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Bell Sympatico Black List - Net neutrality

Net neutrality? What’s that?
Throwing up its metaphorical hands in horror, it claims it would never dream of doing such a thing —- it’s just kinda, well, you know, delaying things a teensy bit.
Nothing to get upset about.
Members of the SavetheInternet.com Coalition and top Net scholars don’t agree, however. And to make their position unmistakably clear, they’ve filed a class action demanding the US Federal Communications Commission fine Comcast $195,000 for every affected subscriber
“Nobody gave Comcast the right to be an Internet gatekeeper,” says Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press and co-author of the complaint. “And there is nothing reasonable about telling users which Internet services they can and can’t use.”
But Comcast isn’t the only villain in the piece, and the US isn’t the only country where The Biggies have decided they can do whatever they want and get away with it, a la the movie and music cartels.
In the States, users have people trying to look after their rights and interests, but there’s no one doing that in Canada.

If you’re signed on with Bell-Sympatico and you’ve been unsuccessfully trying to coax a little more speed out of your suddenly sluggish computer; or, if you’ve been calling Bell-Sympatico support only to be told it’s not them, it’s you —- it isn’t you, says Ottawa Gal. Because here, “Bell-Sympatico is now following the Rogers lead,” she states. “It’s traffic shaping and throttling.”
Bell-Sympatico says it’s now taking action against ‘network abusers’ and performing ‘Traffic Management during periods of peak usage’, she says, but since Bell-Sympatico “didn’t or won’t” explained in detail why, how, and exactly who is affected, here it is from Ottawa Gal ......
Following the (Rogers) leader
For the past while Sympatico users have been complaining they were being throttled to 30kB/s on torrents. But, all that’s been said is: it’s the user’s problem or not enough seeders.But a couple of days ago it came to light what’s been happening. Sympatico is now throttling (’traffic management’) and also degrading users’ speed profiles for anyone they deem ‘network abusers’ in undisclosed areas, and any time of the day they deem fit to throttle.
Bell-Sympatico is now doing two things: following the Rogers lead: Traffic shaping/throttling and degrading users speed profiles. A brief description of what’s going on is described below along with the letters being sent to ‘Network Abusers’.
Traffic shaping/throttling (’Traffic Management during periods of peak usage’)
Per the Bell-Sympatico User Forum:
‘Only P2P is being throttled, and only during peak times, so you can continue to download whatever content you want to, so long as it’s not during peak times.’
‘As for when peak times are, Bell is closely monitoring traffic across its entire network and managing that traffic as required. The timeframes involved change due to constantly changing customer behaviour.’
The degrading of users speed profile per the Bell Sympatico User Forum:
‘I never heard of a invisible cap for bandwidth I can assure you that if your service is unlimited it is even if you reach 200gb.’
The Abuse Letter* (going out to ‘Network Abusers’):
*This is from a fellow Bell user on an unlimited contract.
Important notification about your Sympatico Internet service from Bell
Our records indicate that over the past months, there has been sustained excessive bandwidth usage on your Sympatico account. In fact, the monthly usage on your account is 5000% higher than the usage of an average Bell residential customer. Please note that less than 1% of our residential customers fall into this category.
Your level of consumption is in violation of our Service Agreement and Acceptable Use Policy. In particular, it breaches your agreement not to use the service in a manner that restricts or inhibits other Bell customers from using and enjoying the Internet and your agreement not to create an unusually large burden on our network. As a residential Internet service provider. Bell Sympatico has a responsibility to deliver high quality Internet service to all of our customers. In the event that individual customers consume excessive amounts of bandwidth, our ability to deliver on this commitment can be affected.
As a result, and in accordance with your Service Agreement, your Internet service will be restricted during peak hours of network activity for the next 30 days. This means that you may notice a decrease in the speed at which you can upload and download from the Internet during peak hours. It is important for you to reduce your usage level to an acceptable range during this time. If you fail to comply, your service will be terminated in accordance with the time frame set out in a subsequent termination notice to you.
To help you monitor your Internet usage, please log in to My Internet at bell.ca/internetusage to access our bandwidth tracker. To learn more about bandwidth intensive applications such as peer-to-peer file sharing or running servers and for tips or information on how you can manage your Internet usage, please visit bell.ca/bandwidthFAQ. Should you have any other questions regarding this notice, please call 1-866-424-0182. A copy of the Service Agreement and Acceptable Use Policy can be found at agreements.sympatico.ca.
Your cooperation in this matter is appreciated. Thank you and we look forward to your immediate action.
The Caps on Unlimited accounts (The first of many kickers):
This is a paid for unlimited account to which the invisible cap that got these people an abuse letter and labelled ‘network abusers’ is undisclosed. People have to guess at which point they’ll get this letter. The only thing known to date is the abusers will be throttled during peak time usage and their DSL profile changed to 512-downstream/512-upstream.
If we review Sympatico’s Acceptable Use Policy it only states:
‘You are prohibited from using the Service for activities that include, but are not limited to’:
“Restricting or inhibiting any other user from using or enjoying the Internet, impairing the operations or efficiency of the Service or creating an unusually large burden on our networks, or otherwise generating levels of Internet traffic sufficient to impede other users’ ability to transmit or receive information.’
-Nowhere does it state they throttle or use caps or will impose such on the user if they use P2P.
-Nowhere does it say what the magic number is before the user gets labelled a ‘Network Abuser’
-Nowhere does it state that using the paid for unlimited account service will get you labelled a ‘Network Abuser’. After all that’s why people get the unlimited account, or those on the limited account pay the extra 25$/month to be on unlimited. But now if you pay to be on unlimited, you are a ‘Network Abuser’.
Can the user policy be more vague?
Now let’s examine the Service Agreement.
(6 ii) ‘depending on the particular Service offering available to and selected by you: (A) unlimited bandwidth usage; or (B) bandwidth usage with a limit on the combined download (from the Internet to you) and upload (from you to the Internet) bandwidth activity. In the case of (B), this limit will be identified to you prior to placing an order with Your Service Provider or made available to you by Your Service Provider from time to time. An additional charge will apply for bandwidth activity that exceeds this limit which will be identified to you prior to or upon placing an order with Your Service Provider or will be made available to you by Your Service Provider from time to time. It is your responsibility to monitor and manage your monthly download and upload bandwidth activity.’
This clearly states they have two types of accounts —- Unlimited and Limited. But nowhere does it state that unlimited has an invisible cap.
It also states limits will be identified to you. But sadly, it’s not. Its states it’s your responsibility to monitor and manage your monthly bandwidth activity.
But how does one manage and monitor an invisible magic number? Does the user buy a used magic hat? Crystal ball? Cast level 9 show magic number? The limit is an unknown magic and invisible number. Rumor has it that the unlimited magic number is 200-gigs, But Bell-Sympatico won’t disclose this fictional magic number to anyone. Bell-Sympatico prefers it kept a secret.
Some people who are calling in to cancel their service are now being told there’s a $100 early termination fee. However, if we look at part 10 of the Service Agreement, we find:
(10) ‘Your Service Provider will notify you of any material amendment to this Service Agreement or of any material change to the Service in advance by posting notice of such change at www.agreements.sympatico.ca, by sending you notice via email to your Sympatico parent email address or to another email address provided by you to Your Service Provider (in which case it is your responsibility to ensure that such email address remains current at all times) or by using any other notice method that will likely come to your attention.’
But ……….
NO ONE has been given ANY notice except to be labelled a ‘Network Abuser’ by letter. Then be dropped in speed to 512/512.
NO ONE has been contacted to reflect Bell-Sympatico’s new bandwidth policies and P2P throttling.
This is in effect against Bell-Sympatico’s OWN service agreement.
This new change with invisible caps, traffic shaping and throttling of P2P is a big change, and a material change in service.
If we examine the rest of part 10 we see this:
‘Nothing in this Service Agreement shall be construed as obligating you to accept receipt of the Service after any change is made to the Service or this Service Agreement; however, to the extent permitted by applicable law, your sole remedy in the event that you do not wish to accept such change shall be cancellation of the Service (and termination of this Service Agreement) including the payment of any Termination Charges or other charges that may apply.’
It basically says if you don’t like the changes in policy, you can leave and you’ll have to pay the early termination fee.
Well, I have news for them.
They contacted NO ONE, so NO ONE can say, ‘hey there’s been a change’. It’s a completely hidden amendment to both the service policy and bandwidth policy that directly affects all users, and labels users as ‘Network Abusers’.
Let’s wrap up part 10 of the service agreement.
‘You agree that you cannot change this Service Agreement and that no customer service representative or sales representative of Your Service Provider is authorized to vary the terms of this Service Agreement in any way, verbally or in writing, unless specifically approved in writing by Your Service Provider.’
Since no Bell-Sympatico Agent, Customer Service, or Sales Rep is authorised to vary the terms of this policy in any way, Bell-Sympatico is supposed to provide these big changes to you in writing.
More news for Bell-Sympatico; NO ONE has received anything in writing about all the above changes.
Now, let’s jump back to part 4 of the service agreement, paragraph 3, we see the following:
‘If you cancel the Service prior to the end of the Initial Service Period as a result of a material change in the Service, the Termination Charge will be waived by Your Service Provider. For greater certainty, changes to Service Fees are not a material change to the Service. If you cancel your Service, the termination will be effected thirty (30) days from the date of your notice of cancellation to Your Service Provider’
So in effect, anyone wishing to cancel should do so with the above arguments since this is a very big change and a material change and be charged NO termination fee.
At most, there can be a 30-day notice required at regular cost. This should be argued not with support but with the Bell Executive Office of Customer Relations at: 1-866-317-3382. Be sure to get a confirmation number.
With all the TV commercials of Bell-Sympatico being consistently fast, this can now be argued to the Canadian Marketing Association, and complaint made for false advertising (if you bought it due to this), since it is no longer ‘consistently fast’ with the new changes. Its consistently throttled, or capped and throttled if you are a ‘Network Abuser’.
So you think that’s it right? End of the story? Big deal?
Nope.
You thought the above were kickers, right? Nope.
The best is yet to come.
With all of the above happening, Bell-Canada approached DSL whole-sellers/re-sellers.
A few Alternate 3rd party ISP’s (ie, the competition) have been selling log-in only accounts for between $10-$20. With this type of DSL account people could purchase The Bell Sympatico service with 60-gig limit for about $50, then buy the login-only account that is either premium limited (100-gig  limit) or login only unlimited over non-premium paths.
The competitors (which people usually dumped Bell-Sympatico for) are now told they can no longer sell unlimited login accounts to prevent an exodus of users, or an exodus of users saying no to bells surcharge of $25 for unlimited, for $10 unlimited given by the completion.
Bell put a swift end to the competition who were still making a buck on the login only accounts.
Not only this, but those who’ve made the black list (ie, those labelled ‘Network Abusers’) and who get their service cut off for what they bought and paid for will no longer be able to get DSL through the 3rd party competition.
Per the owner of a small ISP, Teksavvy, Bell-Sympatico will remove the user from their Data base as eligible for DSL service. Thus the competition can’t give them DSL service since they don’t exist.
In addition, Bell won’t activate the card or port required on their equipment to allow the competition to service those labelled as ‘Network Abusers’.
So what we have here is complete control over the competition in whom they can service, as Bell-Sympatico see’s fit.
Seems like this should be against the competition act doesn’t it? However, Bell has three out of the five board members sitting on the Competition Policy Review Panel whose core mandate is, “review two key pieces of Canadian legislation, the Competition Act and the Investment Canada Act, including the treatment of state-owned enterprises and the possibility of a national security review clause.’
This also builds on top of this story: Big Brother Sympatico.
As for the ‘national security’ review, allow me to direct you to Emily of the State.
So where’s the justice for those labelled by Bell-Sympatico as ‘Network Abusers’?
What kind of competitive country removes the competition from services for those labelled ‘Network Abusers’?
Had enough yet? Read on.
If you’re planning to go to Bell-Sympatico, or are already a Bell-Sympatico user, the following applies to you:
1.Bell is throttling: this is admitted in their own forum
2.Bell acknowledges it’s targeting specific programs and it didn’t specify the whole list, but only a partial list which may change as it deems fit, “as required”.
3.Bell stated unlimited accounts will remain so, as long as they’re within the “acceptable range”.
4.No one to date knows what this “acceptable range” is. We have to guess.
5.Bell stated this is in accordance with the “Acceptable Use Policy”.
6.The “Acceptable Use Policy” doesn’t state anything other than being completely open-ended to change at Bell’s discretion as it sees fit to enforce upon you, at any time it wants.
7.None of Bell’s policies tell you’ ‘unlimited’ equals 200-gigs MAX or you’re labelled a ‘Network Abuser’.
8.By Bell’s own statements, it’s suffering from internal network problems and is targeting areas/people where this occurs, within any time frameit deems fit, with no regard to anyone (ie,. ‘creating an unusually large burden on our networks’) .Hence, it’s over-subscribed what it can actually handle.
9.So in other words, you’re at Bell’’s mercy since the areas aren’t defined, time-frame isn’t defined, programs/protocols/ports aren’t defined, B/W limits aren’t defined, what speed you will be dropped to isn’t defined,
10.Bell says only P2P being throttled, however some people are complaining it affects their internet experience as a whole, regardless of P2P.
11.Bell states it’s not limiting the amount a person can download. However, by lowering speed to 512/512 for ‘Network Abusers’, for those on unlimited and throttling the rest of the users during peak times (which aren’t defined), speed is reduced. So how much you can download? Thus, by their own admission, they’re in fact affecting how much you can download, as well as when and how.
12.Bell stated you’re on your own to determine when peak time congestion is, in case you’re wonder why things slow down to 30KB/s.
13.Even if you pay the extra $25/month for unlimited, you will/can get this throttle at any time of the day (to 30-KB/s) they deem fit to impose it and you will be labelled a ‘network Abuser’ if you reach the invisible magic b/w limit.
14.Those who received the VERY vague letters were given no time frame as to when to slow down on the downloads/uploads,
15.Those who received the VERY vague letters were given no b/w limit to stay below,
16.Those who received the VERY vague letters were not told they’d be degraded to a 512/512 profile.
17.All those affected should be allowed to terminate their contracts without penalty fee’s since this is a VERY big change in Bandwidth policy without notice or regard to the customer and with no time-frame and b/w limit given.
18.It has been made public knowledge that Bell is forcing other DSL whole-sellers or re-sellers to get rid of the unlimited login. This is full control over competition.
19.It has been made public knowledge that those cut off from bell DSL for any of the above reasons will be removed from their Dbase and you won’t be able to get service from the other DSL competition going through their network (Bell won’t activate the port/card). This is full control over competition.
20.It hasn’t been confirmed, but the magic invisible limit on unlimited is 200-gigs (explain that one to your kids).
21.If you were sold the promise of unlimited consistently fast internet, you need to call the Bell Executive Office of Customer Relations if you see 30KB/s because Bell reps won’t acknowledge the whole truth to you and will probably tell you the problem is your broken PC or router. You were only sold a broken promise.
22.Be aware of the Black list and what happens if you make this black list.
We all know what’s going to come next, encryption throttling (like Rogers).
Buyer beware.
[Ottawa Gal is a long-time p2pnet reader and comment poster who'd rather remain anonymous. She says she works in the University, likes her cat, reality TV, and Doctor McDreamy. Her favourite web sites are the Michael Geist blog and p2pnet.net. "Privacy on the net is also important to me," she says. "I need a tinfoil hat ;) " She's also the mother of, "two darling little girls who tore down my ceiling fan three days ago thinking it would be fun to hang from it." So she advises parents to, "never have an armchair around from which little ones can reach fans". (No one was hurt :) ) ]
Stay tuned.

References:
http://www.supportcommunity.sympatico.ca/pe/action/forums/displaypost?postID=10138051&returnExpertiseCode

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