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VoIP Services to be Regulated in Canada

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the hand-of-the-state dept.

Communications 159

jeffcm writes "It seems that the CRTC, Canada's equivalent to the FCC has decided that VoIP pricing and services should be regulated. From The Globe & Mail: "The CRTC confirmed that it has rejected arguments from Bell and Telus that VoIP should be left unregulated like other on-line applications. If their argument had won the day, their competitors say, the incumbent phone companies would have been allowed to limit the number of new entrants by slashing prices in the short term.""

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159 comments

Regulation is good (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494247)

That's why I eat a bowl of AllBran each morning!

YOU EAT ALLBRAN EACH MORNING? I EAT TROLL BAIT! (1)

GET THE FACTS! (850779) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494460)

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Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494256)

Regardless of the merits of regulating (or not regulationg) VoIP, at the core I'm uncomfortable with the idea of regulating specific types of Internet traffic ... kind of a change from the traditional egalitarian data-cloud "all packets are equal" ideal. I haven't really thought this out, but I just have a bad feeling about it.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (5, Informative)

Trepalium (109107) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494282)

I don't believe this is regulating VoIP as much as it is regulating VoIP subscription services. In this context, they are not regulating the internet traffic but rather the internet businesses.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (2, Interesting)

Trizor (797662) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494634)

While it may be a business, it isn't something like amazon. There are data being transfered, and when data are regulated, then other packets may be designated inferior. The fear that VoIP packets will be given priority service [pbs.org] on home networks was mentionted on /. [slashdot.org] a few months ago. Whether or not Canada is trying to help this or prevent it is yet to be seen.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494712)

The article didn't say anything about packet prioritization.

I think Amazon is a good analogy. Amazon advertises over the Internet, but they aren't exempt from false advertising laws. They also aren't exempt from sales tax (in some states). etc.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (1)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495173)

To even think that legislation will be technical enough to mandate or change traffic prioritization seems naive to me. In fact, if anything, it seems much more likely companies will be doing this, along the same lines as the age old question: If Car Maker A made roads, would they only let Car Maker A cars on?

Mind you, I realize that lobbiests are always trying to make the law enforce technical means of market tampering, but that to me would suggest that the big companies would WANT regulation .. if the government was in their pocket. (Ie, regulations would always go in their favour.)

I dont mind market regulation as a means of making sure current market leaders cant artificially inflate the barrier to entry for competitors. Its crazy .. lobbiests get their way, and we shrug. Fact of life. If the power goes even slightly in the other direction, people get concerned. There is plenty more influence peddling in the corperate -> government direction, and for now, thats the shit that'll make my ears perk up.

They're both faulty, but hey, thats humanity. I like a balance. Compromises rule.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494784)

In this context, they are not regulating the internet traffic but rather the internet businesses.

Exactly. Thousands of little VoIP providers are impossible to coerce and shake down for bribes and political patronage. One or two regulated quasi-monopolies, on the otherhand, are certain to pay the liberals the necessary fees.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494855)

Thousands of little VoIP providers are impossible to coerce and shake down for bribes and political patronage. One or two regulated quasi-monopolies, on the otherhand, are certain to pay the liberals the necessary fees.
TFA seemed to point to the idea that, without motherhood, those one or two quasi-mofos would just cut prices to the point that your hyothetical thousands of little VoIPs would be abstract RIPs.
There is some justification to making sure that the competition isn't so darwinian that the consumer (that's you) doesn't end up with a cheap pile of nothing.
Phone services are especially touchy. Wouldn't want a loudmouth, spoiled kid to be out of contact with the forward-deployed mother. Oh, wait, that's down South, in the United States of Whatever...

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (2, Interesting)

SeventyBang (858415) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494920)

In terms of regulating Internet businesses.... ...don't anyone wet their pants or get a woody because this will provide a method for sticking it to the big, bad phone companies and bypass the high prices, rules & regulations, entrance laws & prices, just remember...those big, bad phone companies have big-ass PACs, political connections, and any other form of resource which would help define a plutocracy. And most of all, don't think they are going to take this lying down. The 911 issue is nothing - not even a pea shooter across the bow.

Before it's said & done, regulations will start rolling in a direction where it's clear the Internet phone firms are on a downhill slide and we'll see M&A (mergers & acquisitions) for the firms who have assets worth purchasing. The rest are going to sit on the side wondering where they went wrong...

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (0, Flamebait)

ArielMT (757715) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494338)

It seems to me that their goal is to regulate their equivalent to Ma Bell, not the Internet itself. However, given the Canadian government's socialist-leaning tendencies, I wouldn't doubt such a thing is far behind. Even VoIP has to come out of the Internet at some point and into a conventional telco exchange, right? What little the article tells me says that this is what the government's using as its basis for regulation.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494415)

Regulating costs of calls that hit bells switch board and securing bells inflated pricing VoIP scheme.

It's all in how you ask the question.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (5, Informative)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494451)

Even VoIP has to come out of the Internet at some point and into a conventional telco exchange, right?

Wrong. To interface with POTS the statement is a tautology, but there is nothing inherent about sending voice over IP that requires POTS.

Stop thinking "telephone" and start thinking "voice communications."

People will, however, hate you for doing that, because they can't charge you an extra $25/mo., or regulate you, for "voice communications," because that power is already in your hands the instant you have an internet connection. I sit here in the US and talk to my friends in England and Germany just fine, and without involving the conventional phone companies or Vonage. The current structure is trying to use their inertia to leverage themselves into an industry that already has no raison d'etre.

But it's true, I don't "phone" them. I "internet" them.

Free your mind and the rest will follow.

KFG

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (2, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494688)

Skype is nice. If both sides have it, no need for POTS (Plain ole Telephone Service)

Of course, if they DO succeed in over-regulating Voice we'll just switch to Video over IP! We're probably headed down that road over the next 5-10 years anyway.

Motorola is supposed to be coming out with a cell phone that, if you're near a computer with a net connection and the right hardware (an access point), will use the net to place your call instead of going through the cell network. Now THAT is what I want!

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12495638)

What I want to see is a skype <---> sip/iax gateway.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12496015)

Even VoIP has to come out of the Internet at some point and into a conventional telco exchange, right?

Wrong. To interface with POTS the statement is a tautology, but there is nothing inherent about sending voice over IP that requires POTS.

Stop thinking "telephone" and start thinking "voice communications."


No, you are wrong. CRTC regulations only apply if you want to connect to the PSTN. Run whatever VOIP services you want; as long as it doesn't provide a connection to the PSTN, you are free from any CRTC regulations.

Switch from an Authoritarian ISP to a Free ISP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494403)

Canadians seem fine with their government picking their pockets. I'm not surprised they don't complain about it picking their packets too.

Would never happen here in the USA anyway, this story should be moved to slashdot.ca

Re:Switch from an Authoritarian ISP to a Free ISP (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494786)

Sure, they're picking our packets, but you guys are the ones who will soon need a national ID RFID card soon to buy, sell, trade, and restrict your movements.

Re:Switch from an Authoritarian ISP to a Free ISP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12495776)

And who's gonna ask me for my 'national ID RFID' card? Sheriff Andy?

You're the ones with a national police.

Re:Switch from an Authoritarian ISP to a Free ISP (2, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494793)

Canadians seem fine with their government picking their pockets. I'm not surprised they don't complain about it picking their packets too.

Would never happen here in the USA anyway, this story should be moved to slashdot.ca
... which is why Canada is #3 in cheap, affordable broadband penetration world-wide, and the USA is what, 16th as of last month?

http://www.broadbandreports.com/shownews/62949 [broadbandreports.com]

U.S. Now 16th in Broadband Penetration Slips three spots in global ITU rankings Posted on 2005-04-26 18:42:25 There has been rabid debate over whether the United States is (or isn't, depending on your political slant) falling behind in broadband penetration. That debate was fueled by an ITU report stating we were 13th in that category. According to the latest ITU data, we're now sixteenth. The U.S. ranking is something ITU and OECD researchers attribute to a lack of a cohesive government infrastructure policy - but free-market fans and incumbent supporters attribute to geography. The data indicates there are 11.4 broadband subscribers per every 100 U.S. inhabitants.
Over-regulation is bad, but so is under-regulation. Think about it - not only are you behind, you're falling further behind every month.

Re:Switch from an Authoritarian ISP to a Free ISP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12496014)

Funny you should bring this up! Last night I got together with some of my neighbors. Over coffee we all chatted about what we think is a decent price for broadband. Barbara, from next door... her husband lost his job last month so she said their limit right now is about $19. I'm doing alright, so I said $50's fine as far as I'm concerned. Big Chuck from across the street just sold his land upstate -- he's loaded now and said he doesn't care much about fifty bucks here or there and offered to pay anything below $130.

After hours of deliberation, and four pots of coffee, we finally reached a consensus. Here's what we decided:

$34.50! !! :-)

Awesome, huh!! Were were jazzed and all convinced this was a fair price for everybody. But right as we were about to call up our congressmen the dog started barking and my son Jake popped in the front door from college. We told him about our broadband conversation and asked him what he thought. He said he badly wanted broadband, but was flat broke and could only afford $11.75 a month.

His announcement astonished us all. There were heavy sighs followed by several minutes of mournful silence. Sally actually started to choke up and had to go into the kitchen to reclaim herself.

But just as Chuck was reaching for his coat, Sally dashed back into the room with a huge smile and announced she had come up with a wonderful idea! She said, "why not make broadband $11.75?!"

Hooray! There were cheers and high-fives, and glasses were raised high into the air... We had done it! We had arrived at a price all of us could afford, even poor Jake from college!

Gushing tears of joy, I hugged my son, smiled at all my happy friends in the room, then picked up the phone and dialed my congressman.

Re:Regulating internet traffic? Hm. (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494754)

Every country regulates their phone system. Using the internet to bypass regulations governing the phone system wasn't going to last. If people want unregulated phone-type service, they can use their computer with a headset and mike. Why regulate? Because in modern life, in our hemisphere, like it or not, phone service is an essential service.

Bad news too, the unregulated internet is on borrowed time. It's already happening.

Regulating Crime (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494789)

They're regulating the service quality of telephony, an essential service upon which Canadian society depends. If they don't, VoIP will displace more reliable circuits with unreliable ones. And then catastrophe will occur when people find out just how unreliable is their unregulated service.

There are laws against fraud, which phishing and 419 scams (for example) violate. Those laws don't regulate "the Internet" per se - they regulate the transactions, which use the Internet to reach victims. The Internet isn't a grand loophole for all kinds of communication abuse. Or else we're doomed.

Oooh, Aaaaah, I dare ya (3, Funny)

Dark Coder (66759) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494260)

This regulation is equivalent of a slippery tube child toy such as this [imperialtoy.com]

It's harder to get a grip on, much less tax on it.

Re:Oooh, Aaaaah, I dare ya (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494374)

Parodies the old witch (errr...Ex...er...witch) trials, eh? If she floats she's a witch, if she drowns she isn't.

The story goes like this. Baby Bells secure their future (and profits) in telephone services by lobbying parliament to ask trick questions. Since they are the media in canada, investigation will be nonexistent.

Gentoo?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494278)

I use Gentoo; how does this affect me?

Eh? (3, Informative)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494280)

Kinda confused about this VoIP crap - if a company is offering a service, for a price which involves you having some sort of phone-like device plugged into a socket in your home, then it is a phone, no-matter if it goes through the old phone system, the cell-system, the Internet, a satellite or some sort of magick pixie communication system. If you're talking about some sort of free software that connects to someone's IP directly using your existing net-connection or uses distributed routing or whatever than thats basically instant messaging with some voice-feature, what are you going to regulate? AIM?

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494426)

I think all the VOIP regulation we've been seeing only applies to a service that lets you connect to the regular phone network, and gives you a number that people can call to reach you. Internet-only (ie. voice chat) is relatively uncommon compared to this.

Re:Eh? (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494635)

Ahh, well then its a phone company - if someone using a 'real' phone dials a 'real' number and is somehow connected to you then the company that somehow routed that call is a phone company. What this phone company effectively does is rents a phone line on your behalf which actually goes to their office, then they patch that phone line onto an Internet connection which you then happen to pick up. It would be exactly the same as if they had ran a length of cable to your home from their office or connected it to a walkie talkie... so whats the big deal here?

Re:Eh? (1)

srleffler (721400) | more than 8 years ago | (#12496069)

The problem is that, fundamentally, there is no difference between the two. My phone is plugged into my cable modem. So is my computer. What's the difference between the two? I can get voice on either.

There's only one important criterion. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494306)

It seems pretty obvious to me that shared public resources (physical lines connecting private property together) may need to be regulated to prevent monopolies, while anything that isn't intrinsically limited (multiple protocols over the internet) doesn't need such regulation.

The only reason for the regulation, after all, is to permit competition. Right?

With the VoIP regulation debate, this dichotomy between limited and unlimited resources is often overlooked, when it's actually the only important issue.

The physically shared and limited public connections should be regulated to prevent monopoly. Purely software protocols should be completely immune to regulation.

Re:There's only one important criterion. (2, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494479)

Um .... if you regulate them, then you create monopolies. The problem is not monopolies per se, but is instead monopoly prices. If they don't charge monopoly prices (reduced production -> higher demand for less product -> unmet demand but more profit), then there's no problem with a monopoly. Alcoa was a monopoly, but they just kept lowering their prices. This angered their competitors so much that they lobbied Congress to investigate their "monopoly practices". But monopolies aren't regulated to protect the would-be competitors, but instead consumers.
-russ

Regulation can sometimes serve the masses... (1)

mynameismonkey (658515) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494672)

Regulation, at least in it's early stages, can often benefit an industry and thereby its' consumers. In this particular case the government intends to thwart the wholesale takeover of VoIP as a public service by the dominant telcos.

If we admit that VoIP is the future of telephonic communication then we must also agree that entrenched companies offering what is, to the layman, the exact same service, will undoubtedly slash prices to gain penetration until the market is saturated and then begin hiking prices back up to profitability.

Startups and smaller companies that are relatively late to market will be unable to compete with telcos who can comfortably make VoIP a loss leader until such time they see fit.

Regardless of the motive, anything that allows fresh, new companies to deliver fresh, new services instead of aging behemoths like the Bells is, IMHO, a Good Thing (TM).

Re:Regulation can sometimes serve the masses... (1)

ocelotbob (173602) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494877)

But then you have situations like the airline industry where the players becaome dependent on government entities to survive and in fact, seem to design their business plans into getting government handouts. Besides, the barrier to entrer in the voip market are small enough that the big players will always have to keep their prices fairly low, lest a startup with lower overhead comes in and ruins their day.

Re:Regulation can sometimes serve the masses... (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#12496070)

Regulation, at least in it's early stages, can often benefit an industry and thereby its' consumers.

I think you actually believe that this is generally true! In this context, the government has already screwed up the telecommunications market, so fiddling with the existing regulations is probably a good idea. Better, though, would be no regulations (other than the usual "thou shalt not steal" and "thou shalt not bear false witness.")
-russ

Re:There's only one important criterion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494740)

"if you regulate them, then you create monopolies."

Sure, if that's the sort of regulation you create. The only kind that's desirable, in the situation at hand, is the kind that prevents monopolies.

You sound almost like you're arguing that monopolies are good and lead to lower prices... which I'm sure you don't mean.

In this particular instance (regulation of telecommunications infrastructure -- basically the wires connecting private property by passing along public routes) we can analyze the meaning of "monopoly" much more precisely.

A company with a monopoly in this case would be one through which an end user (private property owner) must negotiate in order to connect to the physical public network.

Now, the ideal situation would be to have no regulation and an unlimited ability for anyone to create physical connections from anywhere to anywhere else. This, unfortunately, won't work in the (current) real world, because of all the physical limitations on wiring between locations.

We are in an undesirable situation where we can only run so many physical wires between places... so practically by definition, we cannot have an unlimited, unregulated market in terms of the physical connections. Their leasing/maintenance must be somehow managed to share access to this physical resource in as equitable a manner as possible, without creating monopolies by allocating too much control to single parties.

In terms of the presumed advantage of a monopoly that charges lower prices in this situation, this could only possibly apply if you treat the service as a commodity -- which it definitely isn't. An infinite number of variations in implementation are imaginable, and any one company with monopoly (over a specific geographic region) will have little or no incentive to offer different implementations at desirable prices.

Re:There's only one important criterion. (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#12496092)

You sound almost like you're arguing that monopolies are good and lead to lower prices... which I'm sure you don't mean.

I'm arguing that the big bugaboo -- monopolies -- are almost never seen in the marketplace. The vast majority of the monopolies in your life have been created by government. The market doesn't sustain monopolies for very long. The theory that capitalist economies tend toward bigger and bigger businesses consolidating into one monopoly is simply wrong.
-russ

Re:There's only one important criterion. (2, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494905)

You don't seem to get it. I've never heard of Alcoa, but Microsoft was "giving away" a lot of stuff like IE and Media Player to the detriment of competitors like Netscape and Real. Are you next going to argue that the regulators cracked down on the practice to protect us from getting this stuff for free?

Getting back to the topic at hand... if you're going to allow your VOIP service to communicate both ways (inbound and outbound calls) with people using POTS telephones, you need to bridge the gap. That means using the phone networks, and it means issuing extra telephone numbers.

Which means that while other VOIP providers are required to pay the existing carriers like Bell Canada for the use of their services, the existing carriers are under no such financial pressure. So they can undercut the startups until they fail, then start adding in "service fees" until we're back right where we started in terms of cost.

If you want to have competition between the monopoly that owns the lines and their competitors that rent the lines from them, you NEED regulation. How else are you going to do it?

Did anyone else find amusement in their description of "Primus Telecommunications, Vonage, Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications and Vidéotron" as startups?

Personally, I think the way to go is to seize control of the wires back from the telcos and give it to the government, then take advantage of the "efficiencies of the market" by hiring the private sector to maintain and improve it. Same as we do with roads, sanitation, etc.

Re:There's only one important criterion. (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495907)

You don't seem to get it. I've never heard of Alcoa,

And you say that *I* don't seem to get it??
-russ

Re:There's only one important criterion. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494783)

The only reason for the regulation, after all, is to permit competition. Right?

No. The primary raison d'etre of the CRTC is to ensure that a shared, national resource (originally radio spectrum) is used in such way that canadians as a whole benefit.

Yes, time has marched on and telecommunications no longer require airwaves, but the CRTC is still there.

Re:There's only one important criterion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494830)

In the end, I think the goal should be to permit anyone to communicate with anyone else in any manner desired, without intermediary parties exercising control over that ability and with the only cost being (at most) the cost to physically relay the information. (This is ignoring the issue of limited bandwidth in any system of communications.) Does that match your opinion on the subject?

hmm (3, Interesting)

merdark (550117) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494314)

What does this mean for free services such as Skype, or even voice chat for games and such?

Re:hmm (4, Informative)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494357)

Nothing. The regulation is not referring to pure VoIP, but rather the interface to the POTS system with VoIP.

In short, if you resell normal phone service delivered with VoIP tech, you will be regulated. Resistance is futile.

Re:hmm (3, Informative)

kesuki (321456) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494549)

Skype has a free voip program, and a paid service called skypeout. The 'free' program allows you to connect to other voip users over the internet.
to make a pots connection with this voip software you need thier service called Skype out. Skype out serive will be regulated, should they try to operate in canada. the basic, free software will not be. As the basic free software simply allows two computers to send voice data over the internet to each other. In order to call a land line, or to allow a land line to call you, you need to pay for the skypeout service.

Not quite what it sounds like (4, Informative)

MrAndrews (456547) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494318)

I could be wrong, but a line in the actual article makes it sound like they're reducing Bell and Telus' ability to treat VoIP as a loss-leader, basically making it impossible for other players like Vonage or Shaw to compete. It's not that they're regulating broadly, they're just warning Bell and Telus that they're being watched, and they can't shut out competition but charging $0.50/month for VoIP. Still not ideal, but a lot less terrible than it seems at first.

Re:Not quite what it sounds like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494380)

Well, of course they're telling you that they will do this to promote competition for the benefit of consumers.

You wouldn't expect them to come out and say, "Yeah, we figured we'll regulate internet traffic to help out some of our corporate fat-cat pals."

Re:Not quite what it sounds like (3, Interesting)

MrAndrews (456547) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494442)

You over-estimate the critical mind of Canadian bureaucracy. They don't do things to help out rich corporate friends, they do things taking into account a small part of a complex problem, and it typically pisses half the country off. Regulating VoIP in this case is almost certainly an attempt to randomly pound on Bell and make them cry (punishment for ExpressVu?). I would be surprised if the eventual regulations imposed didn't closely match what some smaller shop was providing already. The real fun will come in a year or two when Bell makes the point that half the leading VoIP providers in Canada are U.S.-based, and then regulations will change back in favour of Bell and Telus.

Re:Not quite what it sounds like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494917)

I believe this is actually less to with price and more to do with port access. Telus (maybe Bell too) High Speed ADSL has recently blocked VOIP ports on the basis of "consumer virus protection". We (Telus & Bell) need to protect you from "nasty meanies" getting access your computer, and those ports just happen to be coming from a major threat to our business, so in Telus and Bell's wisdom you can't have access to those ports.

Telus and Bell are basically still government granted local service monopolies so it is up to the government to step in and say, "play fair" with the new kids on the block and keep those ports open.

Chances are they will not regulate the price but just the access.

Re:Not quite what it sounds like (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495309)

Ew, I haven't been on a Bell network for a while so I didn't know about the port blocking. That's exactly why the CRTC needs to stomp around in that area. But they'll also be going after price, I figure, because once Bell loses ground on port blocking, they'll just drown out the competition with overly-low prices in the short term, and then slowly increase prices as the smaller opponents fizzle.

Is this good or bad? (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494335)

It seems like they plan to regulate the pricing by setting a minimum price that the companies must charge. But how will this affect small companies that can legitimately offer a lower rate through better technology, such as, perhaps, Skype?

Skype? (1, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494345)

Where does Skype fit in this environment? It's already working [for me and my buddies]. I doubt the Canadian government will get anywhere on this. The bureaucracy is just too much...and technology is just too fast. We are already operating under "out-dated" telecom laws.

Re:Skype? (1)

penguinstorm (575341) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494447)

Don't underestimate the ability of the Canadian government to CREATE involved in bureaucracy. We've got a long history of it up here. Our public works department lost over a $1 Billion in a variety of programs; a $25 Million gun control database has now cost over $1 Billion. An entire ministry exists at the Federal level to push money around in a system which is, by definition, controlled at the provincial level.

Yes, we're pretty good at creating bureaucracy when we try. The CRTC isn't even our most heinous example.

As for where Skype fits in, this is the problem we'll face: with technologies that already exist to allow Voice over IP to happen without regulation, why waste time regulating the other stuff?

Who benefits from reg and who does not? (2, Insightful)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494364)

It appears that Bell and Telus (Canadas two largest telphone companies) were against regulation. Is it possible that a lack of regulation would have permitted Telus and Bell to pull some shenannigans with respect to Shaw / Rogers (two cable TV and cable internet providers) VOIP customers attempting to call POTS customers of Telus and Bell?

Also, for those whom compare this to regulating AOL Instant Messenger, the difference, I think, is that you cannot use that sort of client's voice capability to speak to someone using a simple telephone. The entire point of VOIP is that you can.

END COMMUNICATION

Re:Who benefits from reg and who does not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494966)

Except charging disproportionate fees when a competitors call is directed towards a bell customer. By regulating this cost any new routing company or solutions will have to follow the dictated charges. This effectively kills cheaper cellular where the playing field is equal in one clean sweep

The parliament avoided talking about bell leveraging it's monopoly to stifle competition in VoIP. Instead they prescribed a fix rate which sustains bells' business model, stifled competitive solutions and cost canadian's billions.

The power of lobby, got to love it. It's a new spin on win/win though, something we're all likely to see a lot more of.

This is price regulation, not traffic regulation. (4, Insightful)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494376)

This ruling has little to do with technology and more to do with business and competition. Skype, FWD et. al. will still be able to offer their free services (which are actually financed by advertising and other means).

This will allow new companies to start offering value-added, non-PSTN phone service without being shut out by the two current major phone service providers using artifically low prices.

Basically, a Good Thing because competition is good.

Re:This is price regulation, not traffic regulatio (2, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494494)

Um .... and what happens when somebody comes along who can charge less than the minimum price and still make a profit? Their competition is good for the consumer, but will be outlawed. Basically, this is anti-consumer and pro-producer legislation. The Canadian legislature is contemplating screwing the Canadian citizen. But why should that surprise anybody?
-russ

Re:This is price regulation, not traffic regulatio (2, Insightful)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495600)

Um .... and what happens when somebody comes along who can charge less than the minimum price and still make a profit?

Then the "unfair" price will be adjusted downwards. The whole point of the regulation is to prevent what is known in other industries as "dumping", i.e. using size and profitability in other (usually monopolized) markets to outlast a smaller, specialized competitor in a niche market by writing off the losses in this small market which the competitor cannot afford to. In other words: to stop an anti-competetive and thus subversive to capitalism practice.

This has been going on in other industries (RAM memory, CDs, vitamins etc) and the various governments (some of them anything but socialist) slap this type of activity down quite rightfully.

My personal view on fixing this permanently is a globally enforced (via progressive taxation) limit on the size a company can grow to, thus forcing ongoing competition and avoiding this issue alltogether. But I realize its not likely to happen that way, so every government is left to come up with their own method of playing anti-monopolistic whack-a-mole as capitalism is moving more and more into oligarcho-corporatism despite these haphazard efforts.

Re:This is price regulation, not traffic regulatio (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494692)

I perceive this to be anti-competitive as well. The major two phone companies couldn't offer "artificially low" prices forever. And now they don't have to.

Re:This is price regulation, not traffic regulatio (1)

GrassMunk (677765) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494752)

Yes, but the phone companies would cover it long enough to drive all the other companies out of the business then drive prices sky high.

Re:This is price regulation, not traffic regulatio (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494988)

I'm aware of how the tactic works. I think it wouldn't have worked long term (after all, how many years can these companies keep offering low VOIP rates to drive out competition? And there will always be some small level of competition that they can't afford to wipe out) and it would have meant cheap prices in the short term.

A large portion of their customers can switch to VOIP which is dangerous to these phone companies. Now, with the price safely stabalized, the major phone companies don't have to worry about a VOIP price war pulling their regular paying customers away to a lower margin service.

OTOH, I imagine that there will still be substantial competition though on services other than price (depending on whether VOIP prices get adjusted for inflation or not). My opinion is just that this regulation isn't beneficial long term though the harm is probably mild. Another concern to consider is that now that regulation on VOIP has been accepted, we may see further regulations that will harm competition much more than this price floor does.

Re:This is price regulation, not traffic regulatio (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495630)

My opinion is just that this regulation isn't beneficial long term though the harm is probably mild.

You are probably right, although I do understand the motivation of the CTRC. The effectivenes of this regulation will depend how well does CRTC react to market conditions by adjusting the rules. There are also other elements in this such as 911 call provisions, something VOIP services are notorioulsy deficient at and which already resulted in deaths.

Oh no not again! (1, Troll)

DogsBollocks (806307) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494399)

Keep those pesky damm old farts out of it.

The CRTC does more damage than good, why do we need a bunch of crusty old farts telling us what is and what isn't good.

The reason for all those extra charges on the phone bill is because the CRTC said the telephone companies could do it.

CRTC is also screwing everybody with regards to TV pricing, Digital services are now conditional access, IE it is now technically possible to subscribe to indvidual channels. However, in the CRTC's infinite wisdom we must buy our TV programming in packages, including being forced to subscribe to the basic services such as CPAC etc.

This is utter tripe, if a TV station is transmitting such garbage that it only has two viewers then why should it still exist, it's a bad business model. The CRTC ensure that the crap services stay alive by forcing everybody to pay for it.

Why can't I just subscribe to the channels I want, it would only be about ten channels from the billion channel universe, if people had this kind of choice then a lot of the garbage channels and shows would be gone.

Goodbye VOIP, it was nice knowing you, once the CRTC grab hold of it it won't be worth having.

Re:Oh no not again! (2, Informative)

Nos. (179609) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494500)

CRTC, for the most part, I agree, is not a benefit to Canadians, however, they have done some good things, and don't do somethings you suggest they do. They recently [jointheweb.org] made sure 911 was provided by VoIP providers. They have nothing to do with subscribing to the channels you want. My TV provider allows me to pick the channels I want individually if I choose. Most providers do packages so they can earn more profits. Some of those extra charges on your phone bill are the result of regulations on telecom NOT the companies. The regulations forced on telecoms (like 911 access) cost money. They in turn have to pass that cost onto their customers. To do so, they need approval from the CRTC.

Re:Oh no not again! (3, Informative)

SerialEx13 (605554) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494540)

People have done what you have mentioned. However, it requires purchasing equipment and setting things up yourself.

The CRTC has nothing to do with your lack of being able to buy channels individually (with the exception of requiring a certain number of those channels to be Canadian). It is the cable/satellite companies that put them into budles. Most cable/satellite companies allow you to purchase digital channels separately.

With analogue cable, the reason they are in bundles is because you just can't flip a switch and enable access to them. They have to go out to your place and setup the connection. It is just easier -- and cheaper for them -- to offer three or so packages than to offer 50 individual channels.

I suggest you read the CRTC website which explains in detail about your beefs. If you are still not happy, file a complaint with them. They surprisenly do go through those things and respond.

Re:Oh no not again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12495869)

I'd be really currious to find out which sattelite provider allows me to pick individual channels. It's sure not Bell ExpressVu. Sure, I can pick certain specialty channels (that are junk, that show repeats of junk) but I can't pick-and-choose any of the good channels (like A&E), they're all in "packages", that include a bunch of crap.

Re:Oh no not again! (1)

Dave114 (168228) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495913)

(with the exception of requiring a certain number of those channels to be Canadian).

I despise these Canadian content regulations that we've got... the billion that we're forced to fork over to the CBC each year should be more than enough IMO to encourage Canadian content

Re:Oh no not again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494904)

I'm one of the two people that watches CPAC and you're absolutely right, the system is ridiculous. I would be happy to pay $2-5 a month for CPAC and one of the many channels carrying Law and Order, and do without all the Much Music, French, religious, Canadian, and shopping channels. The CRTC is a great example of a regulatory authority that has overstepped its bounds, forcing things like canadian content (and CPAC) on a public that by-and-large doesn't want it.
------
AC because I'm away from the office and I can't remember my password. I didn't think I'd have net access but luckily, my hotel seems to include a free internet service run by an ISP named Linksys.

New Content Rules (3, Funny)

Rixel (131146) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494457)

Also, new content rules will require that at least 40% of all conversation must have Canadian Content.

So no more yakking about last night's Desparate Housewives.

The first bunch of X-Files years are okay though...they were created in Canada.

God Bless Socialism! (-1, Offtopic)

AstroDrabb (534369) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494480)

Ah, how great thou art my dear Socialism! Your beauty is beyond words! Your truth is know to all. The government knows best! The "commoner" could never choose for themselves. Even though capitalism has show to be the best system overall for an economy, you dear Socialism, say "no, we won't have that!". Oh dear Socialism, you will stop this madness and allow your dear citizens to live under your rule! To live how you think best! Who, beyond you dear Socialism knows better? Thou great Socialism, take my money, tax me heavily, spend my money how you think best for I know not what I do. Regulate our businesses for they will all harm us. Whatever would I do without you my dear Socialism?

Oh, wait I said God! Damn me to a very hot place my dear Socialism! I should have said Ala Bless, or Buda Bless or [no know god] bless.

Re:God Bless Socialism! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12495181)

You're an idiot.

Well, I hope they make changes... (3, Interesting)

Mr. Flibble (12943) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494503)

I just got Asterisk@Home 1.0 up and running last night, and I was researching Canadian VOIP providers (specifically on Vancouver Island). I found, to my surprise that almost all of them support MGCP and not SIP.

Apparently, Asteriks works great with SIP, but is a real beast with MGCP...

So personally I hope that this regulation brings in smaller players who support SIP and will allow me to hook up a local VOIP connection in Victoria...

As an aside - are there any Canadian (preferably in B.C.) users of Asterisk out there who are running a good VOIP setup? If so, what provider do you use?

Re:Well, I hope they make changes... (2, Informative)

xtrvd (762313) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494892)

I'm getting a setup from these folks in Coquitlam: www.mxunetworks.com, they do mostly commercial buildings and have an office in Victoria. They work with asterisk and use SIP phones.

I hope that helps. =)

Xtrvd.
Customer of above company.

Re:Well, I hope they make changes... (1)

skalcevich (701019) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495646)

No I am using www.spectravoice.com they use SIP or IAX and will give you the settings to use any device as you see fit. you need to fill out a form saying you agree to there terms for using your own device. They have a few exchanges in canada mainly in ontario / quebec i think i dont remember i have a 416 number. it was a pain getting it since they are all french really and i dont speak it but i got it working and its great... other then that yea most use mgcp go to www.voip-info.org and look up providers there are other ones too to choose from that use SIP cheers!

It's only for the incumbents... (1)

pdaoust007 (258232) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494542)

RTFA...

The CRTC, with their infinite wisdom, only want to price regulate the incumbent phone companies to prevent them from squashing competition from smaller players.

The issue I see with this is that those "other players" are basically huge multi billion dollar cable companies. Don't kid yourself, the CRTC WANTS to see Bell and Telus loose a good chunck of their business and then they might lift their regulation stronghold.

Personally I think it's not a good idea to regulate any form of Internet based technology for the sake of innovation but hey I'm sure those so called governmental experts over at the CRTC knows better...

General question on regulation... (2, Insightful)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494546)

Those who support regulation of VoIP often say that interaction with POTS as the reason why regulation is warranted. On that line of thinking, if some company created a VoIP system that does not interact with POTS, should it still be subject to regulation? Likewise, if POTS should become obsolete an be replaced by VoIP systems, would regulation still be justified?

Re:General question on regulation... (1)

stewarsh (875002) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495136)

When it comes to public safety then yes. Not sure about the system in Canada. Considering the mishaps that have happend with VoIP phones and ppl attempting to dial 911 here in the States I believe that regulation is something that is needed in how the systems tie in with POTS network and routing.

But why? (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495286)

If I create an application that allows me to engage in voice communications with another person on the Internet, such an application would probably not fall under the authority of telco regulations. If that is the case, then why should attaching a phone-like device to such an application suddenly make it subject to regulation?

Strength of the dollar (1)

paulproteus (112149) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494621)

From the article:
Mr. Grant also said VoIP will open up the telephone services market to greater competition. "Ten years ago, you needed a trillion dollars to get into this business -- now you need $20,000."
I had no idea the Canadian dollar was that weak!

Dumb... Dah Dumb Dumb! (1)

webzombie (262030) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494636)

As a Canadian I can assure you I have no love loss for the CRTC. They have screwed up more technology related businesses then Bill Gates.

What I find interesting is their reasoning for their ruling. To keep the big guys in check so they don't squash the lil' guys with their legislated monopolies. WTF!

What about Microsoft Canada or Union Energy (DUKE Energy) or any number of legislated monopolies that the Canadian government has allowed for decades and done NOTHING about let alone regulate them to protect consumers.

Seems to me that the CRTC is selectively posturing and beating their ancient chests more for the politicans then the consumer.

Oh and enough with this 911 bullshit as a means to limit VOIP. why can't I have the choice of a "911 button" for $3.0 a month and get my telephone services anywhere I like. No that would be giving Canadian consumers a real choice.

loopholes? (1, Interesting)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 8 years ago | (#12494719)

What if a company offers POTS connection through a switchboard/extension type system - instead of you actually getting a real phone number, you get an extension number. People call a main number for that VoIP company and then enter the extension - is that technically regulatable? Not sure how it would work for dialling out...

Another reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12494863)

This is just another reason to realize the independance of Québec. Stupid laws from federal govs!

But what is a fair price for voip? (1)

Sark666 (756464) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495049)

I personally think voip is overpriced when compared to pots IF you do not make a lot of long distance calls. Most of my calls are in my area code. I looked over voip and it costs about the same as pots in this regard (maybe a saving of 5 - 10 bucks tops).

I was surprised when voip first came out and you see prices like 29.99 - 34.99 etc. I thought wtf, these companies are in a sense piggy backing on other companies providing high speed to you.

Vonage and them are just providing a termination service. So could say bell or rogers sell dsl + voip for say 10 bucks more. And not at a loss but actually make a profit from it? Well, bell might not want to but I could see rogers being interested. I read some US cable isps are intergrating voip connectivity in their cable modems.

Also, what we are really paying for is the relay from ip to pots. Where is the money for companies like vonage once everyone is on voip?

People still aren't getting it... (1)

Hamster Lover (558288) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495059)

I have no love for the CRTC at the best of times, but this decision was welcomed by the smaller players like Shaw, Vonnage, etc. because it allows them to enter the market with a competitive price structure and not worry that the incumbent carriers (Telus or Bell) would swoop in and offer similar service at a fraction of the cost. In essence, killing off the competition with artificially low priced service.

Shaw just recently began offering their VoIP service in Calgary and Edmonton at $55/month for unlimited local and North American long distance combined with voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, 3 way calling, and call forwarding it is a fantastic bargain compared to Telus. Without this ruling Telus could leverage their infrastructure and financial base to undercut Shaw and force them into a price war that Shaw or any other VoIP provider could not maintain in the long run.

Telus and Bell will still be able to compete, but it means that they will have to submit their pricing structure to the CRTC for approval. A lot of the rationale for the decision comes from the CRTC mandate to find a regulatory format that would open the local service to real competition, something that has eluded them for years, and VoIP appears to be the only cost effective way this will be achieved.

Oh man! not another fee hike (1)

Mokmo (883142) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495130)

The CRTC is the reason: -i pay 6,95$ "system access fees" EXTRA from my cell package. And they don't advertise that fee simply because CRTC doesn't ask them to. -why we're stuck with CPAC (par"liar"ment channel) APTN (Aboriginal chan). -That we have to choose à least 50% canadian content channels on cable packages. -THAT THE SUPERBOWL IS STUCK WITH VERY BAD CANADIAN ADS. -That XM and Sirius are taking soo long to get legally around (Announcements about this coming this week!) -At least 50% canadian content on radio, in Quebec add this to 65% french speaking content, most radios suck around here and the smallest American signal is welcome. I'm even starting to like that rock station owned by Clear channel

Re:Oh man! not another fee hike (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12495892)

move to the USA ass fuck!

Monopolists are regulated, nobody else (5, Informative)

isdnip (49656) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495141)

The Slashdot cover story gets it wrong. The CRTC is not regulating all VoIP providers. It is regulating Incumbent telephone companies.

There are two types of local phone companies. Incumbents were given legal monopolies until recently, with Canada following the USA in opening up competition. So Bell Canada, Aliant, Telus and Sasktel are Incumbents in Canada. They all have much more than a 50% market share. This is generally accepted as giving them monopoly power -- the ability to set prices in a manner that no competitor can equal.

All other telephone companies are Competitive. They are startups, or at least new to the phone business. In the USA, the term of art is CLEC, and they range from big cable companies down to one-man shops. (I personally know some of the latter.) They have no market power to speak of. Vonage is not a phone company, at least under US rules, but it does provide something resembling local phone service. (Technically it's reselling the services of other CLECs, such as Focal and Paetec.)

The CRTC decided (it's not formally out yet) that Incumbent local phone companies, whose prices are regulated because they have monopoly power, cannot offer VoIP services at unregulated prices. They can't offer cut-rate service that puts their competitors out of business (remember John D. Rockefeller -- sell cheap until the competitor is gone, then raise the price big time). EVERYBODY ELSE can do as they please. Shaw, Rogers, Vonage, Broadvoice, Yukon Dave's Trading Post and Telephone Service Company -- they can offer VoIP withut price regulation.

The CRTC is doing a far better job than the US FCC has been doing over the past few years. This decision is quite reasonable.

Re:Monopolists are regulated, nobody else (1)

TheTomcat (53158) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495736)

Mod parent up, please!

This is really GOOD news.
Bell's customer service SUCKS. They're a monopoly (in Quebec), and they know it.

This regulation (once official) will open up the market to competitors. Already, I have a number in 514 that's "non-bell", for $2.50/month (and 1.1c/min to Montreal and major hubs in Ontario). Bell's service is 20 times that (but offers a flat rate for local calls).

Price regulation (in a price-fixed, over-monopolized market) is a GOOD thing.

S

Beyond VoIP (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495336)

We need to move beyond VoIP to something that escapes the legacy of the old dialed phone system. That something would be like VoIP, but instead of using phone numbers in the usual way, you use IP addresses and communicate directly. Of course we would not literally use IP addresses to "dial" who we want to speak to; we'd use domain names. You get a domain name, or subdomain name, or whatever. Get a registered domain name, or just a subdomain from some dynamic IP service. And of course it should have strong encryption by default with full support of authentication keys so you know you aren't speaking to the man in the middle instead (if you have the public key of who you want to speak to, or the public key of someone who has signed their key).

The process of finding someone would basically be DNS. By adding a way to get the port number through there as well, there would not need to be a specific port associated with this (just some way for DNS to know what you are getting the port number for).

Of course we'll need to find some ways to block VoIP spam.

Existing VoIP would be used for access to those who only have legacy phone service. But the idea is to phase that out.

Re:Beyond VoIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12495532)

All roads lead through bell (copper anyways). Tougher anti-monopoly laws (which we'll never see) and wireless even when there is a wire offers the best solutions.

Or there popular new technologies like wrist watches (doesn't work because the status of a cell phone would be missed), eye glasses, Maxwell Smarts' shoe, etc... offering service through agreed industry standards to computers, TV's, and every other god damn thing that doesn't have a direct connection to bells' switch boards (or at least avoids the bell tax).

There's a certain amount of irony in telemarketers from India calling my house 4 times a day (who got my number through sympatico-bells ISP) at less then 1/10th a cent per minute (including wages) but talking to my cousin (who lives 2 hrs away) for an hour costs about 10 bucks. If there is interference from the courts, I hope they take bells' commodization of their own market into consideration.

Here...have a dose of reality! (1)

qualico (731143) | more than 8 years ago | (#12495691)

VOIP should still have a lot of room to move on prices, even though you can currently get VOIP for $10/month with 500 minutes from Comwave.net.
To compare apple to apples, Shaw's $55 service is Vonage's $40 or Comwave's $30.
So we already have healthy competition.
Unless you set the minimum to something less than $10, how will this new regulation benefit Canadians if you force companies to raise that price?

Pigs get slaughter, whores get...
Telus is a legal monopoly owning all Yellow pages advertising and if not for competition to the east it would own all Canadian telecom.

"The phone companies told the CRTC last fall during VoIP hearings that more competition and less regulation would be good for consumers and the industry"
Your going to tell me that telephone companies want competition? Come on off it!
The only option to Telus is a reconnect service costing $80/month.
That's more like the competition they are seeking.
.
.
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There needs to be regulation all right:
[warning you are entering a rant area]

Time to slaughter the pigs and make some room for the little guy, but before this can happen the Canadian political landscape needs a major facelift. Heck we still do everything in the name of "The Crown - Queen of England".
You have to go no further than Adrian Clarkson, (the Queen's rep.) who has a law that she can't be audited for all that wasted money.
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNew s/1076676942066_12/ [www.ctv.ca]
How ridiculous is that? Lets see something like that fly south of the border.

Trouble with this proposal is that it stinks of skulduggery.
Politics, thanks to the Sponsorship Scandal and many other boondoggles are not trustworthy here in Canada.
Big companies will continue to marionette our government with their sneaky sleazeball tactics.
Meanwhile the Media, owned by the later, will continue to spoon feed the passive, apathetic public with tidings of good joy.
Oh and lets not forget that this bureaucracy comes at a price!
Time to raise taxes from 50% to 60? How many more ways can we tax a dollar?

Until our government becomes an entity of sincere interest for the benefits of its people, with a system of promoting true leaders into the voting arena, will I believe that there is any good to come of said regulation.

FAILZORs.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12495955)

problem; a few which don't 0Se the
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