The diet of a dingo

Image of FedEx logo This month in hoof in mouth absurdity, Bell Media President Mary Ann Turcke bestowed three important revelations to Canadian consumers. First, that the President of Canada's largest media distributor needs a lesson in Canadian internet law. Second, that the President of Canada's largest media distributor needs an even bigger lesson in business ethics. And third, that a 15-year old girl has a better grasp on what Canadians expect in terms of media content than does the President of Canada's largest media distributor.

Earlier this month, while addressing an audience at the Telecom Summit in Toronto, Turcke characterized Canadian consumers who use VPN technology to circumvent geoblocking and access the U.S. version of Netflix as thieves. A VPN, an acronym for virtual private network, is a technology which allows a user to simulate their location and appear as though they are located in one geographic location when, in fact, they are in another. Many Canadians use VPNs when logging into Netflix precisely because U.S. based patrons are provided with substantially more media content than are patrons located in Canada.

I take umbrage with Turcke's comments for two reasons. First, because she is fundamentally incorrect about the legality of using virtual private network technology to access U.S. based Netflix, and second, because I am one of the deplorable pariah of whom she speaks. I not only use the Netflix service, but regularly do so using VPN technology. Moreover, I share a subscription to the Netflix service with a family member as their terms of service do provide for two simultaneous streams. If you're following the bouncing ball, this essentially cuts the cost of a Netflix subscription in half. And contrary to Turcke's assertion that it is "socially unacceptable to admit ... that you are VPNing into U.S. Netflix", it is not only quite acceptable, but if you were to regurgitate Turcke's nonsense in tech circles, you'd be urged to purchase a TRS-80 as it's likely the technology best suited to your understanding of computers and the latest technology.

To set the record straight, and to correct the eroneous nonsense spawned by Turcke, using a VPN to access U.S. Netflix is NOT illegal. But I would wager half my stuffed armadillo collection and two bottles of Wild Turkey that if the CRTC were to hold hearings on VPN regulation, that Turcke, and like-minded oligopolists, would be the first pigs at the trough seeking an all-out ban of the technology. Michael Geist, quite likely Canada's foremost authority on Internet law, wrote in a blog article that an outright ban on VPNs is precisely what Canadian media distributors were discussing at the Content Industry Connect conference held earlier this year in Toronto. Quelle surprise: the spin-doctors at Rogers, responding to the allegations, asserted that Senior V.P. Dave Purdy made no such comment. As an epilogue to the suspicious tale, the Huffington Post reported that Rogers "did not elaborate on what Purdy said about VPNs." I doubt Geist, or the Huffington Post, will be on Purdy's Christmas card list.

Having exorcized Canada's porcinous gouging media distributors from my life several years ago, I've embraced other alternatives including OTA signals, FTA satellite and Internet-based streaming alternatives to meet my needs. Ironically, all provide substantially more content at a SIGNIFICANTLY lower cost than do those provided by the oligopolists. As a consequence, I don't give a rat's ass what Canada's media distributors charge, or force, upon their customers as their [cough] selection doesn't affect me. What I do care about, however, is innuendo and accusatorial opines that pertain to me, my behaviour and my choice for the media content I wish to consume.

Image of legality question When I saw Mary Ann Turcke's online photo, I was surprised to discover she had blue eyes. I'd have thought they'd have been brown given she's so full of shit with respect to her comments on the legality of Canadians using VPN technology. (Perhaps she wears blue-tinted contacts.) Most legal pundits agree that the use of VPN technology to access extra-jurisdictional content is NOT a breech of current Canadian copyright law. David Fewer, Director of the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic opined, in a Globe & Mail interview, that while "an argument ... could be made that you are circumventing ... the technical measures that protect the content" that it was not necessarily a very good argument. Of course Turcke has legions of lawyers and substantial resources at her disposal, along with a fundamental misunderstanding of fact, so she'll have no shortage of cheap suits willing to argue before a judge that an elephant can hang off a cliff with its tail tied to a daisy.

The corollary to Turcke's misguided ramblings on Canadian internet law is, of course, that of business ethics. Characterizing Canadians as thieves for embracing technologies which seek to thwart her company's dominance in the media distribution scheme is not only insensitive but, in my view, deserving of ethical scrutiny. There's a degree of irony at play when using the words "Bell and "ethics" in the same sentence, given they're facing a $750M class-action lawsuit for allegedly selling customers personal data. In light of that *cough* ethical practice, Turcke's VPN advice seems more preposterous than a dingo telling parents to feed their children a high trans-fat diet so they taste better.

Perhaps the most ironic twist resulting from Turcke's grunting noises is the revelation that the Turcke household subscribes to the Netflix service at all, let alone that it's accessed by Turcke's 15-year old daughter using a VPN. Clearly, not only does it suggest that Canada's largest media distributor is seriously lacking in content, but more importantly, that a 15-year old girl has a better grasp of the Canadian consumers' pulse than does the current President of Bell Media.

I can't help but think the wrong Turckie's leading the flock...

Submitted by Norm de Plume, 28 June 2015