Reports from Europe indicate that Vodaphone may face legal action after it was revealed that it is blocking access to VoIP providers such as Truphone and Skype from its customers cellphones.
Net Neutrality And Creative Freedom (Tim Wu at re:publica 2010) by Anna Lena Schiller (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/7VfazT
My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on the Rogers traffic shaping issue and the resulting impact on consumer rights, competition, and non-P2P applications. If you read my original posting and the many comments that followed, the column covers similar terrain. I therefore think it might be more useful to respond to an interesting posting from Matt Roberts on the Rogers issue. Roberts confirms the Rogers shaping (as does Mark Evans in a posting that refers to it as bandwidth management, a distinction without a difference in my view) but then takes me to task for wrapping it into the net neutrality debate.
The post raises an interesting and important question – is throttling/traffic shaping a net neutrality issue? I should note that regardless of the answer, I believe there is no question that there are problems with the current Rogers approach. The lack of transparency, the misleading service claims, and the inclusion of bandwidth caps that are rendered difficult to achieve all point to an issue that should attract the attention of regulatory agencies (and perhaps class action lawyers).
As for whether there is a net neutrality problem, that likely depends on your definition of net neutrality.
Appeared in the Toronto Star on April 16, 2007 as ISP Must Come Clean on 'Traffic Shaping' With well over a million subscribers, Rogers is universally recognized as one of Canada's leading Internet service providers. The company offers several tiers of services, including the "Extreme" package that boasts of "blistering […]
A day after the government confirmed its telephone deregulation plan over the objection of a Parliamentary committee and moved forward on plans to create a new, independent telecommunications consumer agency, it is worth pointing to a necessary complaint once that agency is operational (and to the CRTC in the meantime). For the past 18 months, it has been open secret that Rogers engages in packet shaping, conduct that limits the amount of available bandwidth for certain services such as peer-to-peer file sharing applications. Rogers denied the practice at first, but effectively acknowledged it in late 2005. Net neutrality advocates regularly point to traffic shaping as a concern since they fear that Rogers could limit bandwidth to competing content or services. In response to the packet shaping approach, many file sharing applications now employ encryption to make it difficult to detect the contents of data packets. This has led to a technical "cat and mouse" game, with Rogers now one of the only ISPs in the world to simply degrade encrypted traffic.
This raises many issues but I would like to focus on just two in this posting. First, not only is BitTorrent legal in Canada, but a growing percentage of the file swapping on BitTorrent clients is authorized. This includes a substantial amount of open source software development, independent films, and other large files. By reducing the bandwidth available for this application, Rogers is impairing the ability for Canadian artists to distribute their work and hampering the development of open source software in Canada. Moreover, this could lead to a situation where Rogers' own content is unfairly advantaged over competing content.
If that was not bad enough, there is now speculation at my own university that the packet shaping is making it very difficult for University of Ottawa users to use email applications from home.
The Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology today tabled its report on telecom deregulation. The report is very short (one paragraph) and to the point. The Committee: recommends that the Minister of Industry withdraw the order varying Telecom Decision CRTC 2006-15 and table in Parliament a comprehensive package of […]