I have this dream of Measurement Canada being forced to regulate ISPs’ mirrors.
But an attempt by Canadian ISPs to garner an all-access pass that would let them secretly install software to monitor potentially illicit user activity was thwarted, at least in part.
According to the note accompanying the draft regulations, industry representatives “had argued for exemptions from the requirement for consent to install software to prevent unauthorized or fraudulent use of a service or system, or to update or upgrade systems on their networks.”
Under the revised rules, service providers would only be permitted to install software “where illegal activities pose a threat to [their] networks.”
Kady O’Malley, “Ottawa’s anti-spam proposals prohibit secret monitoring software”
We live in a dangerous time when ISPs - largely to head off potential federal regulations - establish private arrangements with copyright holders to disrupt Internet subscribers from accessing certain content. Sandoval notes that,
Last July, Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable and other bandwidth providers announced that they had agreed to adopt policies designed to discourage customers from pirating music, movies and software over the Web. Since then, the ISPs have been very quiet about their antipiracy measures.
But during a panel discussion here at a gathering of U.S. publishers, Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, said most of the participating ISPs are on track to begin implementing the program by July 12.
[Subscribers] will also be informed of the risks they incur if they don’t stop pirating material. The ISP then can ratchet up the pressure. The ISPs can choose from a list of penalties or what the RIAA calls “mitigation measures” that include throttling down the customer’s connection speed to suspending Web access until the subscriber agrees to stop pirating. The ISPs can waive the mitigation measure if they choose.
This isn’t a small matter: rights holders regularly make errors when they assert that a person is engaging in infringing behaviour. Rights holders assume that taking ISP subscribers hostage - by throttling or otherwise impacting their online behaviours - will (a) cause subscribers to cease potentially infringing behaviour; (b) lead subscribers to acquire content in non-infringing ways. I suspect that, instead, we’ll witness a ratcheting up of anonymization and encryption schemas to limit file sharing surveillance practices.
Many will say that ISP collaboration is just the next stage of an ongoing cat-and-mouse game but, in so saying this, may fail so see the larger implications of this game. In the UK, worries that the content industry might get powerful new legal capabilities via the Digital Economy Act led the security and intelligence services to protest a copyright-related bill. It wasn’t that the services were supportive of infringement but instead that, by encouraging regular citizens to evade and hide their online actions online for consumer gain, the services’ capabilities to monitor for threats to national security would be degraded.
That’s not a small matter. You may be pleased - or not - that the security and intelligence services’ operations might be hindered. Regardless, your stance doesn’t mitigate the fact that copyright legislation threatens to have far reaching impacts. Using ISPs as traffic cops that establish antagonistic relationships with their subscribers is poor business for the ISPs and potentially makes national security issues more challenging to combat. We need to have a far more holistic accounting of what new copyright capacities and actions mean for society generally and, in the process, get away from narrowed discussions that obfuscate or externalize the full potentialities that accompany the (prospective) criminalization broad swathes of the population.
Rogers’ SpeedBoost system temporarily increases the rate that data is transmitted to their customers in the earliest moments of downloading an item. This system is meant to get ‘bursty’ traffic to end-users faster that would otherwise occur, as well as initially buffer streaming video so that customers don’t suffer delays. It was initially couched as a free ‘extra’ but it seems like Rogers customers now get to pay for these ‘enhancements’:
… a Rogers representative insists that users are lucky that the hikes weren’t worse, given Rogers had to “absorb much of these costs.” The company insists the improvements include some additional TV channels and SpeedBoost, a technology that delivers a little extra bandwidth at the beginning of a download (Comcast users in the States know it as PowerBoost):
$2/customer is a hefty increase when all customers are aggregated. While DSL Reports suggests that this move is drive by a lack of competition in Rogers’ primary markets I think that this is only one element of the story. A key problem facing Canadian ISPs is the high market saturation in wireline Internet services; quite simply, it can be challenging to attract new customers away from their current providers to raise quarterly revenues. One solution is to increase prices in minuscule ways, such that you deliver increased “value” to shareholders while targeting increases just below consumers’ pain (and flight) points.
This doesn’t make Rogers’ practices any less horrible for their customers, but I really think that focusing exclusively on competition - and avoiding a reflection on market saturation - is missing a key part of the broader story.