The CRTC solution 

Decision leaves everyone unhappy

Leave it to the Canadian Radio-televsion and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to solve a problem in such a way that all parties involved, plus consumers, are unhappy with the outcome.

The big Internet Service Providers want the small ISPs who piggyback on their networks to adopt their usage based billing (UBB) models and pay more if their customers go over the limit.

The small ISPs want the CRTC to maintain the status quo, where they pay bulk rates for broadband and the big ISPs aren't allowed to throttle broadband delivery.

Consumers, which participated in the process, were concerned that usage-based billing thresholds were too low and the price for going over was too high given the actual costs.

The Harper government, which has threatened to overrule the CRTC on UBB decisions before, promised to review the decision in the interest of consumers.

The CRTC's decision, announced last week, was incredibly unpopular from all fronts.

Big ISPs: They did not get UBB or metered billing for small ISPs that use their networks. Instead they have the option of charging these wholesalers either a flat rate that's higher than current rates, or a rate based on network capacity or speed per 100 megabits per second. They can also charge additional fees and charges not allowed under the previous rules.

The ISPs are now claiming that they'll probably have to boost their prices because their own prices will go up.

Small ISPs: The wholesalers have dodged the UBB bullet, and will be able to sell unlimited plans to their customers as before - but at higher bulk rates. Their costs will likely go up under either pricing model whether the ISPs raise their rates or not.

Consumers: Lose again. The Big ISPs will raise prices and will continue metered, UBB for their customers. The Small ISPs will probably have to raise their prices as well, or introduce their own variation of UBB. Small ISPs may opt for a flat rate, and network speeds could drop.

The Government: While the Harper majority is safe for another four years, Canadians are restless. We pay some of the highest Internet and wireless rates in the known universe, for a level of service that isn't all that impressive compared to other countries. They are walking a fine line between supporting our telecommunications companies and encouraging their investment into the network - especially in rural areas - and the voting public, who they've sided with at this point, is running out of patience.

I've written on the issue several times before, and I still feel that CRTC is missing the point by allowing a mixed system where people pay a flat rate for a set number of GB per month whether you use them or not, and then have to pay for additional GB if they go over the limit (at a rate more than 30 times what it actually costs).

My solution is that ISPs have to decide between two options - flat rates for unlimited access, or true metered billing where people pay for every GB at a rate that reflects the actual cost with a suitable mark-up, with a few monthly fees thrown in for the connection, modem rental, network upgrades, taxes, etc. That way heavy users pay for what they use and have incentive to cut back and light users aren't screwed by paying for broadband they don't use.

Making a compelling video game

The folks at Rockstar Games are swimming in cash with titles like Grand Theft Auto , Bully and Red Dead Redemption to their credit, but it's their reboot of the Max Payne series that is getting the most attention these days. Rather than making a game and releasing a few trailers that show gameplay and cut scenes, they went another step and created a Design and Technology Series that explains how the game is being designed at a very superficial level. The first video is at www.rockstargames.com/videos/video/8191.

It's not an educational video, but it's an interesting look at the decisions that programmers and designers have made while making the game and why, and what they hope to achieve.

Google announces Google Music

Annoyingly, Google Music is another one of those "Only available in the United States" things like Hulu, Spotify, Amazon and so on, but if you're a Google person with an Android Phone or tablet, Gmail, Google+ and so on then you're going to want to wait for this.

It's still in Beta, but Google Music is the company's version of Apple's iTunes or Microsoft's Zune Marketplace. There's no word on the size of the library, but Google is promising millions of songs for download, portability between your computer and Android device, and streaming of your music collection over the web. One interesting feature is Share, where you can loan a song you've purchased from the Android market to a friend over the Google+ network.

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