An Open Letter to the CRTC

Re: CRTC 2008-19 (Review of the Internet traffic management practices of Internet service providers)

Dear Commissioners:

As a Canadian who depends on the Internet for my livelihood, I would like to share with you the consequences of your impending review of the Internet traffic management practices of ISPs.

My business, and most of the businesses I service, rely on the internet to provide content to end-users. In many cases this content takes the form of a written website, but in other cases it is video or downloadable files.

If you permit ISPs to use traffic management practices such as Deep Packet Inspection, or allow ISPs to give priority to traffic that is coming from or going to certain destinations, (for example, Google, or the Government of Canada), then you are allowing ISPs to unfairly discriminate against the traffic, (and by proxy, the end users of that traffic), that does not receive this priority treatment. If this priority is established by paying a fee, you are creating a potentially huge financial barrier to competition that small businesses like mine, and those of my clients will likely not be able to overcome. For me to compete against CanWest, BCE, and other major media companies, when my content is transmitted to end-users would be a near impossibility in a priority-based internet. If ISPs in Canada are permitted to decide whose data is transferred first, and whose data is throttled, Canada will not be an attractive place for any company that relies on the Internet to invest, or for an entrepreneur such as I to start a new Internet-based company.

Suppose the priority system is turned around, and it is the end-users that pay a premium for priority on the internet. In these tough times, should a laid-off autoworker be penalized for doing Google searches for jobs, or for visiting a job site such as Monster or Montréal-based StandoutJobs? I’m sure that I don’t have to answer that for you.

Yes, there has been a huge growth in traffic on the Internet, and it will continue to grow as more and more services move online, but the solution is not for ISPs to slow down the traffic on the internet or to limit how much information end-users can access, after all, they are in the business of selling internet access. To throttle internet traffic would be like a busy gas station only allowing you to depress the handle halfway when you are filling your car! The way to deal with more traffic on the internet is to build more capacity. According to the Public Notice that I am writing this letter in response to, 6% more households were high-speed internet subscribers in 2007 than in 2006. Would it not be reasonable to expect that with a 6% growth in subscribers, ISPs would add 6% more capacity to their network? It is quite apparent that as we reach 70% or 80% broadband penetration, ISPs’ existing networks will not be able to handle all of the new traffic, but this is exactly what it seems that ISPs want to have happen.

I am not suggesting that ISPs should bankrupt themselves building new networks, but if ISPs were able to make money in the early days of broadband without traffic management then, with today’s advances in networking technology and lower prices of computer and networking equipment, it should be even easier for them to make money today, still without traffic management.


John Beales

Note: Today is the last day to comment on the CRTC’s net-neutrality hearings. You can Read the full text of the CRTC notice and comment on the issue by going to this page, finding the button that says “pt2008-19-2” (at the bottom, or do a ctrl/cmf-f and search on that text), then clicking the button and using the form provided.

Using CSS attribute selectors to simulate legacy HTML layout

Have you ever created new clean XHTML template, applied it to a CMS with years of back content, and discovered that the years of legacy HTML looks terrible?  Because you’re using a new XHTML doctype many, if not all, of the presentational attributes in the old HTML no longer work, however, CSS can be used to fix this.

You may say that the whole point of building a new template with XHTML & CSS is so that we won’t have any of the old <p align="right"> in our code, and you are right, but in situations when there can be thousands of pages of content it is often not practical to re-code them all using CSS, that’s where the attribute selectors come in.

Here is a very basic stylesheet that will help get you started:

img[align="right"], table[align="right"] {float:right;}
img[align="left"], table[align="left"] {float:left;}
img[align="center"], table[align="center"] {display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;}

p[align="center"] {text-align:center;}
p[align="left"] {text-align:left;}
p[align="right"] {text-align:right;}

table[border="2"], table[border="2"] td {border:1px solid #000;}
table[border="1"], table[border="1"] td {border:1px solid #000;}
table[border="0"], table[border="0"] td {border:0;}

Although it would be nice to have one master stylesheet that we could drop in to a document and automatically have the old HTML look great, I believe that stylesheet would have to be extremely large, so I recommend using a base set of styles, (like the one above), and adding any extra styles to it that may be needed, (for example, img[border="5"] {border:5px solid #000} would not be needed every time).

What about browser compatibility? I’ve tested in FireFox 3, Safari 3, Internet Explorer 7, and Internet Explorer 6, and, if I remember correctly, Opera 9.  The only browser that didn’t render the styles as I would have liked to see them was IE6, which is no surprise, but also has a rapidly diminishing market share.

If you are looking for a way to keep your legacy HTML from looking terrible that doesn’t involve recoding it all, this may be the way for you to go.