Net Neutrality and the CBC

The CBC recently released its submission to the CRTC as part of the examination of the future of broadcast in Canada.  The submission interestingly raises network neutrality concerns, though it does not use that specific term.  Rather, as part of a discussion on Internet video at page 19, the CBC says:

The business case analysis for Internet video is complicated by the fact that suppliers of broadband connections may also have incentives to control the bandwidth available for Internet video.  Canadian cable companies engage in "bandwidth shaping" which allocates different levels of transmission capacity to different services according to the operational preferences of the cable company.  This type of bandwidth shaping can ensure efficient use of transmission capacity.  It can also ensure that Internet video by third parties does not become a threat to the business of the cable company, whether it be the delivery of traditional television programming to cable  subscribers, VOD or the distribution of cable company-owned Internet video services.   In light of this complex mix of issues, it remains unclear whether Internet video will become a primary means of distributing video content on a commercial basis. 

This is network neutrality in action.

Canada's national public broadcaster recognizes the benefits of Internet distribution, yet expresses concern that broadband providers will intentionally interfere with its Internet video transmission for their own economic benefit.  This position suggests that the network neutrality concern is already having an impact as the mere threat may lead broadcasters to view the opportunities presented by the Internet as too risky.  The government should not adopt a "wait and see" approach on this issue – bringing certainty to the market by establishing a network neutrality principle in law (as recommended by the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel) should be an essential part of any telecommunications law reform.

Update: A reader notes that the Canadian Conference of the Arts also devoted considerable discussion to the net neutrality issue.


  1. Mike in Ottawa says:

    I would argue that the momement the we allowed the cable and phone companies to become broadcasters, we began to loose net neutrality. If the cable company didn’t own a single television or radio station, would they not be rolling out faster internet connections? The reason we lag much of the world (other than the Americans, who are in worse shape than we are) in intenet speeds is that a faster internet represents a real danger to the success of traditional broadcast medias.

    The cable and phone companies are more concerned about maintaining thier media profit stream than promoting network innovation.

  2. Mark Goldberg says:

    I don’t think the issue is that the cable and telephone companies are broadcasters. The issue is that they are broadcast distributors (BDUs).

    As broadcasters, their interests align with CBC – use the internet as an alternate distribution vehicle. As BDUs, their revenue source is a specific delivery vehicle – cable, IPTV, satellite.

    I’ll be writing about this on Sunday.

  3. Michael Richardson says:

    President, Sandelman Software Works
    The solution to the net neutrality issue is to recognize that there continue to be obvious monopolies on having wires under the street.

    Unlike in the US, we never forced Bell or Rogers to split it’s layer-1/2 plant from it’s layer-3/4 (and above plant). We see this impact every day: non-Bell DSL connections are always fixed last,
    and non-Rogers cable connections are essentially non-existant.

    The fact that Bell and Rogers might then consider restricting the layers 4/5/6 of the stack as well as having restricted who can compete against them at layer 3 (the IP layer) is a natural extension.

    We must bring real competition to the last mile.
    We can only do that by seperating layer 1/2 suppliers from layer-3 supplies. No cross ownership, and no vertical integration.

  4. Russell McOrmond says:

    Issue is control.

    As with technical measures (TPMs applied to content or to devices) or “Trusted Computing”, the problem is not the technology (in this case, traffic shaping), but who is in control of the technology.

    Traffic shaping, the prioritization of some packets over others, should be something that is decided by the endpoints in an end-to-end network like the Internet. Intermediaries should not be allowed to set policy, even if they can be solicited by endpoints to help in this prioritization of packets. I don’t believe the network intermediaries should be allowed to also be broadcasters or broadcast distributors, as both of these situations put them in a conflict of interest situation. Maybe we need to move to municipal networks where the Internet becomes like roads where the city manages the basic infrastructure, but there is no conflict of interest with the wide variety of users of this infrastructure.

    There are types of content such as Voice or streaming multimedia which need to be prioritized over other content which can withstand delay (p2p applications, email, etc). Traffic shaping is an important technology tool we need to have at our disposal, but it must be under our control and not any intermediary.

  5. Jordan Weaver says:

    Well well well. It sure seems that we are being lied to over and over again as consumers. But of course nothing ever happens to Bell or Rogers, instead we the people get dinged with hidden fees and beeing forced to sign contracts that let the companies change the rules…well whenever it pleases their fat wallets. Whether it be the Phone Companies and their made up “Long distance calling” way back in the day which of course is illogical as a phone call going from Toronto to Vancouver doesn’t cost anymore than calling down the street as it is the same signals i send up to a satelitte through my dial up connection in 1997 to some guy i don’t know who lives in Japan.
    The people have been getting ripped off for ages, now its time for the people to capatilize and now here we go again being controlled by companies again, who can’t stand to lose a couple bucks because technology is ahead of their Dinosaur game.
    If i can find it from my bedroom, and the company says we have “unlimited” access then by traffic shaping and not telling us about it at all, they have been lying, and overpricing our internet usage. Gee yes we can send a text document at 600 kb/s, but how many text documents are even 600 kilobytes, or even 1 kilobyte. Traffic shaping is an insult to consumers who have been false advertised too.
    Traffic Shaping should not be allowed, if the company says we get 10Mbps, then give me my bloody 10Mbps. Traffic shaping is basically saying “yea its there, but only for what we want you to have”. Then thats not really 10Mbps, thats 1Mbps a second or less.
    Or how about the fact that they even use Megabits per second as a measuring tool. No file on anyone’s computer is in Megabit’s, its in Megabytes. Yet another deceitful move by rich companies who need to squeeze every cent they can out of people who struggle for real. Not some goofballs that get everything handed to them on a silver platter and greedily want more.
    Traffic shaping is a joke and is not important, and once people actually find out about it (most people have never heard of traffic shaping, i’d say in the 1%tile even know that our cable and phone companies are once again ripping us off) they will flip.
    The problem is the regular average joe has to work so hard all day that they get home and are so tired they can’t deal with all these problems, and only the rich who have the time are making all the decisions for us and its time for a change. I hope your reading this Micheal Geist, because there is a bigger issue here than downloading something that is readily available and should be at any speed i bloody well pay for.
    If i buy a 325 horspower Camaro SS i better not find out when i get home i can only have 100 horsepower here and there. Or when i buy a banana at the store, am i only gonna get half a bannana cuz i already ate, and a full one when i’m empty.

    Come on can anybody else see how wrong this is? Morally wrong. I think its way worse than downloading some cheezy movie that has the same plot a thousand times over like almost every movie in the past twenty years and the rich movie moguls expect the people to pay for the millions they shell out, while people are starving to death, and having unjust things happen to them. If i told you my life story you’d shit your pants. And only money gets you justice in this world, and if people think i’m gonna submit to these rich ass’ games, like bloody Shaw, Rogers, Telus, Government bullshit, THINK AGAIN. People are ready to fight back like they did in France. You better believe it.