About Northwestel’s Internet Penalty Fee Reduction

Northwestel reduced the cost of its internet over-use penalty fee yesterday, to $1.50 per GB from $2 per GB. Of course, any reduction in the cost that Northwestel charges for internet service is welcome. So on behalf of internet users across northern Canada, I want to say thanks to Northwestel.

But yesterday’s reduction is not enough. Northwestel can, and should, do more to reduce the internet service costs that northern Canadians are forced to pay. We still pay much, much more than our southern compatriots.

I’ll do a quick comparison of internet service rates here in Whitehorse, Yukon, a town of about 28,000 people, and Dawson Creek, BC, a town of about 11,500 people that’s just 1,400 km away down the Alaska Highway.

At the top end of consumer packages, northerners will pay Northwestel $190 for 400 GB of monthly data. That’s 47.5¢ per GB. If you live in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, you’ll pay Shaw $123 for 800 GB of data. That’s 15.4¢ per GB.

On the low end of the package spectrum northerners will pay $42 for 10 GB of monthly data. That’s an insanely expensive rate of $4.20 per GB being charged to people who are probably the lowest wage earners in the North. You’d do better at this package level to simply ask Northwestel to charge all your data at its penalty rate.

Low income earners in Dawson Creek, by comparison, can pay Shaw $35 for 65 GB of data. That’s about 54¢ per GB, still very expensive, but about one-seventh the cost of Northwestel’s cheapest package rate.

Northwestel’s newly-reduced penalty rate of $1.50 per GB is still three times more than the fee levied on data in the company’s high end package. And its in-plan data fees at all levels are still much too expensive when compared to the rates southern Canadians pay.

Interestingly, Shaw does not punish its customers with data over-use penalties. They are permitted to exceed their monthly data limits from time to time at no extra cost.

One closing thought. You can buy a litre of gas in Dawson Creek for about 92¢ this morning. You can buy a litre of gas in Whitehorse for the same price (at the Porter Creek Super A, in case you’re wondering).

Is a virtual commodity like internet data really that much more expensive to deliver to the North than a physical commodity like gas?

About Apple’s Bandwidth Brute: Photos

Last week Apple released a new version of Yosemite, the operating system that runs on Mac computers. Setting aside its small technical improvements, this release sports one major upgrade: an app called Photos, which is designed to replace the aged iPhoto.

If you’re a Mac user you probably use iPhoto. When you upgrade to the new version of Yosemite, your Mac will try to coerce you into migrating your iPhoto library to Photos. I recommend you do this.

For the most part, Photos is a significant improvement over iPhoto. The app is more fluid, intuitive and has a modern design. I much prefer it over its predecessor.

But there will come a point in the migration process from iPhoto to Photos where the new app asks if you want to use Apple’s iCloud Photo Library to store your photos and videos in the cloud. I would strongly caution you against enabling this option. There is a tremendous risk associated with using Photo’s iCloud Photo Library. Continue reading

Where Are Social Media’s Seat Belts?

In 2011, 15-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons was allegedly raped by four teenaged boys who were never charged or prosecuted for the crime.

One of those teenaged boys shared a photo of the incident with friends online. The photo was distributed widely among their school community and beyond.

As a result, Parsons faced intense bullying on Facebook and other social media. Boys would anonymously proposition her. Girls accused her of being a slut. She was repeatedly slandered.

Unable to further bear the ceaseless assault, last week Parsons hung herself in the bathroom of her family’s home.

If the story sounds familiar, that’s not surprising.

It was only last October that Amanda Todd’s suicide drew our attention to the perils of unregulated social media use. She also took her own life after facing intense online bullying as a result of a sexual assault.

Who’s next? Perhaps the 16-year-old girl from Steubenville, Ohio, who was drugged and brutally gang raped by members of the local high school football team last year. As with the other incidents, pictures were spread via social media.

Chances are, social media will kill her too. Continue reading

Web 3.0: Kamikaze Business

Near the end of World War II, Japan began turning some of its aircraft into massive piloted bombs. Packed full of explosives, once in the air these planes would be unable to even land.

Their human pilots had one mission: blow up. Preferrably by ploughing into Allied sea vessels, of course.

It was a tremendous and ironic admission on Japan’s part. Unable to win the war on traditional terms, the country and its soliders needed to make the ultimate sacrifice: self immolation. Kamikaze.

That same sort of mentality seems to be gripping the business side of the technology industry these days.

Companies like Google, Facebook and Apple have grown into monstrous, seemingly unstoppable business behemoths. Startup businesses can’t possibly compete, much less beat them. The odds of success are against them from the start.

So instead of approaching business from a traditional standpoint, startups are adopting a kamikaze mentality. They don’t even plan to succeed. They plan to launch and crash. Preferrably into the pockebook of Google or Facebook or Apple, of course. Continue reading

Time To Turf That Northwestel Email Address

Internet competition is coming.

Maybe not today, or tomorrow.

But it’ll be here soon. And you need to make sure that your options are open when it arrives.

Your first step in preparing for internet competition is to ditch that tired old Northwestel email address you have.

You know the one I mean. It ends in “@northwestel.net”.

That address is the chain connecting you to the ball that is Northwestel.

Until you get rid of it, you’ll be hogtied to that company’s services.

So it’s best to get started on turfing it now.

Technically, getting a new email address is easy.

The hard part is moving away from your old one. That takes time and effort. And it shouldn’t be rushed. You should give yourself a few months for the whole process to take place. Continue reading

Conservative Internet Spying Bill is the Gun Registry of the Information Age

Trading bullets for bits, the Conservative government is this week replacing the infamously invasive and expensive long gun registry with a disturbing piece of pricey government paranoia, the internet registry.

In expressing the delusional underpinnings of his government’s new internet spying bill, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews decreed that folks who don’t support his proposed law are in league with child pornographers.

He delivered that illogical edict right about the time he solicited NDP support to scrap the long gun registry by saying, “It does nothing to help put an end to gun crimes nor has it saved one Canadian life”.

(In truth, there’s been a 41% reduction in homicides by long guns since the registry was introduced. But it’s well known Conservatives don’t deal in facts, so we’ll ignore that for now.)

Toew’s statement is actually hilarious because, no doubt, ten years and a few billion tax dollars from now, some NDP minister is going to say the exact same thing about his internet registry. Continue reading

Why Canada Might Give Refuge to Muammar Gaddafi

The curly-haired dictator strides into the living room at 24 Sussex Drive, drops himself into a couch and tosses his muddied army boots up on the coffee table.

“Laureen!” he shouts. “Champagne! I must celebrate my new home!”

Mrs. Harper squeezes the Prime Minister’s hand nervously. “Yes, Mr. Gaddafi,” she says, then leaves the room.

Picking his nose, the deposed Libyan despot watches her go. “And wear those CFM boots from the royal wedding at dinner tonight. I very much like them.”

“Now wait a minute Muammar,” the Prime Minister interjects. “You can’t talk to my wife that way.”

Muammar Gaddafi gets up off the couch, flicks a booger on the floor, and approaches Stephen Harper.

“Stevey, Stevey. Thank-you for letting me in your country.”

Gaddafi gently grasps the Prime Minister’s tie and straightens it as he talks.

“Now that NDP prick is gone, you can do what you want. So here I am!”

He rests his hands on Harper’s shoulders.

“And I am here to work. You must pass your internet spy law so that I can give you what you need. I know more about spying on citizens on the internet than anyone else.”

Harper brushes away the former dictator’s dirty, calloused hands.

“Muammar, you don’t get it. I can’t just ram that legislation through right after Jack’s funeral. It’ll seem insensitive. I need more time.”

Gaddafi lifts a crystal decanter and pours generous doses of scotch into two glasses.

“Oh, I have time, Stevey. Plenty of time. I’m on your payroll now. But if you want to know what your citizens are doing on the internet, we have to get moving.”

He hands the Prime Minister a glass.

“So until I can work, I wait. Now send in your pretty daughter. I want to discuss something with her.” Continue reading