A security camera company has launched a new site to protest Canada’s new metered Internet usage laws in the most low-tech way possible — by downloading files in the U.S. and mailing them on CDs or DVDs to Canadian Web surfers.
While meant as a protest, though, it actually could be a smart way to move data around.
Like most North American consumers, Canadians have long enjoyed practically unlimited bandwidth on their Internet subscriptions. Predictably, when Bell Canada, the dominant telco, recently mandates that Internet service providers using its network institute 25-gigabyte bandwidth caps, above which consumers would typically pay a surcharge of $0.95 a gigabyte for downloads, many Internet users got upset. The after-effects ranged from some Canadians finding activities they’d grown accustomed to, like downloading large games through digital distribution services like Steam or chatting on Skype to be impractically expensive.
By asking its visitors to simply type in the web address for a download. Canadian Download will then burn the information to a CD or DVD and mail the disc for free. The idea has become pretty popular — it’s even the top link on Reddit.com’s front page, a site that recently announced it gets around 1 billion hits monthly.
While the site was launched as a protest against Canada’s new laws that enforce usage-based billing for Internet service providers, it actually might be a better way to move some files around.
Take, say, those game downloads. They might take hours to complete anyway, and they now cost real money if they push downloaders over the monthly cap. Why not just wait and get them in the mail? The reality is that it’s quite expensive to download large amounts of data quickly. ISPs might even benefit from offering their customers the chance to get their large files on disc form through the mail — which might work out to be less than $0.95 a gigabyte.
Amazon.com offers the same kind of service with portable storage devices, though the service was mostly started in response to slow upload speeds which made it hard to use Amazon’s cloud computing services with large data files.
Other countries are worse off in terms of their infrastructure: There was even a test at one point that showed a pigeon delivery service could transfer data “faster than broadband” in South Africa.
But Canadian Download is offering its services for free for the time being. The site’s owners are also advertising their other company that sells security cameras on the main website. Canadian Download users can donate money to the site, ranging from $5.00 (to help with shipping) to $1,000 (just to prove a point.)
Like most other sites protesting the usage-based billing laws, Canadian Download is encouraging visitors to go visit the protest’s hub site. That site links to an online petition against the law that has around 300,000 signatures thus far.