Thursday, March 17, 2005

Judge remembered as fair, warm-hearted

By KEN FOSKETT and MARK BIXLER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 03/11/05

Colleagues of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes recalled him Friday morning as a kind, warm-hearted jurist who earned a reputation for fairness.

"He was one of the most gentle people I've ever known," said Superior Court Judge John J. Goger. "And he had just a wonderful common sense about him. He just wanted to be a judge."

A gunman shot and killed Judge Barnes in his courtroom Friday morning. A court reporter and sheriff's deputies were also shot and killed. Another deputy was wounded.

News raced by phone and e-mail through metro Atlanta's legal community.

Kim Dymecki, an Atlanta lawyer, said Barnes mentored her early in her career.

"He was very good and kind to the young lawyers. He was just the kind of guy who would foster you along," she said. "When he got appointed to the bench, everybody breathed a sigh of relief. We knew he would make a fine Superior Court judge."

She recalled a judicious man who always seemed to have a smile and hug when he wasn't on the bench.

Barnes has presided over several high profile trials and proceedings, including the vehicular homicide case against Dany Heatley, a forward for the Atlanta Thrashers. In February, he sentenced a woman accused of killing her newborn child to a medical sterilization to avoid prison. In 2002, he validated a proposed $822 million bond issue to fund a controversial transportation initiative.

Named to the Fulton bench by former governor Zell Miller, Barnes served as a Fulton magistrate judge and had a private practice in College Park, his home, before joining the court in 1998.

Gov. Miller was impressed with Judge Barnes' organizational skills and how he managed cases. Miller believed those attributes would serve him well on the Fulton bench, recalled Judge Cynthia Wright, who served as Miller's executive counsel.

"He always wanted to be a judge," said Wright. "I know he was so happy when he received the appointment."

Judge Barnes was one of the first to call Judge Tom Campbell when Campbell was named to the bench last year.

"He took me under his wing," said Campbell. "He never seemed to be impressed with himself as a judge. That never seemed to go to his head. He was very level headed, and a regular fellow.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Jetsgo death spiral came with 'ridiculous' fares aboard aging jets

Gary Norris
Canadian Press

Friday, March 11, 2005

TORONTO (CP) - As fly-by-night operations go, they don't go out much more flamboyantly than Jetsgo.

The little airline, operating outdated planes with a smiley-face logo and fares as low as one cent, appears to have been an accident waiting to happen. "I think something cataclysmic happened on the financial side, possibly on the safety side," independent airline analyst Rick Erickson said from Calgary after Friday's sudden closure of the company.

"Something significant happened very quickly."

In its bankruptcy court filing Friday, Jetsgo said it lost $55 million in the last eight months and $22 million since Jan. 1.

But right up until its middle-of-the-night collapse, the airline was still selling tickets and running its chirpy advertising - "Pay a little. Fly a lot."

"I won't call it shady, but it wasn't right to do that," said Stanley Kershman, a bankruptcy specialist at law firm Perley-Robertson, Hill and McDougall in Ottawa.

"They knew they were having financial difficulties way before now."

Jetsgo's abrupt termination - stranding thousands of customers and disrupting the plans of about 17,000 people a day on the very eve of the March-break travel surge - resembles the sudden death of Canada 3000 in 2001 but contrasts with the orderly closure of Greyhound Air in 1997. That low-fare airline's demise was announced more than two weeks before its final flight.

"What's particularly galling is the timing of this," Mel Fruitman, vice-president of the Consumers' Association of Canada, said of the Jetsgo collapse.

"You sit back and wait till you've got a whole bunch of people booking and then you pull the plug on all of them just before they're about to leave - when they're all on their way to the airport?"

Fruitman loaded much of the blame onto federal regulators.

"They have known for some time that Jetsgo was flying basically on a wing and a prayer," he said.

"Jetsgo has been offering absolutely ridiculous fares, like $1 from Vancouver to Toronto, and the airline obviously cannot make money at that rate. Why didn't the government do something at their various agencies to prevent this from happening?"

Industry analyst Erickson said there has been "lots of innuendo in the industry over the past four or five months" about Jetsgo's future.

"I thought, though, they'd managed to get through the most difficult part of the year."

Jetsgo's fleet of 160-seat MD83 and 100-passenger Fokker 100 aircraft - none newer than eight years old - were "gas-guzzlers, maintenance hogs," Erickson said.

That pinched hard as the cost of fuel spiralled upward over the past year, while operational problems multiplied.

Jetsgo stranded hundreds of people during a Christmas snowstorm, and Transport Canada ordered it to fly no higher than 28,000 feet because of flight-manual deficiencies uncovered after a thrilling landing in Calgary in January, which resulted in minor damage.

Jetsgo death spiral came with 'ridiculous' fares aboard aging jets

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...Continued

On March 4, a Jetsgo plane scattered pieces on a Toronto runway after engine trouble, and the following day an engine problem caused an unscheduled stop in South Carolina.

But as recently as two weeks ago Jetsgo was still expanding, adding flights between Vancouver and Regina with $1 promotional fares.

"It's been obvious from the response that consumers appreciate

competition and the value it produces," Michel Leblanc, the founder and president of the privately owned airline, said then, proclaiming Jetsgo as "Canada's only true national low-cost airline."

It was still advertising a "lucky penny sale - fly across Canada and the U.S. for a penny" in newspapers published Friday.

Details of its collapse are likely to come out of court proceedings under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, but "I don't believe we're ever going to see them come out of this restructured, like Air Canada has," Erickson said.

This is "unfortunate for consumers, marvellous for WestJet, marvellous for Air Canada," he added, as well as being disastrous for the Montreal-based airline's 1,200 or so employees.

As for ticket holders, lawyer Kershman said that if they can't get relief from their credit-card issuers or from the travel-industry compensation plans in some provinces, they rank among Jetsgo creditors "right at the bottom rung."

Jets GO , is now Jets GONE

Jetsgo Ceases Operations

MONTREAL, March 11 /CNW/ - Jetsgo Corporation announced today that it is
ceasing all operations effective immediately.

Passengers are advised to make alternative travel arrangements prior to going to the airport as there will be no Jetsgo staff or aircraft available. Travellers seeking to return to their point of origin must make alternative arrangements with other airlines or with their travel agent or tour operator. Jetsgo will be asking that the Quebec Superior Court immediately grant it protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. Court protection will allow Jetsgo to consider all options available to reorganize its affairs. Given difficult market conditions resulting from competitive pressures in the Canadian airline industry, Jetsgo has determined that, in the circumstances, it is prudent and responsible to discontinue its operations and ground all of its planes.

Michel Leblanc, President of Jetsgo, said: "We deeply regret that this had to happen. The decision to cease operations was only taken after difficult deliberation. We are very concerned about our customers and the significant hardship that this action causes. In the meantime, we encourage our passengers to contact their travel agent or an alternative airline."

Jetsgo intends to keep its stakeholders, including its employees and customers, informed of the development of its restructuring process. Information and Court filed documents regarding the CCAA proceedings will be available on Jetsgo's website at www.jetsgo.net as well as on RSM Richter Inc.'s website at www.rsmrichter.com and will regularly be updated.

Information may also be obtained by communicating with RSM Richter Inc. by
telephone at 1-800-246-1125.

If you are a customer of Jetsgo and have paid for a flight that is no longer scheduled, you may wish to communicate with the Canadian Transportation Agency: by telephone, 1-888-222-2592, by fax, 1-819-953-5686 or on its website at www.cta.gc.ca, or the appropriate provincial authority:

* Ontario: The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO)
Tel.: (905) 624-6241 /Toll-free: 1-888-451-TICO
* Quebec: Office de la protection du consommateur, Gouvernement du Qu├ębec
Tel.: 1-888-672-2556
* British Columbia: Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority
Tel.: (604) 320-1667; Toll-free number: 1-888-564-9963
* Alberta: Alberta Government Services Tel.: (780) 427-4088;
1-877-427-4088 toll-free number in Alberta only
* Manitoba: Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Consumers' Bureau
Tel.: (204) 945-3800; 1-800-782-0067 toll-free within Manitoba
* Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Justice, Consumer Protection Branch
Tel.: (306) 787-5550; 1-888-374-4636 toll-free number in Saskatchewan
* New Brunswick: Department of Justice - Consumer Affairs Branch,
Provincial Government Tel.: (506) 453-2659
* Nova Scotia: Business & Consumer Services, Consumer Complaints
Tel.: (902) 424-5531
* Prince Edward Island: Department of Consumer and Corporate Services
Tel.: (902) 368-5653
* Newfoundland and Labrador: Consumer Affairs Officer, Department of
Government Services and Lands
Tel.: (709) 729-2623

-30-

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Thousands remember slain Mounties
10,000 officers from throughout Canada, continent gather in Edmonton for memorial service

BY JOHN COTTER
CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON — They turned out in the thousands today: a sea of RCMP officers, police from across North America, dignitaries, schoolchildren, everyday citizens, all of them filling up a cavernous pavilion to honour four young Mounties shot dead a week ago.

They came to remember RCMP constables Peter Schiemann, 25, Leo Johnston, 32, Anthony Gordon, 28, and Brock Myrol, 29, in an unprecedented police memorial service that transformed Edmonton into the setting for a national day of mourning that seemed destined for the history books.

“They have fallen in service to us,” Prime Minister Paul Martin told the sombre crowd of at least 10,000 crammed into the pavilion, known as the Butterdome because of its yellow-panelled exterior. ``The people of Canada owe an untold debt to these four officers and their families.”

Thousands more listened to the service outside under sunny skies as Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson offered words of comfort to the families of the slain Mounties during the service.

“What must never leave you is the gratitude of a nation,” she said. “These men so cared about the public good that they were willing to die to serve it. As we have always known, true honour is not for those who have received, but to those who have given.”

Singers Ian Tyson and Susan Aglukark performed at the service: Tyson a mournful rendition of his melancholy song Four Strong Winds, Aglukark a 1970s Fleetwood Mac song called Songbird.

But the day was dominated by the RCMP and its traditions.

Seat after seat and row upon row in the pavilion was occupied by hundreds of the Mounties’ in their world-famous red serge tunics. A group of four Mounties placed black pillows with the slain officers’ Stetsons on top of a traditional horse blanket used by the RCMP on their well-known musical rides just before the service started.

“Let there be no mistake that our strength is found in the morality of our cause and we will prevail in this test of faith,” said Bill Sweeney, the RCMP’s commanding officer of Alberta.

The service followed the stirring sight of a mass of Mounties, eight abreast in a scarlet ribbon that stretched for a kilometre, marching solemnly to the pavilion down a city thoroughfare.

People lined the parade route two-deep in bright morning sunshine, brushing away tears, sobbing or staring straight ahead.

The sombre mood was punctuated by the rhythmic clicking of boots on pavement, senior officers barking the cadence — “Left. Right. Left. Right!” — the steady thump of helicopters overhead and the mournful skirl of the bagpipes from the RCMP pipe band.

In the lead were Mounties on black horses, followed immediately by officers bearing the four Stetsons.

Behind came officers dressed in a rainbow of colours — the navy blue of the Edmonton police, the green of the U.S. border patrol, the sky blue of air ambulance pilots.

The badges proclaimed the U.S. Border Patrol, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the New Hampshire State Police, New Jersey State Police.

They came from Oregon, Minnesota and Alaska. They came from the Ontario Provincial Police along with forces in Waterloo, Durham, York, and Peel.

There were Parks Canada wardens, Calgary firefighters and Canadian Pacific Railway Police.

“We’ve got an extraordinary group of men and women who support us, protect us, and have a largely thankless job,” said parade-watcher Karin MacCarthy, waving a large flag.

“The least I could do is bring a Canadian flag to show we support them.”

Trina Johnson, 26, also of Edmonton, added, “I didn’t even know the people who died, but when you see this outpouring of love for one another, it just unites us. It helps us understand that these are real sacrifices that people make. We all need to be united and march together.”

Outside the pavilion, on the University of Alberta campus, hundreds of mourners lined up patiently and quietly.

Some arrived more than four hours early to gain one of the few seats reserved for the public in the pavilion.

The four RCMP officers were shot to death a week ago by James Roszko in a Quonset hut on Roszko’s farm near Mayerthorpe, 130 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

It marked the worst massacre of Mounties in Canadian history, surpassing even the deaths of three members of the Northwest Mounted Police at Duck Lake, Sask., during the Northwest Rebellion of 1885.

Inside the pavilion, portraits of each fallen Mountie were displayed. Underneath flickered white candles. The Maple Leaf hung at half-mast from two flag poles

The mourners wore suits and ties and spring dresses. There were seniors and families and children in baby carriages. Many wore red and white ribbons over their hearts to symbolize grief, sympathy and respect for the fallen officers.

“We wanted to show support for the families. When these tragedies happen they affect all of us,” said Lori Gossen from St. Albert, her voice breaking as she held the hand of her five-year-old daughter, Savannah.

It was being called the largest memorial in the RCMP’s history. Smaller services were being held as well across the country.

In Mayerthorpe, streets were quiet.

At the high school, the attendance policy was relaxed to accommodate parents who wanted to take children to the Edmonton tribute.

About 30 to 40 students watched the televised service projected onto a wall in the school gymnasium.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Mar. 7, 2005. 01:42 AM
www.thestar.com

Bell finally grants high-speed freedom

TYLER HAMILTON

Bell Canada's high-speed Internet service is about to get naked.

Canada's largest phone company has confirmed that, by the end of this month, its customers will be able to buy its Sympatico digital subscriber line (DSL) service on its own without having to pay for a local phone line.

Bell, in a letter dated Sept. 15 to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, committed to coming out with so-called naked DSL by March of this year. It will mean that customers who want to use their mobile phone or a Voice over Internet Protocol product as their primary phone service won't have to pay $23 or more for a local line they don't plan to use.

"At the end of the month we're doing a soft launch," said Charlotte Burke, senior vice-president of consumer Internet services at Bell.

By "soft" launching Sympatico as a standalone product, Bell means it won't be heavily promoting the fact it's available. It will, however, offer it to those customers who ask. Burke said Bell is treating this initial phase more like a commercial trial, a chance for the company to test out its processes before widely promoting the option as part of a "hard" launch later this summer.

"We want to be ready for the summer, the whole back-to-school season," said Burke. "We think the whole concept of mobile (phone service) and Sympatico as a student offering is really compelling."

This is important, because for the first time Bell seems to be positioning its mobile service as a landline replacement. The risk, of course, is that there's no guarantee a customer will choose Bell's wireless service.

Burke avoided mentioning "VoIP" during the interview, but there's no doubt that naked DSL could prove a significant boost for companies such as Primus, Vonage and Comwave, who sell Internet-based phone service that can piggyback any high-speed connection.

"It opens up a big piece of the market for us," says Bill Rainey, president of Vonage Canada. "It gives customers the opportunity to use lots of other suppliers for VoIP, including us. We're thrilled."

A Vonage customer can get unlimited calling to any location in North America for just $40, and that includes a half dozen features such as call waiting and call answer, as well as a Web account where people can manage their calls online. You can get pretty much the same package for just $30 through Primus, which is putting pressure on Vonage to lower its own prices.

But even these bargains don't look so good if a Bell Sympatico customer still has to pay for a traditional local phone line.

Rainey said Bell, like some phone carriers in the United States, have been forced to move toward naked DSL. Many customers want to use VoIP or wireless as their primary phone service and have been leaving Bell altogether and opting instead for high-speed cable Internet, he said.

By going to a cable company such as Rogers Cable, you're not tied to a traditional local phone service. While Rogers and others do bundle high-speed cable with cable TV, customers can pay a $10 premium to get the broadband line on its own. Rogers plans to introduce a phone-over-cable service July 1, giving cable users another option.

Bell risks losing two sources of revenue by keeping customers hostage to a DSL-local combo."That's simply not good business for the phone company," said Rainey. "By choosing to separate DSL and local, they at least get to keep the ISP component of the service. You've got to understand that Bell realizes this is very good for them."

Brian Sharwood, a telecom analyst with The Seaboard Group in Toronto, agreed that Bell and other phone carriers have little choice. "I think market forces are pushing Bell in that way."

The timing might end up being good for Bell, if it plays its cards right. On March 17, Rogers Cable will begin capping to 60 gigabytes the amount of bandwidth its high-speed cable customers can use. This bandwidth cap is the same, whether or not you're a Rogers Lite, Express or Extreme user.

A small but vocal — and angry — contingent of Rogers Cable high-speed customers using the ultra-fast Extreme service say the cap defeats the idea of an "unlimited" high-end offering. They say it makes no sense to slap the same cap on everybody, since it's logical to assume that Extreme users will be doing more file-sharing, movie and music streaming, and other bandwidth-intensive activities. That's why they're paying more, after all.

"While Rogers says 60 GB is generous, today's multimedia-rich Web sites use far more bandwidth than ever," wrote one reader and disgruntled Rogers customer named Michael, who has since switched to Bell Sympatico. "This is a huge customer service blunder on Rogers' part."

To make matters worse, Rogers has said on its website that the use of third-party VoIP services count towards bandwidth use, though Rogers' own phone-over-cable offering coming this summer won't. VoIP doesn't take up a large amount of bandwidth, but a heavy talker who also downloads a lot of large files could easily find themselves busting through the cap.

Rogers, it appears, wants to dissuade people from using services like Vonage or Primus. But this tactic could backfire.

As Kaan Yigit, president of Solutions Research Group in Toronto, often says, customers — as a matter of principle — don't like being caged. It doesn't matter that they may never hit the ceiling of a cap. The mere perception of a service cap, just the knowledge it's there, is enough to spark outrage.

Bell Sympatico doesn't have such a bandwidth cap. At least not so far. With naked DSL coming out, this could be a good time for Bell to start luring people back from Rogers.

"Where we might have looked at this differently a few years ago, we see it as an opportunity now," said Burke.

Unclear is whether Bell will have some surprise charges for naked DSL, similar to the $10 premium for taking stand-alone high-speed cable. One challenge is regulatory: Bell isn't allowed to bundle any of its services with local phone service at a discount. By charging a premium for naked DSL, Bell could arguably be violating the rules.

"We will, of course, price according to any regulatory requirements," said Burke, at the same time hinting that Bell could impose arbitrary charges — similar to the wireless industry's controversial system access fee — to standalone DSL users. "There's certainly costs associated with (providing) it."

Bell could also provide naked DSL on a limited basis. That is, only for customers who want to replace their local phone line with a Bell-only wireless service or its residential VoIP offering expected to come later this year. But this anti-competitive approach would surely be frowned upon by the federal regulator.

Perhaps a more realistic scenario is that Bell will provide attractively priced bundles for anyone who signs up to a high-end Sympatico and wireless/VoIP package. This approach might cannibalize Bell's traditional local phone revenues, but it will at least keep those customers away from rivals such as Rogers.

One thing to remember is that this is new territory for Ma Bell. She will move cautiously, and whatever is introduced today is surely to change before the end of the year as the company becomes familiar with this new reality.

Sure, it's risky, but Bell has no choice, and by setting its high-speed customers free it may find they decide to stick around. That is good business, because it sends a positive message to consumers.
www.thestar.com

Mar. 7, 2005. 01:52 AM

Norah Fountain became an outspoken advocate for rural broadband after finding it hard to run her business without it. Water towers like this with an antenna offering wirelessservice within line-of-sight are only a partial solution and she paid $2,000 to tap in. “Even in Nunavut or the Yukon it’s easier (to get broadband) than in Muskoka.”
Bypassed by broadband
Areas of Ontario without it fear a `digital divide' Solutions are costly, hit-and-miss and way behind demand

ROBERTA AVERY
SPECIAL TO THE STAR

BALA, Ont.—Uniting all Canadians through high-speed Internet access by 2004 was supposed to be the federal government's National Dream for the new Millennium to help Canadians build a 21st-century economy.

Instead, for many people across rural Ontario, who are forced to do business and run their lives in a fast paced electronic world at the snail's pace of old-fashioned dial-up connections, it's dream on.

"In today's world, high-speed Internet access is not a luxury, it's the standard necessary to live our lives," said Norah Fountain, a resident of the Muskoka town of Bala.

Fountain headed up Muskoka Lakes Community Broadband — a volunteer group that tried to bring high-speed Internet to cottage country under the federal government's Broadband for Rural and Northern Development (BRAND) program, only to be told, she said, that Muskoka isn't north enough to qualify.

"We in Muskoka typify the urban adjacent communities that are not remote enough, not rural enough, or northern enough. But I guarantee you that we are poor enough, and we will grow poorer as the digital divide between urban and rural widens,'' said Fountain.

When Fountain moved to Muskoka in 1997 she planned to run her marketing consulting business from her home office, but she soon discovered that with the absence of high-speed Internet access it was "pretty much impossible."

Fountain ended up renting office space in Toronto and commuting. Recognizing that a lot of other cottage-country small businesses were suffering the pains of the digital divide, she joined the other volunteers to write a business plan ultimately rejected by the federal BRAND program.

The federal government's commitment in the 2000 throne speech was to link communities, not individuals, said Kathy Fisher, director for broadband at Industry Canada. She added that the Muskoka Lakes proposal wasn't necessarily rejected because Muskoka wasn't far enough north.

"The competition for funding was tough and rigorous with business plans (the proposals) assessed against criteria such as community needs; anticipated benefits; financial support for the project from community,'' said Fisher.

But Fountain points out that the 2000 Liberal platform — known at the Red Book — is more specific about connectivity and compared it to the building of the railway that linked the nation coast to coast more than a century ago.

She points to the Red Book paragraph, "A new Liberal government will make high-speed broadband Internet access available to residents and businesses in all communities in Canada by 2004."

BRAND was a pilot program that brought broadband connectivity to 900 communities. It was launched following the recommendations of a broadband task force that concluded there was a need for a national network to connect public institutions, local businesses and residents.

"All funds have now been allocated," said Fisher.

There is federal funding to the tune of $155 million for the national satellite initiative bringing high-speed Internet service via satellite links to remote areas in the far north, said Fisher.

The former Ontario Tory government's $55 million Connect Ontario broadband program was cancelled by the current government on June 2004, but not before three regional programs got off the ground, said Ministry of Economic Development and Trade spokesperson Neil Trotter.

One was in southeastern Ontario, another in southwestern Ontario and another in northwestern Ontario.

"But not here in the urban-adjacent areas. So now there is no policy, no programs, no funding and we're left hanging,'' said Fountain.

People living in larger communities in Muskoka such as Huntsville and Bracebridge do have access to high-speed Internet, but the smaller towns and villages are left out, said Fountain.

`We will grow poorer as

the digital divide between

urban and rural widens'

Norah Fountain, former head of

Muskoka Lakes Community Broadband

Existing telephone systems that link much of rural Ontario can't offer broadband — digital subscriber line (DSL) technology — and cable service doesn't reach many rural areas. As of December 2004, according to Industry Canada data, that left 53 per cent of Ontario communities dialing up to get online.

In an increasingly electronic world where not only commerce but also schools, universities and government agencies do their business online and most websites contain files so large by dial-up standards that most computers time out before the download is complete, the frustration is enormous.

"Dial up is painfully slow, it seriously impedes our business,'' said Martin Ford, owner of Sun and Ski Ltd, a Bala business that has been selling high-end ski boats for the last 12 years.

"These days in this business everything is done electronically. Our suppliers send us images that can take us as long as five hours to download,'' said Ford, who says at best the top speed he can get with dial up is 48 kilobits per second (which is slow).

Sun and Ski boats are custom-designed and many of the purchasers are Muskoka cottage owners who live or work in Toronto, Europe or the United States. When they want to make modifications to their order they send huge files over the Internet.

"It's hard to explain to them that here in Muskoka, just up the road from Toronto, we don't have the technology that is taken for granted in the rest of world,'' said Ford.

Ford uses design software from Oracle and if he needs diagnostic help he finds himself communicating with technicians in India.

"They want to do it in real time, but you can't do that with dial up. They are in what we consider to be a third-world country and they have high-speed and here we are in North America and we don't have it,'' he said.

The rural-broadband options that are appearing offer both promise and problems.

Until the beginning of this year, Rob Zingel, of another Muskoka company, Cedar Coast Timber Homes, shared Ford's frustration. "Transferring construction drawings by dial up was almost impossible,'' said Zingel.

An antennae on top of an old fashioned TV tower outside Cedar Coast's business premises and pointed at a Candlelight Communications Inc.'s transmitter on top of a tower changed that.

Candlelight, which bills itself as "Central Ontario's leader of high-speed Internet access to rural business and residential customers," and Muskoka.com are two suppliers offering broadband service around Muskoka.

Fibre-optic telephone lines bring broadband Internet service to the first of a series of towers that relay wireless Internet signals that can be received by antennae, which in turn transmit Internet to homes and businesses.

"Having high-speed has changed the way we do business. It permits businesses like us in the Great White North to market our products around the world on the Web,'' said an enthusiastic Zinger.

That's if you aren't too far from a tower, in a valley or there isn't a rocky outcrop, or even a steamy marsh between you and the signal, said Fountain. "It's not as easy as they try to make it sound,'' she said.

Candlelight marketing manager Germain Proulx said that by using TV towers to get the antennae up high, the company can service most of cottage country.

"But there are challenges such as big trees. That's the price you pay for living in God's country,'' said Proulx.

The price of hooking up to such a system can run from $1,200 to $2,000, which is way beyond the means of many Muskoka residents, said Fountain.

`They are in what we consider

to be a third-world country

and they have high-speed,

and here we are in North America and we don't have it'

Martin Ford, owner of Sun and Ski Ltd, Muskoka

"Because of the price of waterfront property there's a misconception that everyone who lives here is very wealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many people here live under the poverty line,'' she said.

Fountain says she is lucky to live in line-of-sight of the Muskoka.com transmitter on top of the Bala Water Tower.

The service has now allowed her to operate her business from home.

"That's great for me, but what about the kids who live here, they can't do their homework projects with dial-up,'' she said.

Another Muskoka resident, Susan Rutherford, of Kilworthy, who lives too far away from a tower to get that service, found even applying to university a "frustrating" and almost impossible task with her "glacial'' slow dial up service.

"I often have to wait several hours before I actually can get online with dial up,'' she said.

Rutherford, 47, who was applying as a mature student to several universities for a bachelor of education program, found the application forms were large-sized files that took so long to download that the Internet connection repeatedly cut out midway.

"Size definitely matters with dial-up,'' she said.

The applications took so long to download that the formatting "was all screwed up" and in the end she was unable to apply online and had to print the forms and fill them in by hand the best she could and then send them by regular mail.

"Here I am applying to teach the next generation in the 21st century and I'm hamstrung by my outmoded technology which is Stone Age compared to Ethernet,'' she said.

Another option open to rural residents is satellite service, but that's also expensive to install and the monthly fees are usually twice as much as broadband service from a cable or telephone company, said Ford who explored the idea and then rejected it.

"As anyone up here who has a satellite TV dish will tell you when it rains or snows hard, the signal disappears, so that's why I decided against it,'' he said.

Sharon Baylis, who runs a bookkeeping business on Port Perry Island north of Oshawa, said broadband isn't available on her part of the island and having satellite Internet through Link Sat allows her to stay in business.

"With dial up only, my business wouldn't even exist here,'' she said.

While the download speed through Link Sat is fast enough, uploading files is much slower, said Baylis.

"Three years of bookkeeping records for a medium-sized company is 18 megs, and that takes me 30 to 45 minutes to upload. The company receiving it in downtown Toronto downloads that same file in 15 seconds,'' she said.

Logie Donaldson retired from running a boat building company to a home on the East Shore of Lake Scugog where more than 50 per cent of the cottages are year-round residences.

"We are all in a high-income bracket but Bell only offers low-speed dial-up and the local cable company, Persona, offers only 39 channels of analogue and are not considering expansion of their service in the foreseeable future, he said.

`More than 50 per cent of

our business is convention business, so being able to

offer high-speed Internet is absolutely critical for us'

John Gowers, Blue Mountain Resort

technical specialist

"This area needs high-speed Internet access and full TV coverage, but the Big Boys will not bother investing in the hardware to provide the services. This is simply criminal,'' he said.

For Candlelight it was landing a contract to wirelessly link all municipal offices across the District of Muskoka that made it economically feasible, by using the same towers and same technology, to offer limited broadband service to residents and businesses within range of its 60 towers, said Proulx.

Bell Canada, which is the broadband market leader in Canada with 1.8 million DSL customers, currently offers DSL service to 82 per cent of its telephone customers in Ontario and has a target of 84 per cent by the end of 2005, said Bell spokesperson Mohammed Nakhooda.

Most of Bell's broadband service is in large metropolitan areas and bringing the service to rural Ontario involves replacing miles of older telephone lines with fibre optic cable, said Nakhooda.

"The selection process for identifying new communities is typically based on an assessment of cost and expected penetration rates, with priority being placed on those localities where the cost per subscriber is lowest and the largest number of potential subscribers would benefit," he said.

It's not only Muskoka that finds itself "urban adjacent" but without broadband.

Broadband by cable service or DSL is absent in much of the rural area of The Town of the Blue Mountains — one of the fastest growing areas in Ontario. Although four service providers have recently begun offering the community, which is just west of Collingwood, wireless broadband service, it once again can be hit and miss depending on the topography and if a household or business is within line of sight of a tower.

Fortunately the Intrawest Village at the foot of Blue Mountain — where more than 1,200 homes are being built — is in line-of-sight with the wireless transmitter on top of the grain elevator at Collingwood harbour, said Blue Mountain Resort technical specialist John Gowers.

"More than 50 per cent of our business is convention business so being able to offer high-speed Internet is absolutely critical for us,'' he said.

"Five years ago people wanted to teleconference, now they want high-speed, that's the way it is,'' he said.

The wireless service at Blue costs the company $1,500 a month, but is super-fast with download and upload speeds of 10 megabits per second and supplies the entire village, said Gowers.

In many places in rural Ontario, the original telephone companies that set up exchanges to serve small communities more than 100 years ago are now bringing broadband DSL service to their customers, said David Bronicheski spokesperson for Amtelcom Communications Inc.

Amtelcom is one of 24 small telephone companies in the province, whose focus is rural Ontario.

"Rural Ontario is our business, so we look after people in remote areas,'' he said.

On Thursday, Amtelecom launched broadband service to its 4,500 customers on the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula and across to Manitoulin Island. The $10.5 million upgrade included replacing 1970s switching equipment and laying 100 kilometres of fibre optic cable.

Not only has this eliminated all party lines and allows many Amtelecom customers for the first time to use answering systems and fax machines, it also means that broadband is now available in even the most remote parts of the peninsula.

"Next summer if you are up here driving on a back road in the middle of nowhere, that remote farmhouse you see will have broadband,'' said Bronicheski.

While such initiatives appear to be the wave of the future for rural Ontario, they are far from catching up to demand.

Some of the ironies connected to slow progress in the age of the Internet are not lost on many rural residents.

"It's easier to get Internet service if you truly live in the middle of nowhere," said Norah Fountain, Muskoka's broadband advocate. "Even in Nunavut or the Yukon, it's easier than in Muskoka."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Mar. 3, 2005. 08:54 AM

Cellphone users back number portability
Survey supports action as CRTC awaits direction on issue
Numbers `belong to the users' argues organizer of petition

TYLER HAMILTON
TECHNOLOGY REPORTER

Eight out of every 10 wireless subscribers in Canada think they should have the option of keeping their phone number when switching service providers, according to a new survey, countering some industry claims that mobile consumers haven't expressed enough demand for so-called number portability.

Jim Roche is one consumer who hopes the federal regulator will order Canada's wireless industry to offer what the United States, Europe and much of Asia has already introduced. He's starting a petition to make his and other Canadians' feelings known.

"These numbers do not belong to the provider, they belong to the users and those users should be allowed to move them to whatever provider they prefer, at any time," said Roche.

The federal government mentioned in its budget last Wednesday that it would ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which had already planned to look at this issue this year, to "move expeditiously" to implement a system for wireless number portability.

During the five days following the budget, Toronto-based Solutions Research Group surveyed 1,000 Canadians by telephone. Of the 564 wireless subscribers in the group, 39 per cent said they "strongly support" and 40 per cent "support" having the ability to keep their number when switching carriers.

The results are considered accurate to plus or minus 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Not having the option of number portability means businesses that switch service providers have to go through the hassle and cost of changing business cards, their letterhead and advertising. Individuals prefer to keep their numbers so friends and family can stay in touch.

Kaan Yigit, president of Solutions Research, said the lack of number portability is one reason Virgin Mobile Canada will have difficulty luring customers from other service providers.

By dropping this barrier to competition, said Yigit, "carriers would have to compete more on services, prices and features."

Sir Richard Branson, founder of U.K.-based Virgin Group, said during the launch of Virgin Mobile Canada on Tuesday that he was amazed to learn recently that wireless number portability didn't exist in Canada.

"It should be possible to have number portability in the next three or four months," said Branson, who questioned why the CRTC hasn't yet required such a service. "They shouldn't be there for the industry. They need to be there for the consumer."

Philippe Tousignant, a spokesperson for the commission, said officials from Virgin Mobile have already called and a meeting is being set up to discuss the issue.

He said the CRTC is awaiting instruction from the government on how it wants to proceed. "I'm confident if asked to proceed expeditiously we will."

A spokesperson from Industry Canada said the department doesn't plan to order the CRTC to implement number portability. Rather, Minister David Emerson will likely send a letter to the commission outlining concerns that Canada has fallen behind other jurisdictions and that the issue needs priority.

Consensus is that the CRTC, instead of wasting time reviewing whether wireless number portability should be introduced, will focus instead on how to move forward with a system. How much will it cost? How much of that cost will be passed on to consumers? Can we learn from the U.S. system and piggyback on an existing system used by competitive landline carriers in Canada?

Finally, will number portability be implemented broadly to encompass all telecom services, making it possible for local landline customers to keep their numbers when switching to a wireless provider, and vice versa?

"The issue is going to be how long it takes to move on this," said Yigit, who suspects the three major wireless providers, Telus Mobility, Rogers Wireless and Bell Mobility, will delay as long as they can.

Peter Barnes, president of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, said the industry is waiting to learn the government's full intentions.

"The industry was surprised to see the issue in the budget," said Barnes.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Microsoft charges five more GTA resellers with piracy
2 March, 2005
by Mark Cox

Microsoft Canada has announced that has commenced lawsuits in the Federal Court of Canada against five resellers in the Greater Toronto Area relating to hard disk loading, selling unauthorized versions of Microsoft software with computers.

"We are making a real concerted effort to work with our system builders, to help honest system builders be able to compete in this market," said Susan Harper, business development manager at Microsoft Canada Co. "We really want to make this a level playing field."

In each of the five cases, the lawsuits allege copyright infringement and seek damages, an accounting of profits or statutory damages, injunctive relief and declaratory relief. The whole range of Microsoft software is involved, including Windows operating system software like Microsoft Windows ME and Microsoft Windows XP Professional, as well as various versions of Microsoft Office suite software including Office 2000 Professional, Office 2000 Premium, Office XP Professional and Office Professional Edition 2003.

Microsoft Canada has regularly gone after software pirates in the past, but now appears to be especially aggressive in trying to deter other offenders. Since the GTA cases were filed, the company has filed similar charges in Federal Court against another batch of resellers, most of whom are on the west coast.

As part of this campaign, Microsoft also has publicized the names of companies against which it commenced litigation and successfully settled in other hard disk loading activities in Ontario, and against which it obtained consent judgments restraining them from distributing unlicensed Microsoft software and from infringing Microsoft's copyright and other intellectual property rights going forward. They are:

• AJ&T Computer Centre (Toronto)

• ASK Used Computer, Parts and Exchange (Toronto)

• Canadasys Computers Inc. (Scarborough)

• Computer Concepts (London)

• Computer Exchange & Services, Inc. (Toronto)

• Computer Service Depot Inc. (Waterloo)

• Filtech Enterprises Inc. (Toronto)

• Hi Computers Inc. (Scarborough)

• L.A.P. Electronics (London)

• Lee's Hi-Tec (Peterborough)

• MCB Computers (Etobicoke)

• Micro Advanced Computers Inc. (Toronto)

• ND Computers (Toronto)

• NetWork Systems Computers (St. Catharines)

• PC Hut (Guelph)

• Rama Computers Inc. (North York)

• Real Tech Computers (London)

• SD Computers Inc. (Cambridge)

• Startech Computers Inc. (Toronto)

• Subtec Computers Inc. (Toronto)

• Tyko Computer Inc. (Markham)

Harper stressed that Microsoft is going after the whole range of system builders who sell pirated software, including the very small who don't do much business.

"Resellers who are across from the small guy selling illegal software, think that Microsoft doesn't bother to focus on them, but we are focusing on all types of system builders."

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