TORONTO — The next time you get frustrated because a website refuses to load instantly, or a streaming video has to buffer for a few seconds, think of the surprisingly large number of Canadians still on dial-up.According to a few different estimates, there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians still travelling the information superhighway in the slow lane, who only get online after waiting for a series of bleeps, piercing shrieks and blurts of static to be belted out by their dial-up modem.‘It’s always a little surprising to see just how slow things load’And that’s just the beginning of their waiting.“It’s pretty dramatic,” says Ross Kouhi, executive director for the National Capital FreeNet, a donation-driven service that provides free or inexpensive dial-up access to about 3,600 users in the Ottawa area.“As you’re demonstrating it to somebody it’s always a little surprising to see just how slow things load.”The CRTC estimated that in 2010, there were about 366,000 dial-up customers across the country. The Convergence Consulting Group says residential dial-up subscriptions went from well over a million in 2007 to about 250,000 at the end of 2011. And surveys by the Media Technology Monitor suggested about three per cent of the population was using dial-up Internet in 2011.[np-relatedFor some Canadians in rural communities, dial-up is the only way they can get online. In 2010, the CRTC estimated that five per cent of the population had no access to high-speed Internet, with that rate nearing 16% in rural areas. But for others, inexpensive dial-up is simply the only affordable alternative to high-speed access, which can start at $30 or more — and it’s usually more — a month.Matthew Suffidy of Ottawa is a longtime Internet user, who figures he’s been online for nearly 20 years. But he’s stayed with dial-up access at home the whole time and currently uses the National Capital FreeNet.He makes plans to do any big downloading away from home and when he does dial in to the Internet, it’s mostly just to access email, check TV listings, search something on Wikipedia or visit a few other sites.He figures it was about 10 years ago that he started to notice web surfing was becoming sluggish with his 56K modem. A few years ago he found most surfing at home had become insufferable.“If I really need something I’ll wait for it but it’s true that for some (sites) you have to wait quite a while to start some of them up,” Suffidy says.“Certain sites have become more cumbersome to use with dial-up because of increased content, for example, embedded Flash. Sometimes that’s really a killer with dial-up Internet, if you have some kind of Flash content that’s trying to show you a (video or ad) — that’s going to totally destroy the connection.”With most of the population using increasingly efficient high-speed accounts, web developers have largely stopped trying to optimize their sites for slower connections.Sports fans on dial-up would have a hard time loading up the Toronto Blue Jays’ official website, which weighs in at a whopping four megabytes thanks to embedded video and a large number of photos and graphics. During a test, it took a couple of minutes of waiting for just the home page’s background to load, and several more minutes for other content to gradually pop up.Other graphic-heavy sites run by TSN and NHL aren’t much better, with the home page adding up to more than a megabyte of content — which could take about five minutes or longer for a dial-up user to load.Kouhi says there’s still plenty of demand for inexpensive dial-up access, although few rave about the service’s speed and the web surfing experience.“A lot of people who were making due with dial-up are starting to find it’s getting more and more difficult to use, so much of the content on the Internet is so rich and even though you think you’re looking at a simple web page, quite often there’s a lot of baggage behind it,” says Kouhi, adding that it takes just a few minutes on dial-up for him to grow tired of the snail-paced speeds.Some of the dial-up users he speaks with say they mostly stay off the web and only use email to connect with family and friends. But even email can be annoying on dial-up, especially when attachments are involved.Kouhi has a sister who lives in a rural area and until recently only had dial-up access. His family learned to leave her out of group emails when it came to sharing photos, he says.“You always have to remember to not send the big pictures to the one sister, to save her the grief, because she would say it would take her all night to download a big pile of photographs,” Kouhi says.“And she’d come back in the morning and they weren’t anything she wanted to see anyways.”The Canadian Press
“Liberia’s human rights obligations must take precedence over any local practices considered to be ‘cultural’ or ‘traditional’ where such practices are incompatible with human rights principles,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said as his Office and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) released a report on the issue.The study, based on in-depth interviews with victims, family members, community leaders, Government officials and civil society between January 2012 and September 2015, shows that violations disproportionately affect women, children, elderly people, the destitute and those with disabilities, with criminal offenses going unpunished due to their perceived cultural dimensions.Some 58 per cent of Liberian women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) – generally without anaesthesia – a practice widely used by a secret society called Sande and affecting poor households twice as much as wealthy ones.“In addition to the extreme pain…the lack of medically sterilized equipment and facilities increases the likelihood of infection and lasting physical damage, and may even lead to death,” the report stressed.It also documents abductions, forced initiations, torture and rape by members of another secret society called Poro. Non-members considered to have transgressed its rules, for instance by ‘trespassing’ on its sacred ground or remaining outdoors during Poro activities, have also at times been forcefully initiated, tortured and, in two documented cases, gang-raped.“Accusations of witchcraft are common in Liberia, and often have devastating consequences for the accused, who may be subjected to trial by ordeal, ‘cleansing’ or ‘exorcism’ rituals, expulsion, ostracization, and even death,” the study reported, also citing many cases of trial by ordeal that amounted to physical and psychological torture, and in some cases even led to death.“The authorities often hesitate to investigate or prosecute cases involving trial by ordeal, due to the perceived cultural dimensions of the practice,” it noted. “This has generated widespread culture of impunity among traditional actors.”The report documents nine cases of suspected ritualistic killings, including three last August and September, in one of which a motorcycle driver in Ganta was killed, allegedly for ritualistic purposes. This sparked riots during which a man accused of this alleged ritual murder was killed by an angry mob.“These events illustrate the lack of faith many Liberians have in the capacity and willingness of local authorities to take action in cases of ritualistic killing, and of the formal justice system to hold perpetrators accountable,” it said. “This situation raises serious concerns in view of the 2017 national elections when the number of ritualistic killings is likely to increase.”Mr. Zeid called on State authorities to act to prevent these violations, ensure the prosecution of alleged perpetrators, and provide victims with all necessary medical and psychosocial support and access to redress.“While the report takes note of the progress made by the Government in combatting such practices, the recent incident in Ganta shows the urgent need to strengthen the formal justice system,” UNMIL chief Farid Zarif said.“If Liberia wants to make a good and positive use of its rich and abundant culture and traditions, it has to align some of these practices with its international human rights obligations,” he underscored.