Backwards digital thinking

bell_media_enIt happens often. An old media company makes a crazy and misunderstood statement about new media. Sometimes I start to think that after all of these years, maybe just maybe, they will start to get it. But then a story appears that demonstrates how far off things are.

That happened today. The Globe and Mail published a story reporting on Canada’s Bell Media’s President on ‘stealing’ digital content. Mary Ann Turcke was railing against the use by many Canadians of VPNs to pretend they are not in Canada so they can get content from elsewhere. Here was the money quote:

Ms. Turcke recounted a story about her 15-year-old daughter using a virtual private network (VPN) to make it appear as if her Internet protocol (IP) address was coming from the United States in order to gain access to Netflix Inc.’s U.S. content catalogue.

“She is 15 … and she was stealing,” Ms. Turcke told an audience at the Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto during a lunchtime speech. “Suffice to say, there is no more VPNing.”

I had to read that a couple of times. Turcke’s daughter had used a paid service to get content and her parent was telling her that it was stealing. I am not sure what it is but it is not stealing. If you pay for something for the same amount as an equivalent human across the border, that is not stealing. The message Turcke was teaching her daughter and now was trying to tell all Canadians was that they were second class. They couldn’t get the content that others could get because companies like Bell Media had paid for them not to do so.

What should Turcke have done? First of all, ask why? Ask why a kid in her household that surely has access to everything Bell Media has to offer felt the need to pretend she was in the US? Maybe that would give insight into why millions (yes millions) of other Canadians were doing so. Sometimes these VPNs cost money which means that people are willing to pay more for content than Bell was charging.

Second, pay less for US content. If it isn’t worth more, it isn’t worth more. Full stop.

Finally, try and explain to a kid why cable television is a sustainable business. If you can’t, that isn’t their problem, it is yours.

2 Replies to “Backwards digital thinking”

  1. For the purposes here, I rather suppose, the difference between VPN and a Proxy are not particularly important. But they are different.

  2. This is similar to a scheme in my area (near Denver, Colorado) to work around long distance charges. Calls to Denver were long distance from where I live, but I could call a nearby city (Boulder), which was also local to Denver. So a company setup some switching equipment and for a monthly fee would allow free calls to Denver — call their access number, then call the desired number. At its peak I think the system went about 60-80 miles north and south of Denver through 3 area codes. The local phone company finally went to the state regulator and got it shut down.

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