)?

If the CRTC rules Bell can throttle their wholesale competition, it would set a precedent for all Canadian Telcos to do the same. In effect all Canadian Internet providers can become throttled at any time and control the content application speed of their choosing (be it YouTube, Google, Facebook), while the Canadian people continue to pay $50+ for controlled internet.

What’a your opinion or outlook on this when you compare it to other countries you’ve worked in? Would you equate this on the same level as how China blocks its citizens from certain web sites?

Invictus: As I said before, they want to combine their media operation with the way it’s transmitted. Rest assured that if they get away with it, you’ll have all sorts of ‘Premium products,’ ie, no limit downloads, 16mb/s etc, and all at super premium prices.

What China is doing is quite different. They deny access to certain sites, but don’t use throttling.

Ottawa Gal: Does the CRTC need to take the bull by the horns so to speak, put a stop to this now, put in regulations for internet providers, and also regulate quality of service?

Invictus: The CRTC will use parliament as the scapegoat for this one. (We don’t have the authority,etc,etc,) and in a way, they’re right.

There should be a public inquiry into the behavior of the carriers. I’ll bet you a trip to a great beach in Asia that as soon as the subpoenas are sent out, there’d be a big turn around in their attitudes.

Until then, good luck.


Jon Newton is the editor of and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Ottawa Gal is a long-time p2pnet reader and comment poster who’d rather remain anonymous. She says she works in the University, likes her cat, reality TV, and Doctor McDreamy. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.

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