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    CRTC's Net Neutrality Rules in Action: Bell To Drop P2P Traffic Shaping

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    Tuesday December 20, 2011
    Bell advised the CRTC yesterday that it plans to drop all peer-to-peer traffic shaping (often called throttling) as of March 1, 2012.  While the decision has been described as surprising or as quid pro quo for the usage based billing ruling, I think it is neither of those. The writing was on the wall in October when Bell announced that it was dropping the traffic shaping for wholesale traffic, citing reduced network congestion from P2P. At the time I wrote that the Bell move:

    raises the prospect that Bell's current throttling practices may now violate the CRTC's Internet traffic management guidelines. While Bell says its congestion has been reduced, its retail throttling practices have remained unchanged, throttling P2P applications from 4:30 pm to 2:00 am.  Given the decline in congestion, a CRTC complaint might ask whether the current throttling policy "results in discrimination or preference as little as reasonably possible" and ask for explanation why its data cap policies "would not reasonably address the need and effectively achieve the same purpose as the ITMP."

    The CRTC Internet traffic management practice policy, often referred to as the net neutrality rules, make it clear that the Commission prefers network investment and "economic ITMPs" (ie. usage charges) to traffic shaping. The Bell letter to the CRTC addresses this directly, citing its network investment, the use of economic ITMPs, and declining P2P file sharing as a proportion of network traffic as the reason for the change. Given the CRTC rules, Bell had little choice but to drop traffic shaping since it was increasingly difficult to justify given network and marketplace developments.

    The big question is now how much longer Rogers will maintain its throttling practices. Most of the larger Canadian ISPs no longer traffic shape (Cogeco seems to have quietly dropped it after maintaining just two years ago that it had no other alternative), leaving Rogers as the outlier. Moreover, the company is currently facing an enforcement action for violating the CRTC ITMP rules with respect to the impact its throttling practices have had on online gaming.  The company might try hold out for awhile, but given the network congestion profile in Canada and CRTC pressure to address its net neutrality violations, it seems likely that it will follow Bell's lead or face further complaints that its practices do not comply with CRTC policy.
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    CRTC Updates Internet Traffic Management Practices Guidelines

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    Friday September 23, 2011
    Earlier this year, I launched an access-to-information request with the CRTC requesting all records related to net neutrality complaints filed under the Commission's 2009 Internet traffic management practices decision. The result was a post titled Canada's Net Neutrality Enforcement Failure, which listed dozens of complaints and a discouraging lack of CRTC investigation into them. The post concluded:

    After more than 30 investigations in nearly two years, it is clear improvements are needed. At a minimum, the CRTC should be publishing all public complaints and resolutions so that the issues obtain a public airing. Moreover, the system needs penalties for violations as well as pro-active audits to ensure Internet providers are compliant with their obligations. Without change, the CRTC’s net neutrality rules offer little protection for Canadian Internet users.

    Yesterday the CRTC took a first step in this direction by releasing new guidelines for responding to complaints and enforcing the rules. The best aspect of the ruling is a commitment to publish quarterly reports featuring a summary of the number and types of complaints it has received, including the number of active and resolved complaints. Moreover, any findings of non-compliance will be published on the Commission’s website and will include the ISP’s name and the nature of the complaint. The move toward greater transparency is welcome and an important step in pressuring ISPs to comply with the guidelines. The new guidelines also establish a strict timeline for responses by complainants and ISPs, which should help avoid Xplorenet-type situations that dragged on for months before the ISP addressed complaints over its traffic management practices.

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    Canada's Net Neutrality Enforcement Failure

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    Friday July 08, 2011
    Two years ago, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission conducted a much-publicized hearing on net neutrality, which examined whether new rules were needed to govern how Internet providers managed their networks. While many Internet users remain unaware of the issue, behind the scenes Internet providers employ a variety of mechanisms to control the flow of traffic on their networks, with some restricting or throttling the speeds for some applications.

    The Commission unveiled its Internet traffic management practices in October 2009, establishing enforceable guidelines touted as the world’s first net neutrality regulations. Where a consumer complains, Internet providers are required to describe their practices, demonstrate their necessity, and establish that they discriminate as little as possible. Targeting specific applications or protocols may warrant investigation and slowing down time-sensitive traffic likely violates current Canadian law.

    While there was a lot to like about the CRTC approach, the immediate concern was absence of an enforcement mechanism. Much of the responsibility for gathering evidence and launching complaints was left to individual Canadians who typically lack the expertise to do so. Nearly two years later, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) posts an investigation into the system that reveals those concerns were well-founded.

    Although the CRTC has not publicly disclosed details on net neutrality complaints and the resulting investigations, I recently filed an Access to Information request to learn more about what has been taking place behind the scenes. A review of hundreds of pages of documents discloses that virtually all major Canadian ISPs have been the target of complaints, but there have been few, if any, consequences arising from the complaints process. In fact, the CRTC has frequently dismissed complaints as being outside of the scope of the policy, lacking in evidence, or sided with Internet provider practices.
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    Rogers Faces Yet Another Net Neutrality Complaint

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    Friday June 10, 2011
    Teresa Murphy has filed another complaint against Rogers over its Internet traffic management practices, claiming its alleged fix of problems with World of Warcraft have not worked.
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