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    Behind the Scenes of the CBC BitTorrent Experiment

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    Wednesday March 26, 2008
    Two must-read articles on the CBC BitTorrent experiment - a CBC article on how ISP traffic shaping is limiting the ability of Canadians to reasonably download the episode and Guinevere Orvis posts the inside story on how CBC gave the go-ahead (hat tip - BoingBong).
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    Bell Secretly Throttling Wholesale Internet Services? - UPDATED

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    Monday March 24, 2008

    Internet chat boards are buzzing with concerns that Bell has begun throttling Internet traffic for its wholesale services.  In other words, third party ISPs that buy their connectivity from Bell ("resellers") are being left with irate customers who are suddenly subject to packet shaped services.  Apparently Bell did not inform their wholesale partners that new network management practices were on the way, leading to a meeting on Tuesday morning to address the issue. 

    There are several interesting aspects to this development.  First, the early online chat included responses from resellers such as Teksavvy indicating that they do not believe in throttling traffic, presumably unaware that Bell was limiting their service.  Second, some posters have reported that the throttling has undermined their ability to download the CBC episode of Canada's Next Great Prime Minister, precisely the concern that many predicted when CBC announced its willingness to use BitTorrent for content distribution.  Third, customers have been using Google Maps to chart locations that have experienced throttling, a nice use collaborative mapping technologies.

    Update: Bell has now reportedly confirmed that full throttling will be in place by early April. It claims that it is entitled to do so based on its contractual terms.  Note that several people have written to emphasize the anti-competitive effects of this policy, given its impact on resellers servicing the business market.

    Update II: This issue is clearly not going away - mainstream media coverage from the CBC and the Globe along with a Facebook group.


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    CBC To Release Program DRM-Free Via BitTorrent

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    Tuesday March 18, 2008
    Sources indicate that the CBC is set to become the first major North American broadcaster to freely release one of its programs without DRM using BitTorrent.  This Sunday, CBC will air Canada Next Great Prime Minister.  The following day, it plans to freely release a high-resolution version via peer-to-peer networks without any DRM restrictions.  This development is important not only because it shows that Canada's public broadcaster is increasingly willing to experiment with alternative forms of distribution, but also because it may help crystallize the net neutrality issue in Canada. 

    The CBC's mandate, as provided in the Broadcasting Act, requires it to make its programming "available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means."  Using BitTorrent allows the CBC to meet its statutory mandate, yet with ISPs such as Rogers engaging in non-transparent traffic shaping, millions of Canadians may be unable to fully access programming funded by tax dollars.  If the CBC experiment is successful, look for more broadcasters to do the same and for the CRTC to face mounting pressure to address net neutrality concerns.
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    Rogers Broadband: New Caps But No New Transparency

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    Monday March 17, 2008
    Earlier today, I spoke to representatives from Rogers, who advised that they are implementing new caps and fees for broadband customers.  In letters going out this week, the company will advise that their "Express" service will have a 60 GB monthly cap with an overage charge of $2 per GB up to $25 per month.  The company promises to provide customers with email warnings as they approach their cap and to provide tools to easily identify Internet usage.  While I have no particular problem with this approach, when I asked whether it would be combined with an end to traffic shaping, the response was no.  When I asked whether Rogers would at least provide greater transparency about its network management practices, I was advised that it was working on the issue.  In my view, that just isn't good enough - transparency should extend beyond how much data subscribers consume (and pay for).  Hitting consumers with new fees was the right time to address Rogers' transparency shortcomings on traffic shaping and its failure to do so suggests yet again that the CRTC and elected officials should follow the FCC lead by prioritizing the issue.
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