Toronto Wi-Fi – part 2

I had a look at the description of the wi-fi network that Toronto Hydro Telecom is proposing to build and found the following quote:

Additionally, not only will the Toronto Hydro Telecom Wi Fi network cover six kilometers in the heart of Toronto’s downtown core, it will provide service that is at least ten times faster than that of our competitors.

Personally, I think it would be more correct to say that the service will be AT MOST ten times faster, not AT LEAST. The maximum speed of the repeater to home user connection may be 10 times faster, but depending on the distance the speed may drop down to as low as 1 meg per second (only a fraction of the total maximum potential). Furthermore, it may be a little misleading to focus on the speed of that link only since TYT’s proposal to use mesh technology to deliver the service will mean that speed bottlenecks may be created on the backhaul between the various repeaters and a base station connected to TYT’s fibre backbone. The useful speed of the service may therefore also be much less than the potential being suggested. Cable and DSL also have certain bottleneck type issues. However, my point is that it is misleading to only look at the link speed of one segment in the network and use that as the basis for comparing the speed of the service.

That being said, the proposed service looks like a good initiative that hopefully will bring more competition to at least a small part of the Greater Toronto Area.

Google to offer online storage

After notes were found in a Google presentation for analysts, stories are circulating that Google may have plans in the works for an online drive which can be used to store a copy of certain data on a user’s hard drive. There will probably be privacy concerns identified but I wonder how long it would be before someone develops a hack (an “enhancement”) that can encrypt the data before it is sent to Google’s servers.

VOIP surcharged by Canadian ISP

According to a Vonage Canada press release, it has submitted a request to the Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to investigate Shaw Communications (an ISP that serves western Canada) for recommending to its high-speed Internet customers that they pay an additional $10 charge if they use a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service provider such as Vonage Canada in order to obtain a “quality of service enhancement” which is necessary to ensure independent VoIP service is not disrupted or degraded. The same fee is not separately charged to customers of Shaw’s own VOIP service. Shaw does not appear to have provided any details of how its enhancement works or why it is necessary. According to Vonage Canada, it wants to ensure that “the monopoly telephone and cable Internet service providers don’t restrict what services, applications or content Canadians can access. Canadians demand and deserve freedom of choice.”

Sounds like the CRTC needs to sit down with the Canada’s Competition Bureau and lay down some rules regarding network neutrality.

See also the write up by Mathew Ingram in the Globe.

Toronto to get municipal Wi-fi

According to the Globe and Mail, Toronto Hydro Telecom is expected to announce that the creation of a city-wide wi-fi wireless network based on repeaters installed on street light poles. Toronto Hydro Telecom already provides broadband data services throughout the GTA using over 450 kilometers of fibre optic cable and its network connects to over 400 commercial buildings. I have not seen details about the specific technology THT plans to deploy but suspect that it may not be suitable for high bandwidth applications or applications that require low latency (since packets may need to bounce through multiple repeaters before reaching a base station).

Further details available from Mark Evans and The National Post.

CRTC to force continued bundling upon Canadian cable operators

The Globe and Mail has carried a number of articles during the past several days about a recent Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) decision that would force Canadian cable companies to continue bundling analog specialty channels into tiers until sometime between 2010 and 2013. So while Canadian cable customers can currently pick and choose individual specialty digital channels, they must continue to purchase analog speciality channels in bundles by tier. While this approach may help prop up certain Canadian channels that would otherwise sink, it will make it more difficult for Canadian cable tv and satellite operators to compete with the new competition that they will likely be facing from IP TV competitors.

AirCanada.com Sucks

In my view, Air Canada has some systemic problems with the operation of its website. Although the online reservation system has been expanded to accommodate a larger number of passengers, I have personally not been able to book a trip for more than 5 people traveling together – and this problem has continued on for several years now. Every time its the same thing – everything is fine until the payment screen, and then boom! a system error. Each time I call Air Canada’s website help desk and get redirected to India. My experience with Air Canada’s India call center is that they are totally useless. For the first two years, they’d tell me to try another computer or to delete my cookies, which never worked. Yesterday they went further and asked me to try and carefully reformat the information I entered (don’t most other non-Air Canada computer systems include field validation?). So after 10-20 minutes of wasted time, I get transferred to a queue holding for a Montreal reservation person who has to book my reservation (they are usually great!). The same thing has happened about 6 or 7 times now. I’ve offered to provide 1-2 hours of my time at no charge to help them trouble shoot the bugs in their system, but there was never any interest on their part. Is this any way to run an e-commerce platform?

Lawyers, Doctors and Disbursements

Not long ago, Ontario doctors (who are compensated by the provincial government under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)) started charging additional fees for services that were not covered by OHIP. I recently received a letter from a neighborhood physician setting out his pay-per-service fees. Faxing and photocopying were listed at $31.45 for the first five pages, and $1.23 for each additional page. Although I personally don’t charge clients for most types of “disbursements” (such as photocopying, faxing, long distance, etc.), most local law firms charge about 25 cents per page for photocopying and about 50 cents per page for faxes. Sure makes lawyers sound like a bargain.

Sierra Wireless, VOQ, Tiger Direct and Privacy

I noticed yesterday that TigerDirect was dumping Siera Wireless’ now discontinued VOQ Professional Phone at a really attractive price. The phone originally sold for about $500-600 about 18 months ago and at the time I was seriously considering buying it. Instead, I opted for a different smartphone and was glad that I did given Sierra Wireless’ decision to get out of the cell phone business.

In any case, I picked up one of the phones at the Toronto outlet store today. It was not labeled as used or refurbished and was made to look new. I got it home and started to look around. To my surprise, it contained 135 SMS messages (received throughout 2004 and early 2005), many of which obviously belonged the phone’s previous owner – he had quite an adventure to Meca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, and then was apparently looking for a house in Toronto. It contained birthday messages (so one would know his birthday) and his anniversary (two common items used for authentication by many businesses). It contained a password for something called Rogers Desktop (he was a Rogers Wireless subscriber) as well as activation codes for certain services. Amazingly, it also contained login credentials to access what appeared to be a corporate email account at Sun Microsystems. I’ve deleted everything but it just highlights to me the dangers of sending malfunctioning computer equipment to the manufacturers who then “refurbish” or “recondition” it without even going to the trouble of performing a “factory reset” to wipe the memory on the device. And it was disappointing that Tiger Direct does not prominently note that the product is factory recertified. Also, I guess the term factory recertified at Tiger Direct means that product could have been used for more than a year.