CRTC Isn't Very Effective

Posted by Somnium Exertus | Posted in , | Posted on 23:06

Today I watched the CRTC sweat bullets in Part One of their talks in Parliament, here's what I noticed.

1) Mr. Finckenstein of the CRTC does not know the difference between gigabyte, gigabit and gigahertz. These are significantly different, as 1 gigabyte == 8 gigabits, a measure of data units. Gigahertz, on the other hand, measures the number of cycles per second of a computer processor, a measure of how fast the processor can handle the most basic operations on individual bits. To put it in a clear analogy for you, by using these interchangeably, he is effectively saying that the Canada/US border is both  8,891 kilometers long and 71,128 kilometers long, as well as being 8,891 kilometers per hour long!

2) Mr. Finckenstein of the CRTC is unaware of what data is actually sent between devices in standard scenarios. In giving examples of 'heavy internet usage' he lists various uses of the internet such as streaming video and 3d gaming. It is true that 3D gaming is a resource-intensive computer activity, however he is mistaken as to the division of labour within such a game. If you're playing a 3D internet game, World of Warcraft for example, your computer is doing the heavy work of creating the graphics. What is actually being sent over the internet to the other players are tiny collections of data that give your character's current position in the game world along with all their items and what action they are carrying out. It's exactly like someone handing you a multiple-choice exam - you are doing the hard work of reading the questions and thinking, but in the end the only information you are sending out is indicating you chose answer C. Yes taking a multiple choice exam is relatively hard, but actually communicating your answers is trivial.

3) Mr. Finckenstein of the CRTC does not does not understand network congestion. A network is considered congested when, at any given unit of time, the sum of all subscribers to a main line are requesting a sum of data that is too large for the network to deliver in the usual time.

Think back to your last streamed movie or YouTube video that had issues. Initially the video was perfect. Congestion set in and as a result the video had to stop to "buffer". This means the data wasn't getting to your computer fast enough, so you have to wait longer to give it enough time to get to you. However, think back to your last Skype call that had issues. When a Skype call encounters congestion, instead of inserting pauses in the conversation, it reduces the quality of the video and audio so that your computer is not asking for as much data. In both cases, these ways to counter congestion aren't permanent, they are adjusted to only apply when they need to be, otherwise giving you the best quality available at the time.

4) Mr. Finckenstein of the CRTC is unaware that network congestion can be avoided by the end user by transmitting data during off-peak times. Suppose that both you and I enjoy watching Youtube videos. We are all aware of the different levels of quality you can chose: 320p, 480p, 720p and 1080p. I can watch the exact same videos that you watch on YouTube within the span of a month, but for argument's sake I'll watch them in 1080p while you watch in 320p. I have watched the same total time of video content as you have, but I have actually requested a much larger volume of data than you. Immediately you are probably thinking that I am more at fault for network congestion and would label me as a heavy user. It is true that I have requested more data from YouTube overall, yes, but what you don't know is that I watched my videos between 11pm and 6am, when most people are asleep. Nearly all residential customers would not be using their internet connections at this point, meaning there is very little traffic on the network, and hence I wouldn't be causing congestion for other customers. You watched your videos on your free break between 10am and noon, when everyone is awake and at work. Guess who has contributed more to network congestion by requesting less data? I'll give you a hint: it's not me.

So from these 4 points, I hope to have clarified some of the techno-babble present in this recent debate. If you've been reading carefully, you'll notice something peculiar. The CRTC has approved Bell Canada to essentially 'rent out' its network of cables to allow roughly 500 000 customers to connect to the internet with other small-scale Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Bell submitted this business proposal with the criterion that their 'caps' would remain in place. Bell's caps prevent a residential user from transmitting more than 25 gigabytes of data in a month. That's Bell's own rule. That cap is being transferred to the smaller ISPs when they use Bell's lines for their service. The CRTC, either under the pressure of Bell's economic might or through their own incompetence of the very things they are in charge of, have accepted this addition to the proposal as an acceptable countermeasure to network congestion. But didn't I just explain to you how the size of the data an individual asks for isn't a factor with network congestion, it's relative to the peak usage hours? Yep, I did.

So now you will see why myself, and other computer geeks around the country are up in arms over this issue. The CRTC approved a legal contract -  either in violation of their own stated goals (from their website - "... the CRTC ensures that Canadians receive reliable telephone and other telecommunications services, at affordable prices."), or if they claim they are not violating these goals, they have approved a legal contract that exemplifies their utmost incompetence in the subject field in which they are expected to be the ultimate authority.

Song of the day: Thomas Hart - Biscuits (Ryan Riback's Crunchy Remix)
Page of the day: Extreme Howto: Troubleshooting Toilets
Pocket change: $6.00

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