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Public Interest News: Net throttling appeal / Recours collectif contre The Brick / The TV war / Credit cards beyond reach / Broadband expensive / Satisfy warrant or lose welfare

Campaign for Competitive Broadband: Appeal to Cabinet to reverse net neutrality decision

(PIAC 9/Nov/09) “With just 42 days before the federal cabinet must decide on the future of competitive internet service in Canada more than 41 different organizations and companies, including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the Canadian Association of Internet Service Providers, have joined the campaign for Competitive Broadband the Coalition for Competitive Broadband announced on Nov. 3.

At issue is an ill considered ruling by the CRTC that would provide incumbent former monopoly telcos like Bell and Telus the power to threaten competition in high speed broadband services. According to PIAC’s Executive Director Michael Janigan, “competition is how consumers are supposed to be protected. When a regulatory decision favours the big telecommunications giants over new entrants, it is bad for competition and leaves consumers less protected in the long run.” www.consumersforinternetcompetition.com

L’imposition de ces frais est contraire aux représentations faites par Brick: Option consommateurs

(PIAC 9/Nov/09) Option consommateurs a déposé ( le 5 nov ) une requête pour autorisation d’exercer un recours collectif contre The Brick Warrehouse LP, un détaillant de mobilier de maison, d’appareils électroménagers, d’appareils électroniques et de matelas, faisant affaire au Québec sous le nom de Brick Option consommateurs reproche au détaillant de leurrer ses clients à l’aide de ses slogans “Plus ne payez rien pendant 15 mois” et “aucun versement initial, aucun versement mensuel, aucun intérêt”. Dans les faits, les consommateurs qui adhèrent à son plan de financement doivent notamment verser des frais annuels de 35 $.

“L’imposition de ces frais est contraire aux représentations faites par Brick à ses clients, signale Me Stéphanie Poulin responsable du Service juridique d’Option consommateurs. Il s’agit de représentations fausses ou trompeuses.” Le recours collectif vise notamment à obtenir pour les membres du groupe le paiement d’une somme équivalant aux montants facturés en tant que “frais d’adhésion annuels”, un montant de 100 $ à titre de réduction de leurs obligations, ainsi que des dommages punitifs s’élevant à 5 millions de dollars.

Behind the headlines in the television war: Janigan calls for $15 per month basic cable package

(PIAC 9/Nov/09) “Both the distribution and broadcasting components of Canada’s television industry face the harsh reality of declining interest in the traditional formats for receipt of video, and with it, diminishing advertising revenues for previous network stalwarts. While the cable and satellite distributors claim that networks have mismanaged their way to penury, their own stewardship of reasonable cable and satellite rates has been exploitative at best,” Michael Janigan wrote in an Oct. 30 Cartt.ca article.

“A review of the policies that gave rise to the current spat … first priority must be to make basic service basic and affordable. It should contain only those channels that are required to meet the minimum needs of Canadians to access television programming. It would be priced to ensure access, and all services carried would be treated the same in terms of carriage fees paid to channels from the basic service rate. That rate, preferably less than $15 per month, would be set by regulatory review and capped by the CRTC in a similar fashion as basic service is capped in local service telephony,” PIAC’s executive director wrote in Cartt.ca.

Credit cards still beyond reach of many Canadians: PIAC report

(PIAC 9/Nov/09) “Credit cards are becoming the “preferred mode of payment” in Canada, but growing numbers of residents are unable to access plastic money, says a study by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre,” Rita Trichur wrote in the Toronto Star on Oct. 28.

“The report – Credit cards and access to the digital marketplace: A priceless necessity? – says this group includes new immigrants, aboriginals and others with no credit history, including lower-income Canadians. … Such exclusion has consequences for the larger Canadian economy, the study argues, noting credit cards are required for everyday tasks such as renting a car, purchasing airplane tickets and, in many cases, making online purchases,” the Toronto Star reported.

New type of payment cards need to establish credit ratings: Mike de Santis

(PIAC 9/Nov/09) “Mike de Santis, a researcher and articling student at Public Interest Advocacy Centre said low-income Canadians can and do use prepaid credit cards and gift cards as alternatives, but “Neither one of those options is a good option,” he said. “The prepaid credit cards actually involve very high fees for transactions, for all kinds of things that are normally included without fee for a conventional card,” Straight Goods News reported,

“As an alternative, PIAC recommends the development of a new sort of card that would be put out with major credit card branding. This would enable consumers to make purchases as if they had credit or debit cards without incurring credit. In the process, they would build their own credit ratings with the hope of later qualifying for true credit cards. A new system like this will require changes to the Bank Act says de Santis,” Straight Goods’ Ish Thielhiemer wrote on Nov. 3.

Throttle away CRTC says: No Net Neutrality

(PIAC 9/Nov/09) “The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today (Oct. 21) approved Canadian Internet Service Providers throttling of Internet connections in a decision that stands in stark contrast to the requirements being contemplated in the United States, which will require that such control does not interfere with customers’ choice of applications or services.

“We just went backwards at warp speed,” lamented John Lawford, counsel for a coalition of consumer groups that fought for an end to throttling of Internet traffic of consumers, “while we watch the U.S. rocket ahead. The CRTC has said in this decision that ISPs own your content and own your Internet connection” said Lawford, “You just got owned.” The Public Interest Advocacy Centre represented the Consumers’ Association of Canada, Canada Without Poverty and Option consommateurs during the hearings on net neutrality.

Big Internet carriers win right to manage traffic

(PIAC 9/Nov/09) “Canada’s big Internet carriers have scored a major victory, as the telecommunication regulator ruled it is okay for them to slow down some of the Web traffic travelling to customers’ personal computers – as long as the companies explain ahead of time what they are doing. In a decision that clarifies its approach to the practice known as traffic shaping, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Wednesday that companies such as Bell Canada, Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp. should do everything they can to expand network capacity,” the Globe and Mail reported on Oct. 22.

“But if they have to slow down or “throttle” some kinds of Internet traffic – such as downloads of large video or movie files – during high traffic periods, they can do so. John Lawford, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said it will be very difficult for consumers to fight carriers’ traffic-shaping decisions. Individuals or groups will have to gather evidence and line up experts if they want to take complaints to the CRTC – an expensive and time-consuming proposition,” the Globe’s Richard Blackwell wrote.

Satisfy warrant or lose welfare under new B.C. bill

(PIAC 9/Nov/09) “People with outstanding warrants will be denied social assistance in B.C., under a bill introduced by the provincial government yesterday. But critics were quick to warn that a past NDP government lost a court battle on the same issue, and expressed concern that the province is discriminating against people based on allegations and not convictions,” the Times Colonist reported on Oct. 20.

“Forcing someone to submit to a background check to receive support that could be considered a basic personal right leaves the province open to a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said Sarah Khan, staff lawyer at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Vancouver. “I think an issue is whether or not that’s really a rational requirement and legal requirement for applying for income assistance,” the Times Colonist’s Rob Shaw wrote.

Canada’s broadband network panned in Harvard study

On Oct. 16 the Vancouver Sun reported a Harvard study on broadband connectivity concluded: “The highest prices for the lowest speeds are overwhelmingly offered by firms in the United States and Canada, all of which inhabit markets structured around ‘inter-modal’ competition — that is, competition between one incumbent owning a telephone system, and one incumbent owning a cable system.

“Against that backdrop, Shaw introduced a 100-megabit-per-second Nitro service for Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, expanding on a launch earlier this year in Saskatoon, Victoria and Winnipeg. At $149 a month when bundled with other Shaw services and including a modem rental, the offering was panned by John Lawford, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, as being ‘astronomical,’ and far higher than in other countries. “The main point of that FCC report is that the price to speed ratio in Canada is the worst,” he said. “Especially in terms of what we are paying per megabyte, it is not impressive. It is much better in Japan and South Korea.” Lawford said even what is considered the high end of the speed scale in Canada is becoming average in other markets. “We are stuck in a situation with basically two routes in, cable and the incumbent phone line,” he said. “Unless that is open to competition there is no short-term fix for this,” the Sun’s Gillian Shaw reported.

Consumer groups shut out from hearings on local television

(PIAC 9/Nov/09) “Canadians are being shut out from hearings on local television after the Conservative government refused to help them participate, consumer advocates say. “This is a hearing about the impact of local broadcasting fees on consumers, yet consumers are not going to be represented,” said Michael Janigan of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre,” Sun Media reported on Oct. 16.

“Heritage Minister James Moore recently asked Canada’s television watchdog to study the possible impact on consumers of a fee-for-carriage system. Television broadcasters want cable and satellite companies to pay them to carry local signals, but the distributors say their subscribers will end up footing the bill and paying for stations they now watch for free. … But Friday, Moore’s spokeswoman Deirdra McCracken said the government would not provide the CRTC with extra cash for consumer groups,” Sun Media’s Altia Raj reported.

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