canada

New CASL Rules

typewritingAre you suddenly being bombarded with companies sending you emails asking you if you will continue to get their emails?  This is because the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) takes effect on July 1st.  The thing is, rules about sending emails to customers has been with us in one form or another for a while.  What’s different now is the mention of penalties.

There are three parts of the legislation that you must have as a requirement for sending out emails to customers.

  • obtain user consent
  • provide an unsubscribe mechanism and
  • maintain accessible contact information (in other words, allow people the ability to change and alter their contact info)

The big difference now is the need for Express Intent.  This means that the company must disclose why they want the information and for what company, and the user then can decide whether or not to give it.  Up to now Implied consent was how marketers got their mailing lists.    And you can be on a list because you bought something from that company in the last two years.  Made an inquiry about a product or service in the last two years, and donated money to a charity in the last two years.

If you are a company that has a mailing list that you have grown over the last few years, by all means send a message to your users asking them to re-commit.  But you can also point out in your next mailing that you only use their information for the purpose of the newsletters you send to them, and that they can unsubscribe at any time if they wish.  Constant Contact (and I imagine the other big players like MailChimp) have some tools to send out confirmation messages to your mailing list if you want to confirm that you are complying with the new law.

CRTC Site

Lego Man!

Two weeks ago, Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad launched a homemade balloon carrying a Lego passenger and four cameras. It fell back down to Earth 97 minutes later (in Peterborough) with astonishing footage from an estimated 24 kilometres above sea level, three times the typical cruising altitude of a commercial aircraft.

This is what a bit of ingenuity, knowledge from the web, and two young men who will likely go far, can do when they try.

Watch this fascinating video. Their photos are wonderful and you can check out the video below.

 

 

Cyber Monday?

I went online today and saw all these emails from my usual stores telling me about Cyber Monday.  What?  I’ve never heard of that one before.  We just got over Black Friday (which we never really experienced much before,  not having our Thanksgiving in November and marking the official beginning of Christmas shopping).

Seems retailers really want us to get out there and spend, spend, spend!  I looked it up and the term originated in 2005 by a company at shop.org.

I have to admit, I was thinking of getting an iPad recently (for research purposes only, of course) and a local retailer told me that Apple products never go on sale.  I decided to wait and sure enough, on Friday they had them at $50 off at that same retailer, and $61 off at Apple.com (Canada’s site).  Not a huge discount, but it almost paid for the sales tax!

Video Scribing

My friend, Kevin Frank, whom I’ve mentioned before, recently did a job for

Storybook Solutions, promoting Sarnia. If you watch the video in Vimeo you will see how interesting it makes the topic they are talking about.

Kevin Frank

Kevin's drawing for Storybook Solutions

They’ve filmed the drawings, sped it up and had someone do a voice-over about what Kevin is drawing. It shows how important images are on your website, and visualizations work far more than words alone do. Let’s face it, talking about $3 million compared to $30 million is just words, but an image of big bags of money vs a pile of bags of money makes that point so much better.

Just another idea to make your website stand out and to help people want to read it. We may be all grown up, but it shows that a picture is still worth a thousand words, and we like when they are drawn for us too!

Patent Trolls don’t live under bridges!

Patent Trolls don't live under bridgesIn the last year I’m sure you’ve read about the end of companies like Nortel and the scramble to buy up the patents. Apple, Microsoft and Google were among the companies that bought the patents as part of a consortium. Now I’m sure that you are thinking that they wanted them in order to create new and better products or technology with these items? Unfortunately, it was more of a protection measure.

In a term coined by Peter Detkin patent trolls are companies that buy up patents with the expressed intent of using them to sue other companies.  The term applies to companies that do the following:

 

  • Purchases a patent, often from a bankrupt firm, and then sues another company by claiming that one of its products infringes on the purchased patent
  • Enforces patents against alleged infringers without itself intending to make the product or supply the service that the patent covers
  • Enforces patents but has no manufacturing or research base, often they are just a P. O. Box
  • Focuses its efforts solely on enforcing patent rights, meaning that is their only business
  • Asserts patent infringement claims against non-copiers or against a large industry that is composed of non-copiers, meaning, they just sue someone because it is so expensive to even go to court, so often companies pay a settlement to make it go away, when in fact both parties know that they haven’t infringed any copyright.

Laws are being looked at and implemented, but they will need to be make so that they help small start ups and not the Patent Trolls and lawyers that seem to make much of the money at the moment.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_troll

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Detkin

Deal Book

 

Long Distance and Roaming

My husband is a long distance truck driver. This fact helps me work all hours when he’s not home, but mostly it means for expensive phone costs.  We like to speak to each other at least once a day (and sometimes more) to check in.  But it does cost a fortune.  Driving every week in the U.S. and calling Canada isn’t cheap.  People in the U.S. get plans whereby they can across the country for the same amount per minute, while a phone call to a town twenty minutes away from us is long distance.

Before we knew better, we were paying about $500 a month long distance for a plan with one carrier.  Then we switched to another and it was a bit less. But we finally found a solution.  A bit complicated one, but a solution nonetheless.

I heard from a friend who goes to Florida each winter that she buys something called a Magic  Jack.  You plug it into your computer’s usb, plug a phone into the magic jack and you can make long distance calls to anywhere in North America for the cost of the yearly plan. (which is $39.99)  That sounded good and within a couple of months I would save the cost of the extra calls I make to the phone in Newcastle.  So I bought that.  However, I was still calling his work cell phone and they weren’t so happy about the time that added up for a month’s worth of calls.

Another client also goes to Florida and had told me about the cell phones that they buy when they are in the States that are really reasonable.  They are called a TracFone.  You can buy a phone for $9.99 and then buy minutes that are very reasonable.  You can also buy a plan that doubles the minutes for the cards that you purchase.  And you can call anywhere in the States and Canada (you have to dial a 800 number first, but that can be programmed in) for those minutes.

So now I can call my husband with my Magic Jack phone from my computer (which has a New York telephone number) for unlimited time and he can call me on my Magic Jack phone or our regular phone using his TracFone.  Altogether the two plans cost us approx. $150, but the minutes from his new phone and my year of calls will end up a lot cheaper than anything that Canada so far has.

Just to note, you can get a Canadian phone number from Magic Jack, but it costs more and it may not be in your own area.  Another service we tried called Net10 promised a local number, but the number was in Toronto, meaning it was still long distance for me to call.

So you can get around the costs of long distance in Canada, but it is pretty complicated!

Stop the Meter and Stop the Spying bill

Open Media has petitions on at the moment to Stop the Metering of our internet.  The companies that own the cable networks that we have previously been watching are worried that they are going to lose that revenue stream as more and more people watch content on their computers.  With movies online, YouTube and music, more and more people aren’t even subscribing to cable any longer.

Here is a video that explains it better than I can.

 

 

 

Another contentious bill that will be debated and voted on when Parliament goes back in session (after their long summer holiday) is

an invasive, anti-Internet set of “Lawful Access” electronic surveillance laws within the first 100 days of Parliament. If passed, these laws will turn Internet service providers (ISPs) against their own customers by making them collect our personal information without court oversight.

go to rabble.ca to read more

Not only is this scary for our privacy and civil liberties, this will force a lot of smaller Internet Providers out of business because of the cost of putting the software in place to collect the information needed.

Open Media is asking us to sign their petition about this as well.  Both of these initiatives have long reaching implications for all of us.  We already have one of the most expensive internet systems in the world, and these two initiatives will make us even more expensive and our use of it even more limited.

 

Compare between 350 indie ISPs at CanadianISP.com, and show Big Telecom that you’re not buying!

 

What is Net Neutrality and how does it affect you?

Essentially, net neutrality is the idea that no group should be able to discriminate against applications or content found on the Internet. That means no blocking access to web content, and no speeding up or slowing down of specific online services. It means the Internet should be a level playing field for ideas and innovation.

An interesting book by Barbara van Schewick explains how the Internet was originally constructed in “Internet Architecture and Innovation”. She explains that many technologies have an architecture to them that makes them easy or difficult to add other uses to. The Internet was constructed in such an open way in the beginning as the men who designed it had no idea what it would be used for in the future, if at all. They only knew what they wanted to use it for. In fact they thought the idea of people searching for something on the Internet was laughable. But, because they didn’t make any assumptions about what it may be used for, they designed it in a general way that could be easily added to.

This was very important for innovation, because the beauty of the Internet was that as long as you followed the few rules that it had when it was constructed, you could design programs that would work with it. This was important because if it had been constructed differently and you had to convince the architects of the original Internet to change something in their original platform every time to you wanted to design something for it, you would have to convince them that it was worth the effort. And in the history of the Internet, we hear over and over that when an idea was first conceived, people didn’t usually think it would ever work. In 1995 a fellow called Pierre Omidyar thought it would be a neat idea to sell items by auction online. He told his friends about it and they thought he was crazy, but he went ahead and spent a long weekend in his San Jose living room writing the code for this and put it on the web. He just was able to put it out there without having to convince anyone that it was worth it, just to see what would happen. And eBay was born.

Deep Packet Inspection
In the early days of the internet, you could use it without anyone knowing what you were doing on it. Your internet provider (or IP) didn’t know whether you were sending emails, uploading websites or downloading music. However, now your IPs employ something called “deep packet inspection”. When data has to be transmitted, it is broken down into similar structures of data, which are reassembled to the original data chunk once they reach their destination. This is how anything you do over the internet is sent. Deep Packet Inspection came about when viruses started to appear and caused more and more problems for internet users. A packet is made up of different information such as the source IP address, the destination IP address, the sequence number of the packets, the type of service, flags and other information. By reading these packets, IPs are able to filter out the viruses before they reached their own network and your computer. However now they are using this inspection for totally different purposes and that is what Net Neutrality is all about.
The argument about Net Neutrality is this: Internet providers think they should control what goes over their networks to keep its operation fair to all. However others feel they are stifling innovation by trying to control information that detracts from their own business interests. The eBay story is important to the idea of innovation over the internet. Because the internet was so open, this fellow was able to just write up some code, put it on line and see if anyone would find it as good an idea that he did. He didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to put the site up, didn’t need any start up funds from anyone, he was just a smart guy who saw the potential of something and went ahead and did it. Google has a video program called Google video. It hoped to be something like YouTube. Likely though, you’ve never heard of it. Because YouTube was a better product and easier to use, people just voted with their clicks. This is what people are afraid of losing if the internet loses what Barbara van Schewick calls being Internet Agnostic. The internet providers claim they need to control what is happening on their networks so certain programs and people don’t hog all the bandwidth, but there are already tools to solve those problems without distorting the level playing field among their competition and classes of applications.

Some examples of how this inspection has not been agnostic:

  • In 2005, Telus blocked access to hundreds of websites during a dispute with its labour union (sites and blogs about the dispute),
  •  

  • Shaw attempted to levy surcharges for Internet telephony services
  •  

  • Rogers quietly limited bandwidth for legitimate peer-to-peer software application (because it competed with their own VoIP offerings)
  •  

  • and Videotron mused publicly about establishing a new Internet transmission tariff that would require content creators to pay millions for the privilege of transmitting their content.
  •  

 

In Europe, most mobile providers won’t allow their customers to use Skype over the network because it competes with their own products.

Throughout the history of the internet, the low cost innovators have been the ones that created the most important applications that we use today, eBay, Flicker, Blogger, Facebook, Twitter. If we had lived in a world where you had to have investment, none or few of these innovations would exist today.

Now, you may ask, why shouldn’t the network providers be able to regulate their own networks? After all, they set them up? Well that is true, but they also get a lot of public money to help them. And like a car company can build their cars whatever way they like, they still have to adhere to regulations that make things fair and safe for the users. And the internet is even more important because it is one of the central infrastructures of our time. We communicate, study, work and generally stay in touch over it. And we can’t allow them to shape the future of the internet for their own commercial interests and not the interest of the public that uses it and now relies on it.

In the end, we don’t want network providers to be able to stifle the innovation that the internet is famous for. And we would like to continue to have the freedom to decide for ourselves what the better applications are. Let’s hope that Net Neutrality can continue.

Sources:

“Internet Architecture and Innovation”. by Barbara van Schewick – Spark Interview with by Barbara van Schewick – CBC, Spark

Michael Geist – his blog at www.michaelgeist.ca

Canada falling behind

The OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) released a report that revealed that Canada has one of the slowest and most expensive consumer broadband networks in the developed world. Canada was compared with 29 other countries on a range of metrics. These included broadband availability, pricing, speed and bandwidth caps. At first our numbers don’t seem so bad with Canada ranking 9th out of 30 countries for broadband penetration.

“Yet, the situation becomes far more troubling once the OECD delves deeper into Canadian pricing and speed.
Canada is relatively expensive by OECD standards, ranking 14th for monthly subscription costs at $45.54 (US) compared to $30.46 (Japan) and $30.63 (UK). This high price may explain why many Canadians with access to broadband are choosing not to subscribe.” Michael Geist

Mixhael Geist has gone before the Standing Committee on Transport and Communications to discuss the state of telecommunications in Canada. And his speech is posted here. As he says, “Canada was once a global leader, yet today the marketplace suffers from high prices, slow speeds, and throttled services that have led to a decline in comparison with peer countries.”

When price and speed are compared, that is when Canada slides to the bottom of the list, ranking 28th out of 30 countries, only ahead of Mexico and Poland.

To read the OECD press release (but not necessarily understand it the first time round) click here.

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