Day four of the CRTC's network management hearings featured three of the world's leading experts on networks along with a trio of ISP perspectives. The panelists included the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, CIPPIC on behalf of the Campaign for Democratic Media (CDM) (who brought experts Dr. David Reed, Dr. Andrew Odlyzko, and Bill St. Arnaud), Execulink Telecom, and Primus Telecommunications.
An important theme during the day was debate on whether there really is a network congestion crisis. CAIP argued that it is competition, not congestion that is at issue. Odlyzko surprised the Commissioners by noting that traffic growth is actually declining and that a steady rate of capital expenditures should be sufficient to meet demand (this was later confirmed by Execulink). Moreover, St. Arnaud and Reed emphasized the diminishing importance of P2P as a video delivery channel, urging the CRTC not to fight yesterday's war.
The second important development was the clear divide that has emerged on traffic management at the wholesale vs. retail level. The wholesale issue was at the heart of the CAIP vs. Bell case and that case is effectively being re-argued during these hearings. Many ISPs have argued against any form of traffic management of wholesale traffic, noting that it prevents the potential for competition between providers. Moreover, in repeated questions about the impact on carrier networks (such as Bell) it is becoming apparent that the problem may lie with Bell, not with the ISPs. Independent ISPs note that Bell promises certain speeds and bandwidth at the wholesale level, but seemingly has difficulty meeting those promises. Some providers (ie. MTS Allstream) have network architectures that ensure that this is not a problem. The sense is that Bell does not and so resorts to traffic management practices. It is noteworthy that CAIP focused very heavily on the wholesale issue and basically abandoned any pretext of protection against traffic management for consumers.
The retail side of the issue has many ISPs arguing that anything should be permitted with appropriate disclosure. Fighting for some limitations are consumer groups, creator group, Saveournet.ca, and the Open Internet Coalition. They have proposed a test to determine whether the traffic management practice is permissible under Canadian law. The Commission will ultimately have to decide both (1) the wholesale issue, which may involve an acknowledgement that it got the CAIP decision wrong; and (2) the retail question including disclosure practices and tests (if any) to determine appropriate conduct.