Content Favouritism: What If?

Free stuff is wonderful. Orcon’s O Zone gives you free stuff. Free Trademe, free NZOnScreen, and free iSky data among other things. Complaining about O Zone is a bit mean-spirited surely? Orcon certainly seemed to think so when I inquired about the recent removal of TVNZ from the O Zone:

“People are obviously disappointed that we are removing TVNZ from the O Zone. i.e. They appreciated having it in there in the first place. I haven’t seen any angst about the philosophy behind the O Zone. It’s surely better than having no zero rated content, don’t you think?”

Oh yes, it’s great! I don’t have to eat into my data cap when I use these services.

Thing is, being with Orcon means I have to make a choice. Do I visit the NZ Herald site for news, or do I go to Stuff.co.nz? One of those sites costs me data, the other doesn’t. I can never remember which. Do I listen to George for free, or stream The Rock and eat into my bandwidth cap?

Not too dramatic really. Stuff uses bugger-all data and I hate The Rock with a passion (sorry Andrew Mulligan). If I’m honest, I never really used TVNZ OnDemand  and haven’t even logged in to iSky.

So I get nothing from Orcon’s O Zone, yet it still bothers me. The very principle of my ISP choosing the price of my content and where I get if from is irksome.

A law has just been passed in the Netherlands banning mobile phone operators from blocking and/or charging differently for data traffic on their networks. This came about because said mobile operators were scanning their users’ traffic and blocking traffic to Skype and WhatsApp: both applications that enable users to make calls or send SMS messages without being charged over and above the data traffic generated.

What if?

Blocking traffic that competes with your own is highly nefarious. Certainly more so than the O Zone. But consider this: if iSky was zero rated on every ISP, and TVNZ was not zero rated on any, would this be a problem of a similar level to the Netherlands?

Or does it only count if Sky runs an ISP and charges for TVNZ traffic?

What if Orcon owns Sky’s video content delivery system (and presumably makes money off it from Sky) and charges for TVNZ traffic but not Sky’s?

What if a new on-demand video provider was not zero-rated by iSky was?

What about you?

Is this all irrelevant? Does anyone in New Zealand choose their ISP based on these free packages? Do you?

[Image Credit: Reddit]

Hey Orcon, can you hear me now?

For the last month I have been having trouble with my connection to Orcon. The connection has been disconnecting at random times, and moreso when under load, like downloading a large Linux ISO over bittorrent. I’ve been back and forth with Orcon and Chorus several times, had line checks, tried different ADSL profiles, and even disconnected every device in the house. No joy. Same behaviour.

Snap Internet offered to help, and in a comedy of errors, Chorus ended up connecting us to Snap today incorrectly (it should have been via a second line). The upshot is, about 30 minutes ago our line was switched from Snap back to Orcon. I managed to start a test just before the line was switched.

Below is a picture of the speed graph from uTorrent. Let’s summarise:

  • Same copper pair.
  • Same ADSL router.
  • Same jackpoint.
  • Same computer.
  • Same file.
  • Same bittorrent peers.
  • Different ISP termination in the Te Atatu Exchange.

You make your own conclusion:

Snap vs Orcon Graph
Click to Enlarge

Don’t be distracted by the higher speed on Orcon. Yes this implies a lower SNR, but we’ve tried changing the Orcon ADSL profile to reduce the speed and increase the SNR, but the disconnect behaviour is identical.

I believe there is a bigger story behind this, but I need to get Orcon’s opinion before I go to print with it.

Questioning ACTA

Copyright_symbol_9InternetNZ, and others, have created a website to consolidate information regarding ACTA and its impact in New Zealand. Activity around ACTA is not slowing down: ACTA negotiations are heading to New Zealand in April, and the MED is holding a Q&A session next week. I’m submitting a couple of questions in absentia, as documented below.

What is New Zealand’s negotiating position on the various components of ACTA?

This, to my mind, is the key question. ACTA negotiations are being held in secret. The NZ Ministry of Economic Development (MED) is representing us in these negotiations. As such, we need to know what position the MED is taking into the negotiations on our behalf, and whether this position is representative of our economic, cultural, and philosophical requirements.

As with any international treaty, the terms of ACTA are up for negotiation. I’d like to know what negotiating position the NZ MED is taking into the ACTA talks on our behalf. Why is New Zealand entering into ACTA, and what do we expect to get out of it, other than protection of New Zealand products and copyright (which are already protected by international law)?

What provisions does ACTA make for protection of personal privacy and freedom of speech?

Based on information to date, it is hard not to assume that the majority of ACTA provisions relating to copyright infringement are designed to protect large copyright holders. What (if any) counter provisions are in place to ensure that these terms do not result in degraded privacy (e.g. deep packet inspection) for individual internet users?

Given the public and political reaction to the proposed S92a legislation, what provisions are in place to require evidence and recourse in the event of a “3 strikes” requirement from ACTA?

Additionally, what is the MED’s position on ACTA’s notice-and-takedown provisions, and specifically the documented chilling effect caused by abuse of such a provision?

If ACTA is implemented in its current (leaked) form, what steps are being taken to ensure legitimate internet use is not impeded?

There is a blistering pace of change in entertainment and the internet. New business models are emerging. Creators and artists are discovering and utilising new direct sales channels, and many have found value in allowing more open use of their content to generate ticket and merchandise sales.

What steps are being taken to ensure that the implementation of ACTA does not adversely affect these artists and business models? How does the MED propose, for example, that legitimate and infringing uses of similar content are differentiated? Are there any provisions in ACTA that protect individual content creators from predatory and discriminatory treatment by corporations?

What do you think?

If you want to add to my queries or comment on them, please reply below, or directly on the Acta.net.nz site.

Net Neutrality: Why you should care

Net NeutralityI spend a lot of my time shielding non-technical people from the frankly mundane and indecipherable bowels of information technology. But some things that are so important that you need to stop, dear reader, and take the time to understand. Internet neutrality is one of these things.

At the moment, most of the internet protocol (IP) traffic heading to and from your computer makes its way, unimpeded, to and from its intended destination. There is however an undercurrent of discontent coming from a bunch of companies that operate the systems (the “backbone”) that carry IP traffic between you and your favourite websites.

Strangely, these companies are already being paid by all parties. Your ISP pays for the right to send your data to and from their systems – this is a significant part of your monthly bill. At the other end, a company like Google or Flickr pays one of these “backbone” companies to provide a large stream of data made up of thousands of data streams like yours. Even a small-fry like me pays my web hosting company to carry data to and from my server.

Yet apparently, these backbone service providers feel hard done by. Sometimes, due to the vagaries of IP routing, traffic from my PC to a destination website might travel over a third party’s network. These parties feel that if a company like Google is not paying them directly for carrying data to and from your PC, that they should alter the level of service. The little picture I have linked to gives you an idea of a world without IP traffic neutrality. Think Sky TV, but the “channels” are actually your favourite websites – who are already paying for the privilege of being connected to the internet.

It sounds far fetched, but right now companies are lobbying various governments for the right to impose different levels of service on different types of traffic, or different destination websites. Mundane yes; but definitely important. I hope that when the time comes to oppose such measures, you can do so with some understanding based on this blog post.

[via CrunchGear]