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Class Action Suit Against Bell For Throttling 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-pay-the-piper dept.
doppiodave writes "Hard on the heels of the Net Neutrality bill introduced in Canada's Parliament, a class action suit was filed yesterday against Bell by Quebec's Consumers Union, asking that extensive compensation be paid to all Bell's DSL subscribers for fraudulent advertising and privacy violations. The press release is available in French. The timing of this suit coincides with several other developments that suggest Net Neutrality is finally coming to the attention of the general public and Canada's regulator, the CRTC, which recently required Bell to file responses (by May 29) to an exhaustive list of interrogatories about its traffic-shaping practices."
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Class Action Suit Against Bell For Throttling

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  • by Looce (1062620) * on Saturday May 31, 2008 @12:56AM (#23607715) Journal
    MONTREAL, May 29 /CNW Telbec/ - The Consumers' Union and a Montreal consumer, Myrna Raphael, ask the Supreme Court to authorise a class action lawsuit against Bell Canada on behalf of all Quebec consumers subscribed, before or after October 28, 2007, to one of its DSL Internet access services.
    Bell Canada, which announces in the promotion of its Internet access services "a constant speed, an access that is always fast, without frustrating slowdowns, even at peak hours" has installed on its network since last fall, surreptitiously, a mechanism that deliberately slows down, at peak hours, the transfer speed of its subscribers' data.
    To inspect the users' data and manage the Internet traffic, Bell uses a technology called Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) which breaches the right to privacy of the consumers using their Internet access services.
    Myrna Raphael has signed in 2006 a 3-year contract, wanting to take advantage of the constant speed offered by Bell Canada. For this consumer, as well as thousands of others, the constant speed was a key factor in her choice. Since Bell has systematically applied its slowdown measures, Mrs. Raphael and her spouse could not, in the evening, perform on the Internet any of the activities for which she had subscribed.
    The Consumers' Union therefore asks of the Court to declare illicit Bell Canada's policy regarding the unilateral and systematic slowdown of data transfer towards its hundreds of thousands of subscribers and to force Bell Canada to reimburse these consumers, to whom Bell does not offer what they paid for, 80% of the sum of their monthly subscription. The Consumers' Union also asks of the Court to force Bell Canada to pay 600 [Canadian] dollars in damages for any and all false representations made to their subscribers regarding the constant speed of the Internet access that it committed to provide them, to order Bell to cease all breaches to the right to privacy of its subscribers and to force the company to pay them 1500 [Canadian] dollars for breaching their right to privacy.

    The Consumers' Union and Myrna Raphael, the designated person, are represented by the law firm Unterberg Labelle Lebeau.

    Information: Anthony Hémond, analyst, politics and legislation for telecommunications, broadcasting, information technology and privacy, The Consumers' Union, (514) 521-6820 extension 253

    Do not call this number if you don't speak French! The official language in Quebec is French, and this designated person may not speak English.

    DISCLAIMER: This is not an official translation. I do understand French, however, as my mother tongue.

    Also, first post.
    • by s4ltyd0g (452701)
      Last I checked, it's not illegal to speak and ask for English service in Quebec. It's ridiculous to tell people not to call If they don't speak French.

      regards
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        But since the official language in Quebec is french, there is no guarantee that you will find an english-speaker. When I was in Quebec earlier this year, I noticed that outside of Montreal, it was fairly difficult to find english speaking people working in any commercial or professional space. When I had to go to the hospital, the only one who spoke any english (or at least tried) was the nurse running the triage in Emergency. Fortunately, my stilted french was enough that I was able to understand what was
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by cab15625 (710956)
          I've lived in Quebec for over ten years now (Montreal and Sherbrooke) and have never had any trouble getting service in English when it comes to government or big business. Bell, in particular, always seems to be happy to find someone to speak to me in English, especially when money is in question.

          Yes, the official language is French, but they are part of an officially bilingual country (Canada) and big businesses realize that they operate in a world where English is the most common language. Once you
          • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Saturday May 31, 2008 @12:19PM (#23610711) Homepage
            Big warning: I'm Quebec-born French, but the only time I speak French anymore is when I go drinking with the boys. I live right across the river in hypocritically-correct Ottawa.

            Montreal is about as un-French as it gets. Sure, it's the official language but French people may well be a minority in there, it is a very multicultural city. Quebec city, well I wouldn't expect *good* English but I'm sure they speak some, simply because of the tourist industry.

            Anywhere else if you ask someone "speak english", you're likely to get laughed at and/or attacked (seriously!). The further you are from the metropolises, the stronger the anti-English (and/or anti-immigrant) resentment. Common sense ain't so common in Quebec.

            Back in 1995, we had the big referendum on Quebec's sovereignty. The separatists lost by a hair, with 49.5% of the vote, and a frustrated (and drunk) Jacques Parizeau on live TV, blamed it on "money and the ethnic vote". He was absolutely right. The only people who care about Quebec's independence and French uniformity are the poor, uneducated, unmotivated, ignorant swine.

            Let's face it: Canadians with money typically aren't in Quebec - its provincial tax system punishes wealth and encourages low-expectation breeding imbeciles. I left Quebec because I don't have/want kids, and I'm not fond of my tax money subsidizing that idiotic baby bonus. They do get a few things right, like (good) cheap food and booze, but as a government they are the icon of failure.

            Everyone joked about how a separated Quebec would become a 3rd world nation overnight, because they'd be cut off from any significant source of income. Their money would become worthless overnight and 97% of the world is unable to communicate in French. They're already living that scenario to some extend, cushioned by the federal government in many ways, yet they still resist progress and change.

            If I call a Quebec company, and they can't find me someone who speaks English, then I can't find it in my heart to give them money. So what if I'm fluent in French, they're fluent in ignorance, and I don't support that.
            • by rikkards (98006)
              I can attest to the uneducated, unmotivated ignorant swine. I was in Chicoutimi and Jonquiere in 2002 for work and that is what I came away as an impression of the people there.
      • by Some1too (1242900)
        Indeed it`s not illegal to ask for a service in any language, but you probably won`t get in. I don't think it's ridiculous at all. Quebec is a French province. You wouldn't call someone in China and simply expect to be served in English would you? I'm not trying to flame, just trying to bring some insight to your post. (on an unrelated note: In Quebec you might just have a French person who speaks fluent English look you straight in the eyes and says "I'm sorry I don't speak english" in perfect engli
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ShieldW0lf (601553)
          Just say to them "Je ne parle pas francais, mais je comprende un peu. Eske tu comprende Anglais?"

          I used to hitchhike through Quebec quite a bit when I was younger, and if you can understand the gist of what they say in French, they'll generally be able to do the same for your English. I've successfully had conversations lasting hours with the two of us speaking different languages at each other because even though we could decipher the foreign language, our native tongue was the only language we could fin
        • by s4ltyd0g (452701)
          If the class for this suit was all French speaking Bell customers, then it wouldn't be so ridiculous telling non French speaking folks to call.

          Bell will still sell you service even if you don't speak French, so it doesn't really matter which language you speak does it? If I'm eligible for the suit, please explain again why I shouldn't call that number?

          regards
      • It's not illegal to speak and ask for Swahili service in Quebec either. One or two people doing that wouldn't even be a big deal. However, hundreds of people doing that (e.g., Slashdotters) would make them all pretty big jackasses.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Stellian (673475)

      has installed on its network since last fall, surreptitiously, a mechanism that deliberately slows down, at peak hours, the transfer speed of its subscribers' data.

      Yeah, as opposed to all other ISPs in the world, where the speed actually goes up during peak hours. Or, at the very least, you connection speed is guaranteed, no matter what protocol you are using or if the other endpoint is on the other side of the world.

      To inspect the users' data and manage the Internet traffic, Bell uses a technology called Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) which breaches the right to privacy of the consumers using their Internet access services.

      Trafic shaping and prioritization is as old as the Internet, and it's here to stay. Heck, it's even built into TCP: when the numeber of connections goes up, the average speed decreases. It's perfectly legitimate for the ISP to throttle protocols that ar

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by id0ntlikeyou (1151081)

        Aggressive traffic shaping is not welcomed by the customer, and the customer will leave, it's a simple free market exercise - just vote with your wallet, and word of mouth will do the rest.

        Otherwise, if you don't like the service your ISP gives you, with a protocol you chose, you are free to renegotiate your contract, or switch to another provider.

        Actually, Bell has a monopoly on DSL in many parts of Canada... If you go to another ISP that sells you DSL service you're still being throttled by Bell because that ISP ultimately leases Bell's network.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Aggressive traffic shaping is not welcomed by the customer, and the customer will leave, it's a simple free market exercise - just vote with your wallet, and word of mouth will do the rest.
        I am one of the customers that voted with the wallet and signed up with a DSL reseller. Guess what? My connection is shaped by Bell, too, despite that I am NOT a Bell customer. So voting with a wallet does not work when it comes to internet access.
      • Aggressive traffic shaping is not welcomed by the customer, and the customer will leave
        No he won't. Even heavily shaped residential high-speed Internet access is faster than the alternative, which is dial-up.

        What I understand by net neutrality, is that my ISP should not be allowed to make politically driven shaping, I.E. favor Metacafe over Youtube
        What makes favoring Metacafe and YouTube over your BitTorrent peers not "politically driven shaping"?
        • by Stellian (673475)

          What makes favoring Metacafe and YouTube over your BitTorrent peers not "politically driven shaping"?

          There's a reasonable expectation from the ISP's customers that when they click a Youtube link, the movie should play. The customer can't and won't load Youtube movies 24 hours a day, so I think it's reasonable to favor streaming, bursting traffic over bulk, sustained traffic. The ISP customers will not tolerate lagging Youtube clips, nor would they tolerate prices inflated by the requirement to give all customers constant bandwidth equal to their burst rate.

          By politically driven shaping I mean any shaping

      • Trafic shaping and prioritization is as old as the Internet, and it's here to stay. Heck, it's even built into TCP: when the numeber of connections goes up, the average speed decreases. It's perfectly legitimate for the ISP to throttle protocols that are considered less important, or to cap the band of traffic hogs.

        Yes shaping and prioritization has been built in the IP protocol. However massive throttling where you only get 5% of what you pay for isn't.

        What, you don't agree with the classification made by your ISP, that 90% of bittorent packets goes to /dev/null ? To bad, I guess you should have read the contract before signing it. And you can be sure the contract allows them aggressive traffic shaping, and stipulates just a maximum speed you are allowed to use, no minimal guarantees. Unless you are a business customer, and pay a premium for that guaranteed minimal bandwidth.

        Actually this is where you are totally wrong. It is important when any contract is signed, especially in Quebec, to have a meeting of the mind.

        Clearly put, if ads tell you that you will be getting constant speeds and a "dedicated" (this is how Bell framed their DSL service vs the "shared" line of cable modems), then Bell has the obligation of providing it to their cu

      • by lpq (583377)
        Some ignorant idealist, Stellan, wrote "Otherwise, if you don't like the service your ISP gives you, with a protocol you chose, you are free to renegotiate your contract, or switch to another provider."

        --- What world do you live in? Certainly not the US, and, from what it sounds like,
        not in Canada? The US communications market for cell and internet is very non-competitive. There is very little choice in many areas. Only a few markets have any real competition, but the rest of the US is stuck with whate
  • While down here we have to suffocate under that oppressive "*".
  • by Cathoderoytube (1088737) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:08AM (#23607763)
    Hahaha! This is great! I use Bell for my internet! And I'm pretty sure they've been messing with my connection! I'm rich! I'm rich! Woo hoo!
    • You /were/ rich. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Gazzonyx (982402) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:23AM (#23607803)
      Don't think they won't be kindly requesting that cash back, with interest, in your next months service bill. The bill will also, most likely, be accompanied by a change of service terms notice, and a rate increase letter.

      I'd like to be pleasantly surprised (my father just retired from Bell/Verizon and without him working there, I wouldn't be in college - I must admit that), but I have a feeling I won't be. It seems that management will cut off their noses to show good numbers for the quarter, while actually losing money in the process of padding the numbers. They're not going to take a loss without passing it on to the customer, and they're probably going to take that opportunity to sweeten the deal for themselves just a little bit more. But, like I said, I really hope I'm wrong.
      • I am somewhat dubious that I'll actually see one red cent out of this whole ordeal. But I'm really hoping those bastards get crucified. Just reading the headline 'Bell Loses Class Action Suit' would almost be enough for me (I also want money). I didn't even know those bastards were doing deep packet inspection. That's something I find extremely infuriating. And if they wind up losing the suit, and make some attempt to pass the cost onto their customers/victims it won't particularly matter to me, since I'll
        • And if they wind up losing the suit, and make some attempt to pass the cost onto their customers/victims it won't particularly matter to me, since I'll be using another ISP at that point.

          Well, ISTR that Bell Canada controls the backbone in canada, which means that if you use another ISP, you still go through Bell Canada's network. Also, in passing on the cost of the class-action lawsuit outcome, they might get the idea of upping the charges on their peering agreements, which means your ISP has to shell out some more money. Your money.

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Well, ISTR that Bell Canada controls the backbone in canada

            It is somewhat more complicated than that.
            There isn't really a single 'backbone' but you are correct that Bell does run a lot of our traffic.

            Bell has a monopoly on the DSL lines in many parts of the country (but not all! there are some other regional monopolies). They also run lots of backbone fiber.
            Many ISPs lease fiber from Bell for their long-haul (backbone) links but in most cases these are layer 1 or layer 2 services and thus not affected by any 'Internet' policies or activities of Bell.
            In areas wher

      • by digidave (259925)
        Bell Canada has lost 30% of their phone subscribers to cable phone companies in many areas. They are hurting big-time and they don't know how to stop the bleeding.

        If they're smart -- and I'm not convinced they are -- they will do whatever it takes to keep their remaining customers. I wouldn't be surprised if they start giving away their cheaper internet package to anybody who signs up for their phone service and a long distance plan.
      • ...that it was a class action suit for Trolling. So I thought some subset of Slashdot was going to pay a few ten thousandths of a penny to some other subset of Slashdot. (And the intersection of those two subsets would be paying themselves!)
  • by Excelcia (906188) <kfitzner@excelcia.ca> on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:12AM (#23607773) Homepage Journal
    This is the way things tend to work up here. In the beginning, our leaders and lawmakers generally will just quietly make rational decisions based on ethical public policy and good technical input. Things are fine for some time here while we enjoy the sensible solution that seems to elude our neighbours to the source. Things continue happily for us while the same fight drags on in the US until big money wins out there. Then the same big money just pays for getting the American government to put pressure on ours until we capitulate.

    So yes, it will be nice for a while, until your diplomats come calling to outline our terribly unfair (to ISPs) policies which are out of line with the rest of the world (America) and are damaging international relations. At which point, just to illustrate the issue, a softwood lumber tariff will get slapped on us which, of course, is completely unrelated to the net neutrality issue. " - you're accusing us of a punitive tariff? You wound us." But, surprise, surprise, it gets lifted when we cave in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      In the beginning, our leaders and lawmakers generally will just quietly make rational decisions based on ethical public policy and good technical input.
      What? Lies! Politicians NEVER do anything quietly, rationally, or based on ethical public policy! Unless Canada's hogging them all - in which case, you may want to consider taking some of your so-called "honest" policians on a round-the-world tour - you'll make millions selling tickets to see these creatures!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        The thing is, it's not politicians making the decisions at those stages, it's the civil servants. These are long-time government employees, which basically operate like any other large, bloated corporation... not MUCH gets done, but when it affects the executives or their friends, rational decisions are often made.

        Then the politicians come in and mess it all up.

        Like, last year, this civil servant was in charge of all the nuclear plants, and she's all like "Hey, you bozos in Chalk River, you haven't upgraded
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I recently moved to Mountain View CA from Waterloo ON. I had Bell DSL at home. I was quite happy with the service and I'm a big bit torrent user. Definitely better than Rogers Cable. I never thought there was a big difference between what they were advertising and what they were selling.

    I'm using AT&T DSL now. WOW. Worst. Service. Ever! I actually figured this out today... there's something like an order of magnitude (or more, depending how you count it) between what they advertise and what the
  • The press release is available in French.

    Shouldn't it me available in English as well. Or is it just that English only is disallowed but French only is. (1/2 tongue in cheek)

    Obligitory: Free Qubec
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Basically the only reason anyone in Canada speaks French is because of Quebec and the fact that each state there wields too much power. It's kind of funny that Quebec always plays this persecution card to force the rest of the country to speak French, and then they ignore English entirely.
    • by AikonMGB (1013995)

      I wasn't aware that press releases fell under the categories of "federal law" or "government services"...

      Aikon-

      • It is sort of a joke. I love the dual language signage in British Columbia even though I have hear more German, Russian and Ukrainian than French (I have not heard any french other than US tourists reading signs, often badly) in Vancouver or Victoria. Sort of like the like in "Canadian Bacon" where the hastily written scrawls on the truck in English had them stopped by a policeman who had them add French annotation.
        • by Tjp($)pjT (266360)
          Further quick note:
          Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] notes there are private sector obligations as well, such as ingredient lists for food. So it is not _all_ government as the actor services that require bilingual texts.
    • Legal correspondence from persons or groups in Quebec to companies which have offices in Quebec can be done only in French, or in both languages, at the person or group's discretion. I agree that Bell is a Canadian company, but they have offices in all provinces.

      Legal correspondence from Quebec to another province, or within another province, would have to be done only in English, I think, unless it were New Brunswick.

      Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Canada is bilingual, meaning documents from the Canadian federal government must be available in both languages. Provincial legal documents must be in the province's official language. Quebec's official language is French, other provinces have English as their official language, with the exception of New Brunswick, which is the only bilingual province (although I believe some of the territories are multilingual).

      But that's only for legal documents, anyway. Which press releases from a consumer's union are no
  • stupid bell....... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Okay, so this deals with fraudulent advertising with their internet services, but what about cell phone service. Whenever I go skiing at Cypress Mountain, I get no reception at all. Normally, I wouldn't care because Bell has shitty service, but Bell sponsored the power park or w/e, and it says that they have service mountain wide. But I can't make a phone call at the lodge. What kind of BS is that?
  • simple really (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @02:18AM (#23607975)
    Pretty simple lawsuit I guess. Fraudulent advertising, huh? I bet they're suing over the phrase "internet access" cuz that's what they're not giving!
    • by Mishotaki (957104)
      It's more about the fact that they've been advertising that the speed of their internet services will never slow down, no matter what, due to a peak in the neighbours using more bandwith : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArpmbnxIQIQ [youtube.com] -- that ad represents pretty well how they have been advertising that their services won't make your speed slower during peak hours...
  • I have twice been fooled by AT&T/Bell South telephone sales lying to me about increased bandwidth and lower prices with reasons for lower prices being bundeling and such. But when the bill came its was proven to be a lies. They tried a third time but this time I caught them and raised hell about it and had them take me off the call list.

    I have had bandwidth problems too, one happened after I installed ubuntu feisty fawn but after trying everything to resolve it in feisty and also thru bell south, I swap
  • I must drink more coffee before reading /. headlines.

    My first thought was 'wonder who Bell killed?' (Possibly Eddison?)

  • by mario_grgic (515333) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @07:35AM (#23608843)
    they should also be demanding the choice for consumers to terminate their contracts with Bell with no termination penalties.

    I know a lot of ISPs have the clause in their contract that makes it costly for you to terminate the contract and switch to someone else.

    Since Bell has effectively breached the contract, the customers should have the right to walk away from it as well with no repercussions.
  • I'm glad to hear that Bell is about to get their asses kicked. Every night, after 12 PM exactly, I notice my connection slows down to a crawl up until 6-7 AM in the morning. Yes, I'm a heavy Bittorrent user, with encryption enabled. I'm on the verge to switch over to Videotron (the other major provider of Internet access in Quebec) but they have lame bandwidth caps. Internet access here in Quebec is absolutely terrible. It's not even true ADSL, just shitty G.lite/PPPOE.
  • by FromTheAir (938543) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @10:15AM (#23609743) Homepage
    Had problems with You Tube video for several days which would stop playing for 15 - 30 seconds and then start again.

    Wondered is it You Tube servers or ISP (Comcast)?

    Did speed tests there were fluctuations but plenty of bandwidth for the video. Everything else but You Tube had a crisp response. Switched cable to backup DSL (AT&T) which is much slower than the cable connection. Many people would not be able to do this type of test usually only having one provider at a house.

    The You Tube problem went away. Which means it was not the PC, or You Tube servers, but having to do with packet transport.

    So this shows that Comcast was ruining the You Tube experience for sure.

    whether they are intentionally throttling or not is not is still a question.

    Doing a trace route we can see issue for sure poor network engineering. Comcast 8 hops to Washington DC & Va, AT&T 4 hops to Chicago. It could also be that Comcast is routing it packets some intelligence agency packet sniffing hub which is causing the delay.

    Any other thoughts?

  • ...darn!, I was late!

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: LaoziSailor
    To: lettertoed@thestar.ca
    Sent: Saturday, May 31, 2008 7:51 PM
    Subject: Re.: Bell defends 'shaping' Internet traffic
    Dear Editor:

    This is tantamount to an invasion of privacy:

    "Bell began implementing traffic shaping measures for its own retail customers last October between the hours of 4:30 p.m. and 2 a.m., which is when traffic on its network is highest. Its rival Rogers Communications Inc. also employs similar techniques.

    Both
  • They are throttling too! Or will ted somehow get away with this like he did with the sky dome?

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