We’ll do what we darn well please.

Rogers Communications, a Canadian ISP (and mine as well unfortunately) has begun a test of inserting content into web pages in order to communicate with their customers:

"Just brought to my attention today by a concerned reader who chose Google for his example, what you’re looking at is reportedly an ongoing test by Rogers in Canada, scheduled for deployment to Rogers Internet customers next quarter," Weinstein wrote in his blog.

"This is what Net Neutrality is about — it’s not just making sure that data is handled in a competitive and non-discriminatory manner, but it’s also that the data that’s sent is the data that you get — that the content is unmodified, not with messages that are woven into your data stream [from third parties]" he says in an interview.

Although in this case it just seems to be to tell you how close you are to the cap on your formerly unlimited bandwidth. But I’m sure that this "communication" will soon include ads for Rogers services, just as you must endure if you are also a Rogers cable television subscriber.

As Michael Geist notes, this clearly violates any kind of net neutrality:

The split screen raises fundamental net neutrality concerns and appears to be a clear case of interfering with content delivery (offering an opt-out is not good enough). The trend therefore continues – Canada trails the U.S. on the net neutrality legislative front, yet it has far more examples of how the dominant ISPs stand ready to interfere with neutral carriage of content and applications.

Mathew Ingramdoesn’t agree:

Contrary to what Kristen Nicole at Mashable and others are saying, Rogers is not “overwriting” Web content, it’s merely pushing the page down and inserting a message at the top. Cynthia Brumfield has an example of something Verizon does that she thinks is worse.

Lots of sites do the same thing with frames and so on. Is it ugly? Sure. But apart from that, I don’t see what everyone is getting excited about. In fact, while I’m not sure I want to make a habit of this sort of thing, I’m going to side with Seth “Bah Humbug” Finkelstein on this one. As he notes in his post, this just isn’t that big a deal. Let’s save all of the net neutrality hyperventilating for something a bit more serious, shall we?

Yeslots of sites do the same thing with frames, but that is evident when I visit the site. Google does not do that, so Rogers has chosen to alter my viewing experience – without my consent.

This certainly isn’t some crisis of epic proportions. However, it is all about net neutrality. Rogers’ pipes are no longer neutral; the content that comes from them is different that when went in in the first place, so they are clearly not neutral regardless of the definition.

So if simple innocuous "customer communication" is not a problem then when does it become a problem? When Rogers starts inserting Rogers-sponsored ads into Google’s results? Is it a problem then?

How about if they start removing some of the sponsored results? How about then?

I’d pose this simple question to Mathew. Do you mind if Rogers inserts a message at the beginning of every phone call you make? After all, it just pushes your call to a minute or so longer.

I’m paying my ISP for a transmission mechanism – a pipe. I expect that what goes into that pipe should come out the same way.

If my ISP wants to communicate with me then they should ask for my email – just like everyone else. They have my phone number but they sure aren’t in any rush to communicate with me when they have any kind of service problem. That they can’t even be bothered to put on their home page.And they sure don’t want me to communicate with them if their voice mail system is any indication.

Update: Clearly the people at Rogers just don’t get it. I just got the following comment from someone who didn’t identify themself from ip address

It was just a pilot program to test a notification system. Relax!

And who could that be?

OrgName: Rogers Cable Communications Inc.
OrgID: RCC-99
Address: One Mount Pleasant
City: Toronto
StateProv: ON
PostalCode: M4Y-2Y5
NetRange: –

As usual, when there is any kind of issue at Rogers, it is the customer that is wrong. It would have been so simple to say "We appreciate your concern." or something like that.

Of course to do that, they might actually have to appreciate my concern.

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