More on the Sad State of Canadian Broadband
Tucows President and CEO, Elliot Noss appeared on Business News Network’s (BNN) “After Hours” program here in Canada yesterday to followup on his comments made recently on the Tucows Inc. website.
In that post, Elliot called out Canadian broadband providers as lagging behind much of the rest of the world when it comes to providing affordable, fast, and reliable broadband Internet access.
He follows up on his comments in a discussion with BNN’s Andrew Bell. Click here to view the clip at the BNN website.
Tucows supports UCOSP to foster education in Open Source
Two things Tucows can always get behind are open source software initiatives, and computer science education.
Recently we’ve been able to put our money where our mouths are by helping to sponsor the UCOSP (Undergraduate Capstone Open Source Projects), being run by Greg Wilson out of the University of Toronto.
To paraphrase their own website:
Starting in September 2009, computer science students from several universities in Canada and the US are taking part in a set of joint capstone projects in order to learn first-hand what distributed development is like. Each team will have students from two or three schools, and will use a mix of agile and open source processes under the supervision of a faculty or industry lead.
What it really means is that students from schools all over Canada (and some from the US and Caribbean) get to earn course credits by working in teams on an open-source project – for example, ElmCity, Ingres, Thunderbird, Eclipse4Edu, etc. It’s a multi-layered challenge for them as they need to figure out how to work in a distributed team, plan their time vs. their other courses, learn how to participate in an open-source project, and…oh yeah, code useful contributions!
MarkUs: Young coders that participated in the UCOSP Code Sprint
The kickoff was back at the beginning of October, when all participants were brought together in Toronto for a weekend to meet each other, learn about their projects, and figure out how they would coordinate their efforts. From there the students have been working remotely using Agile methodologies, and blogging their progress.
For us at Tucows it’s great to get involved with some bright, budding talent and help them get a taste for delivering in ‘the real world’.
If you want to know more about the program, or get involved, go ahead and visit the website!
Jody Stocks is the Senior Director of Software Engineering at Tucows Inc.
The photo is courtesy of Greg Wilson, UCOSP.
Bringing More Efficiency To The Secondary Domain Market
Some experiences in the last couple weeks have me thinking about the need for registrars to rethink their approach to the secondary market for domain names and how we deal with each other when high-value domain names are hijacked. In this post I would like to briefly examine this and make a specific suggestion that I believe will help in credibility and therefore efficiency.
There is no question that the secondary market for domain names has become much more efficient. The number of transactions involving high-value domain names has greatly increased which can be seen simply by looking at the weekly results from Buy Domains and Sedo (for the purposes of this post I am thinking about transactions greater than $500). We can also see greater efficiency with the maturing of the various listing services (DDN, DLS, MLS) and with greater integration by registrars of secondary market domain names in their domain name search results.
The last few years have seen a huge increase in the importance of the secondary market for domain registration relative to the whole domain name economy. While many of the major players are the same, there are also important differences and those differences require some fresh thinking about how to make the secondary market more efficient and more effective.
Of course as this market becomes more lucrative it attracts more “bad guys”. Anecdotally, all the large registrars are seeing increases in the number of hijacking attempts. When aimed at registrars themselves, these seem to be well dealt with, but when these hijackings stem from a hack aimed at third-party email services there is little that registrars can do at a system security level.
We have been involved in two situations recently, one where we were in receipt of a domain name that was thought to be obtained illegally and one where a registrant of ours had a third-party email address compromised. In the first, we worked with the losing registrar and, with the proper protections, returned the domain name to them. In the other, the gaining registrar felt their obligation was to their customer who claimed to have obtained the allegedly stolen domain name from a third-party. They would not help us at first instance. I expect this latter situation to be worked out but it did have me thinking.
With the secondary market the players are different. There is essentially no registry involvement and, probably more importantly, there is no formal role for ICANN to play other than as it relates to its contracts. As well there are additional players, specifically owners of high-value names and the various secondary market marketplaces.
These secondary market transactions are of a much higher dollar value than those in the primary market. They warrant a different approach.
Of course there are best practices and additional security measures and services that all owners of valuable domain names should avail themselves of. I expect these services to greatly increase in both scope and sophistication in the coming year. And of course their adoption will not be universal.
I believe that registrars should develop a more standardized approach as to how they deal with these situations. We should set out appropriate practices. Of course there will be exceptions and of course any guidelines cannot be too proscriptive. BUT if we are effective in doing this we will accomplish two things. First, we will make the market safer for those customers who own high-value domain names. Second, we will make things much more difficult for those who attempt to steal the property of those rightful owners AND for those who provide liquidity for the hijackers by buying the stolen property, often with little repercussions.
While in Korea this week for the ICANN meeting I will have the opportunity to meet with representatives of most of the major registrars. We all have an interest in making the market cleaner and more efficient. It is still early days and I have no doubt that this will be warmly received as would any input from other interested parties.
The Sad State of Broadband in Canada
In response to poor results in recent OECD tables and a number of other benchmarks, Canadian telcos and cablecos have fought back by commissioning a “study” to respond to criticisms about the (in my view abysmal) state of the Canadian broadband market. The author concludes “Canadians have access to some of the most affordable services, while also benefiting from some of the world’s fastest connection speeds for both wireline and wireless broadband services”.
Sadly, it seems only he agrees. In my role at Tucows I have the pleasure of traveling all over the world and having customers who are service providers all over the world. We are always discussing access markets. I could bore you with story after story but very few countries have slower, more expensive access offering than us in Canada. A fantastic study done for the FCC by the Berkman Center for Internet Studies at Harvard is just the most recent to confirm the sad state of broadband in Canada.
It is not that the author is incorrect, rather he is misleading and the document is more of a telco/cableco marketing document than a study. I will identify some specific criticisms.
First, and most importantly, is the definition of “broadband” which sets the benchmark from which all measurement and conclusion flows. The “study” uses 1.5mbs as its threshold. 1.5mbps! I believe this was the launch speed for Bell Canada’s dsl service in 1998. 1.5mbps as “broadband” borders on nostalgic. This, more than anything else, takes this from “study” to “attempt at persuasion”.
It is as if we were talking about hunger and debating how many Canadians are starving. I, and many others, are lamenting how hungry we are. We are complaining that in a country like Canada we should be eating MUCH better. Eating is important for health and innovation and jobs. And the telcos and cablecos have produced a “study” that assures us that we are in great shape. That in fact the whole country has access to a bowl of gruel every day. That we should be celebrating our leadership, not lamenting our laggard status. That we have healthy, competitive markets that are doing just fine thank you very much.
My second complaint is in the $/mbps analysis wherein the author concludes that we are not nearly as bad as other studies indicate. He uses as his sole basis for the analysis a Videotron service that is $80/mo for 50mbps. First, he ignores that this service is very limited in coverage and that a similar service from Rogers is $125/mo. Second, he lauds the fact that this moves us from 28th to 8th on the world tables. Never mind that this is only for OECD countries and that there are dozens of non-OECD countries who have far superior offerings. But 28th to 8th? It is like watching CBC coverage of Canadian athletes in the summer Olympics! “Just look at that top ten finish!”. Last, and most importantly, it completely ignores upstream bandwidth.
Rogers recently launched a 50mbps service to limited areas in Toronto. It is only “up to 2mbps” upstream! Quick story. My son (11) spent last weekend hard at work on a video for a charity project that his class was engaged in. After many hours and missing much of the weekend’s fun he finished his slightly over 3-minute video which naturally included some video clips that were HD. To upload that video to Vimeo took three tries and 45 minutes (and this was after failing to upload on a couple tries to youtube due to ?). Total time spent on the upload was well over two hours. AND, worst of all, after finishing we were obviously placed in to some kind of copyright-infringing bandwidth hogging penalty box at Rogers and the Internet basically crapped out and took some waiting and a number of router reboots to return to normal.
What parent wouldn’t want their son spending hours on the weekend filming, editing, doing voiceovers, poking at software to make a video FOR SCHOOL. FOR CHARITY! sadly, the current Canadian broadband market not only discourages, but punishes this behavior.
I want, and there is no reason we cannot have, at least 100mbs full symmetrical bandwidth. It is a global competitive imperative. Telcos, Cablecos, I do not want your lousy bowl of 1.5mbps gruel. Please sir, may I have some more?
On “The Affirmation of Commitments”
There was big news in the ICANN world today with the announcement of the “Affirmation of Commitments”. This is the document which will now govern the relationship between ICANN and the US government (“USG”) as well as the rest of the world (“ROW”).
This is an important step in ICANN’s evolution in two respects. It signifies a significant move away from formal USG control of ICANN and it further solidifies ICANN’s role in governing the Internet and that governance being global in nature, NOT controlled by the national governments of the world.
Remember that ICANN was created in 1999 and has had three different types of documents governing its relationship with the USG. We have gone from a “Memorandum of Understanding” to a “Joint Project Agreement” to now an “Affirmation of Commitments” (AoC). To quote Bret Fausett, in this ever lightening chain of commitments, what is the next step? Facebook Friends?
Seriously, this removes a serious problem for ICANN. Since its inception ROW has been troubled by the exclusive oversight that the USG had over ICANN. The Internet is global, so should the oversight be. This has led from time to time for calls for the UN, the ITU or some other quango to take over from the USG. The AoC addresses this and gives the ROW a large say in appointing the group that provides oversight to ICANN. This is a HUGE step forward.
Notice I did not say that the ROW has a say in oversight, just in appointing the group that provides oversight. This is equally important. The terms of this oversight are laid out in the AoC and what happens if ICANN does not abide by these terms is also spelled out, the AoC fails and we are back to where we were to try again. This is a fantastic way to allow ICANN to flourish independently and to keep ICANN a global, not international organization. Think of this as a trust and those appointed as trustees. They will determine whether the terms of the trust have been abided by. If there have not been complied with then ICANN reverts to its previous state of USG control and we start again.
In its day to day operations this will not make a lot of difference. There were VERY few circumstances where the USG had a heavy hand. The dis-allowance of .xxx and the occasional burst of input when big IP interests would complain about domain names and copyright are the few exceptions. The USG deserves a thanks for its role to date.
It is also very important that we (and by “we” I mean “we the Internet”) have avoided the UN or the ITU. Either would have been disastrous for ICANN in my view.
All in all a good day and another positive development in the young regime of Rod Beckstrom as ICANN CEO. Now let’s see if he can thread a needle on new gTLDs!
A Look back at One Web Day 2009
The 3rd annual One Web Day celebration was a great success. We were proud to be a sponsor and celebrate both at our headquarters in Toronto, and later in the day with with the larger Toronto Internet community at an evening social event.
Our computer drive for Little Geeks was quite successful as well with donations received from Tucows employees and from the local community as well. We delivered the donated computers, scanners and laptops to the Little Geeks team to be refurbished and, eventually, to be delivered to kids who need them. You can still help out by making an online cash donation to Little Geeks.
Check out some of the photo highlights:
- View photos from OneWebDay events around the world on Flickr
- See photos of Tucows employees who joined in the OWD poster wave.
We also asked some One Web Day questions of our staff
What types of things do you think the Internet can change?
- The way we do business
- makes the world smaller
- makes politics cleaner
- makes companies honest
- enables ideas to reach remote locations
- Add yours in the comments…
What does the Internet mean to you?
- work, entertainment, learning, life, love, shopping, easy reference, banking, free stuff, selling stuff, marketing stuff, convenience, dating, fragging, add yours in the comments…
Next year, OWD Toronto’s event is expected to build on the great vibe created. We will invite you to join us in the celebrations. Save the date: September 22, 2010.
One Web Day Is Today!
One Web Day is here! Join us in celebrating this year’s theme: One Web. For All. Tucows believes: “The Internet is the greatest agent for positive change the world has ever seen.”
Tucows Supports Little Geeks and Internet Access
This is our second year celebrating One Web Day. Our focus is on Little Geeks and helping provide Internet access and computers to those who don’t have computers. Through Little Geeks we aim to provide computers to those who wouldn’t normally be able to afford them. Tucows is a strong supporter of Little Geeks which was founded by Andy Walker who runs Butterscotch.com, an online video network that is a part of Tucows Inc.
We are opening our doors this afternoon to take donations from the general public. More information on the kinds of systems that we’re interested in can be found on the Little Geeks website. In general, Little Geeks is seeking Pentium IIIs or G3 Macs or better. System parts also welcome. Tax receipts will be issued for computer donations. Cash donations for Little Geeks are also welcome.
What: Drop off your used computer systems to be refurbished and given to those in need right here in the Greater Toronto Area. Cash donations are also welcome.
When: September 22, 2009 from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.
Where: Tucows Head Office, 96 Mowat Ave., Toronto, M6K 3M1 (view on Google maps)
One Web Day Toronto Evening event
Leading up to One Web Day there were a number of creative projects including the
“I Love the Web Poster-and-Picture-Fest“. The idea was to grab a poster and take some pictures with it to celebrate. See all the great pictures on Flickr. We have an event later today at the Tucows head office and will be taking photos with posters too. Join us by taking pictures with your organizations.
One Web Day Toronto Evening event
Here’s a great OWD video that includes posters and pictures:
We hope that you can donate or celebrate in your community. Happy One Web Day!
Copyright’s Creative Disincentive
Tucows is participating in the ongoing Canadian copyright consultation. We will be making a formal submission and I will be appearing at the final round table tomorrow (Tuesday, September 1, 2009) in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
We are big fans of government embracing the Internet in order to better get input from its citizens to help with the legislative process. While the methods have evolved, the submissions tend to be very formalistic. By lawyers for lawyers. To try and evolve that we have commissioned an original piece by the brilliant David Weinberger discussing the fundamental misconception in linking copyright to creativity. This piece will form the bulk of our submission and follows.
My oral comments tomorrow in Peterborough will focus on the role of service providers and how they are being miscast in this dialogue.
Tucows’ views can be summarized as follows:
- We believe any legislation should be technologically neutral. A DMCA-like approach that considers a technology or a non-infringing use of a technology illegal per se is a huge brake on innovation.
- We believe that fair dealing should be expanded to provide greater innovation and creator opportunities. Culture builds on culture and in order to derive the full benefit of the magic of the Internet we need to recognize that the Internet has sped up the dissemination of culture which naturally creates greater opportunities for sharing and extending. This is inherently a feature not a bug.
- We believe that service providers should be neither policemen nor tax collectors for the existing rights holders. Service providers should be focused on helping ordinary Canadians use the Internet more easily and more effectively.
Please speak out and please enjoy the work that follows:
Copyright’s Creative Disincentive
The argument seems simple: (a) If every time you put apples out on your fruit stand, they’re immediately stolen, pretty quickly you’ll stop putting out apples. (b) What’s true of your physical property is also true of your “intellectual property.” (c) Therefore, without a system of strong copyright, creators will have no incentive to create.
The nice thing about that argument is that it makes a factual claim: Weaken copyright and you decrease innovation. That the facts so resoundingly, enthusiastically, thumpingly dispute that conclusion tells us that the syllogism is wrong. Indeed, the facts say the syllogism has it backwards. Current copyright laws are holding back the innovation they were intended to spur.
The argument gets one crucial point exactly right: Copyright grants creators temporary monopolistic control over the publishing of their works in order to serve a larger social goal: to maximize cultural innovation, production, and sharing. But the syllogism is wrong because it misunderstands the role of incentives, and it misunderstands them so blatantly that it seems unlikely to be accidental.
Creators often do have financial incentives. Just like everyone else. Some artists want to make enough to quit their day job. Some want to get rich. Some want to make enough to pay for the materials they need. Some want to prove to themselves that their work is appreciated. Some want to prove it to their parents. The amount of money they need in order to keep creating varies as widely as the role and meaning of that money.
Even within any one class of incentive, the effect of money on creativity is rarely a straight line. Mordechai Richler would not have written four times as many books if his advances had been four times larger. The Guess Who might be tempted to release more recycled compilations if you pay them enough money, but their songs would not have gotten 1% better for every 1% their revenues went up. Thus, while copyright may provide a financial incentive that enables many creators to create, stronger copyright that results in more money does not necessarily result in more creativity.
In fact, how long would it take you to list the bands that have gotten worse as they’ve gotten richer?
For the most important creative cultural works, money is an enabler but not the reason the person is putting pen to paper, chisel to stone, or camcorder to eye socket. There are so many other reasons people create — from G-d whispering to them, to a neurological itch that can’t otherwise be scratched, to wanting to get laid. Copyright could do its job — facilitate an innovative, sustainable culture — if it aimed merely at enabling creators to create, rather than thinking that the creativity-to-financial-reward curve is a straight line angled at 45 degrees.
Now, there would be no problem with setting up a system of laws that overemphasizes the financial incentives for creators if that system had no other effects. But it does, especially now that culture and economics have slipped the bonds of the old physics. Even if we devised a copyright law that provided the absolutely right amount of incentive for every creator to keep on creating, it takes more than motivated creators to build a creative, innovative culture.
It takes culture. It takes culture to build culture.
Whether it’s Walt Disney recycling the Brothers Grimm, Stephen King doing variations on a theme of Bram Stoker, or James Joyce mashing Homer up with, well, everything, there’s no innovation that isn’t a reworking of what’s already there. An innovative work without cultural roots would be literally unintelligible. So, incentives that require overly-strict restrictions on our use of cultural works directly diminish the innovativeness of that culture.
The facts are in front of us, in overwhelming abundance. The signature works of our new age are direct slaps in the face of our old assumptions about incentives. Wikipedia was created by unpaid volunteers, some of whom put in so much time that their marriages suffer. Flickr has more beautiful photos than you could look at it in a lifetime. Every sixty seconds, people upload twenty hours (72,000 seconds) of video to YouTube — the equivalent of 86,000 full-length Hollywood movies being released every week. For free. The entire Bible has been translated into LOLcat (“Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.”) by anonymous, unpaid contributors, and while that might not be your cup of tea — it is mine — it is without dispute a remarkably creative undertaking.
And it’s not just these large, collaborative projects. There are sites that every day aggregate the quirky, the awe-inspiring, the beautiful, the maddening…so many that there are sites that aggregate the sites that aggregate the sites that aggregate the works. All for free.
If you look at the works that are being produced — the facts on the ground, so to speak — you can get a glimpse of what is actually driving this creativity. It’s sure not the money. At site after site, amateurs — those who create for the love of it — produce and post works that are responses to other works. Sometimes they are responses to other amateurs. Sometimes they are responses — often mocking — to what the mainstream, paid culture has produced. For example, Auto-Tune the News turns mainstream news footage into politically astute, satiric music videos. In either case the incentive is clear: It is culture itself.
Culture is culture’s incentive. Works are the spur for creating more works. The greatest prompter of creativity is other creativity. Money is sometimes an enabler. But that has nothing to do with copyright laws that protect works for 70 years after the artist is dead. If enabling a culture of innovation is our aim, then cranking up the copyright protection dial to eleven is exactly the wrong way to go. Increasing the volume doesn’t make the music better. Access to more music makes the music better. The connections among people spurs the creativity that creates more connections that create more creativity.
In fact, excessive copyright protection, like a virus, seems to sicken innovation in every field it touches. Indeed, the industries currently trying to survive the digital upheaval by holding onto strict copyright enforcement laws are the ones that have been least innovative in coming up with new business models. Copyright is making them blind to the present and fatally uncreative about the future.
They should learn a lesson from what’s going on around them. After fifteen years of the Web making it easier to spread a work than contain it, and far easier to distribute it than to delete the existing copies, we now know some things for sure: People will create more than we can ever take in, without regard for financial recompense. Creators are carried forward by the creative swell around them. Culture enables more culture. And innovation overall is damaged by protectionism at the individual level.
The cultural opportunity before us is truly epochal. Yet, from the comedy of pretending that we’re looking out for the rights of little-known poets and singer-songwriters, we’re pushing ahead into the tragedy of willfully choosing to keep the cultural dimmer set on low. If our aim is to extract as much financial gain as we can from our culture, then let’s just say so. Far better an honest turning away from the vibrancy of culture than a high-minded pretense backed by patently false syllogisms.
Copyright’s Creative Disincentive by David Weinberger and Tucows Inc. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.
Elliot Noss on the Proposed U.S. National Broadband Plan
Tucows’ CEO Elliot Noss explains the initiative proposed by David Isenberg to focus the upcoming National Broadband Plan on “faster, more affordable, more ubiquitous, more reliable connections to the Internet.”
As a signatory to the initiative, Noss believes it’s essential not to confuse “broadband” with access to the Internet. It needs to be spelled out explicitly to make sure that the plan meets the needs of ordinary citizens.
More information here: http://www.itstheinternetstupid.com/
Inside Ride Raises $25K for Kids with Cancer
Each year, the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation puts on the Inside Ride, a fun event to raise funds for children living with cancer. Tucows was proud to participate again this year, and our parking lot was filled with people as ten teams competed against each other on stationary bikes. Prior to the event, each team raised pledges and then this past Friday, six riders from each team faced off against each other to see who could ride the farthest in a series of ten-minute sprints.
Tucows teams included people from Hover, Butterscotch, and various departments within the company. It was a great way to burn some calories on a beautiful sunny day while contributing to a worthy cause. When it was all over, we’d raised $25,000 for the charity. Thanks to all of our donors and we hope to surpass that total next year!