Rogers and Net Neutrality

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. 
The Telecommmunications Policy Review Panel called for a net neutrality provision on the following terms:

"The Telecommunications Act should be amended to confirm the right of Canadian consumers to access publicly available Internet applications and content of their choice by means of all public telecommunications networks providing access to the Internet. This amendment should
(a) authorize the CRTC to administer and enforce these consumer access rights,
(b) take into account any reasonable technical constraints and efficiency considerations related to providing such access, and
(c) be subject to legal constraints on such access, such as those established in criminal, copyright and broadcasting laws."

Does the Rogers action run afoul of this definition?  Possibly – the traffic shaping certainly makes it difficult to access certain applications and content.  The issue is whether the technical constraints are "reasonable".  Given the impact on all encrypted data, the fact that consumers have paid for a set amount of monthly bandwidth, and the fact that the constraints render some applications all but unusable, I think that the constraints are arguably unreasonable.

Another possible definition is the one included in the AT&T/Bell South merger approval.  That defined a neutral network as:

AT&T/BellSouth also commits that it will maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in its wireline broadband Internet access service. This commitment shall be satisfied by AT&T/BellSouth's agreement not to provide or to sell to Internet content, application, or service providers, including those affiliated with AT&T/BellSouth, any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth's wirelines broadband Internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination.

Is Rogers selling a service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over its service based on its source, ownership or destination?  Possibly – the traffic shaping is obviously degrading packets.  The issue is whether it is based on source, ownership, or destination.  I think it arguably is – the person who wants to access music online can choose between an unimpeded Rogers MusicStore or from degraded torrents (authorized or personal, non-commercial downloads).  That looks like degrading based on source to me. 

Finally, we could use Roberts' own definition – "what net neutrality should mean is two of the same services get treated within the network equally."  Once again, I think there is reason for concern.  Leaving aside the differential treatment of VoIP services with respect to bandwidth caps (Rogers own service does not count against the monthly cap, while third party services do), the current shaping practices points to the prospect of Rogers treating its own video (ie. video from its new batch of television stations) differently from video distributed via BitTorrent or Rogers treating a future business VPN service differently from those caught in traffic shaping crossfire.

Is Rogers doing that today?  Given the lack of transparency surrounding the current service, it is hard to know.  It is certainly clear that absent legislation to the contrary, the company will have the economic motivation and technical capability to do so in the months ahead.  For these reasons, I don't see how you can avoid the net neutrality issue when assessing Rogers traffic shaping.


  1. Thanks for your article about Rogers. My connection has been degrading constantly for weeks now. I’m calling Bell later today to switch to their Sympatico service. I don’t know why anyone would pay $45/month for an Extreme service which is close to dialup on certain protocols.

  2. to add further to VPN side of things … there are employees from other companies who FEED into the rogers services (RIM) … when an employee is on-call and cannot VPN into the office during an issue then that compounds the issue for the company which makes it worse for the rogers service (wireless service being the key here)…

  3. None
    It should be noted that encrypted traffic isn’t outright shaped. Encrypted bittorrent traffic is. All bittorrent traffic flagged by packet profiling is shaped. Regular VPN traffic is not. I know because for my use of bittorrent I know VPN out through a server in a country with more sane policies and now achieve the same performance as I used to prior to the recent changes Rogers has made.

    Should they degrade all encrypted traffic they will have a serious issue. Online banking, VPN’s, some IM’s, some VOIP’s, etc – use encrypted traffic – if those are affected then Rogers would not be an “Internet Service Provider” but rather a “HTTP [unencrypted] provider”. There is a huge difference and if they chose to do that hopefully their advertising reflects that much more than their “Unlimited Internet” I signed up for that caps at 100 GB.

  4. They should not be able to get away with
    No company should be able to treat their paying customers like this. The only action that can be taken to change Rogers’ management’s ways is a large grassroots campaign of their clients.

    Boycott Rogers ([ link ]) is just that. It provides help on cancellation, as well as a forum for people to publicly announce to Rogers’ management why they’re leaving and what they have to do to get them back.

  5. You should check out your fact on the home phone. Home phone travels on a separate modem- in this way it is not like the Vonage’s of the world and should not be regarded as so. The homephone has separate bandwidth allocations…VIOP users an internet connection and thus bandwidth so it should be included in a bandwidth limit

  6. An understanding Rogers custom says:

    This is how it is, deal with it.
    Unfortunately the issue is exactly this, no internet network in North America has the capability to handle the demands of the publics bit torrent/P2P file sharing desires. In all actual fact on the Rogers network at one point before traffic shaping of this content there was an estimated less then 10% of the network population utilizing more then 70% of the Rogers Hybrid-Fiber Coax Network (actual numbers quoted by Rogers), People just don’t get that for Rogers or any Internet service company to provide such a service they would need to ditch coax all together and use 100% fiber optic cables, even then the network would be under huge load and everybody’s cost of internet would at least double. So in the mean time get a News Group account if you want to download ($15 – $20 a month) you will get exactly what you’re paying for, dedicated download speeds and whatever you’re maximum cap is. People just want something for nothing and they don’t seem to care about the greater good.

  7. RE: Deal with it.
    This is how it is, deal with it. If rogers doesn\’t want to sell bandwidth to users — no one is forcing them. They have no business deciding what service they want to offer is more deserving of bandwidth than any competitors just because they have the easement into people\’s basements.

    No one forces rogers to set a 100gb/mo cap for their extreme service, and frankly if they are so oversold that they cant support this cap, thats their problem.

    To think that rogers should get to decide what applications on the internet are worthy of bandwidth use is outrageous.

    How is distributing over bittorrent an ISO of Debian Linux something they should be throttling!

    The fastest way to prejudice this market is to allow corporations like Rogers, Shaw, BCE and Telus to make this descision. You\’ll see that their services work quickly, without \’thinly veiled VoIP taxes\’ and to the detrement of a competitive marketplace.

    You may wish to live in a world where the carriers are the sole source of competition and innovation — but the rest of us want real competition, between more than just easement holders.

  8. @An understanding Rogers customer
    I understand what you’re saying, but they should not advertise a limit on bandwidth they’re not willing to honor, and if they started to (honestly) advertise 10 GB caps, what I spend that 10 GB on should be my business.

    Vive la revolution!

  9. hahaha ... says:

    “Doing further studies Rogers can provide up to 35 to 38 MBps up and down per user. Even if all 750,000 plus users did same at same time and all day long. I checked with 5 other experienced networkers to make sure.
    Senior Network Analyst”

    And that’s a direct quote from some real pros boys and girls.

    Doing tests on our home network with spare TV cable and 10base-T connectors [due to being poor over 15 yrs ago] we got as much as 54MBps connections at over 180 ft in length of cable between houses and no repeaters. Total length was 570 ft. Strung between 3 houses, summer, winter, rain, sleet, ice storms you name it. This was done with 10MBps NIC cards that were hopped up and or custom fan cooled NICs. That setup only produced 0.02 to 0.09 percent in dropped packets. So there!

    With today’s DSL the same two wires that are used for your phone are used for it and the other two are duds [for second line], with others the other two wires are used for DSL and or ISDN. Whatever the configuration they seem to get up to 52MBps per line.

    With newer style “cable” and 100MBps NIC cards there should be no problem getting them to work at full speed. What constitutes as speed today is actually a compressed signal over a clean line. Even with TV going over the same cable line there is no significant degradation of signal.

    At DSL an ISDN levels there should be no problems with getting up to 25MBps comfortably and then some for high end connections. So please do your homework before you post replies.

    Rogers started the caps and other ISPs followed. This fact is why we as Canadians have slower connections than Japan or even USA. In Japan it’s a norm to have 15MB up and down. ISPs there are competing for providing higher speeds. In USA Bush said that ALL ISPs will have better connections than Japan and quick. It’s causing the economy to be 10 to 15 yrs behind. So where is Canada going?

    The actual problems by Rogers are stated clearly in above posts. Keep in mind interfering with any encrypted communications is against the law in Canada unless a search warrant has been issued.

  10. anti_idiot says:

    your real speed …
    If you really want to take a look at it here is the scoop. Your connection speed is actually the speed at which it is the slowest, generally uploads.

    So a 5 MBps package from Rogers offers approximately a whopping 0.384MBps upload. And that’s only 12.8% of your allowed bandwidth. So you are paying for a 12.8% connection a full price of 39.95 plus duties. Weakest link remember?

    And then you get hassled as well.
    Now how is this a fair business practice?

  11. Anonymous
    I work for a company that assists ISPs with traffic shaping. The problem is they charge ‘package’ deals 100 Gb/month for $39.95. If Rogers can’t afford to have everyone pulling as much bandwidth as they want the answer is simple. We charge $0.50 cents per Gb. Period. If you use 100 Gb / month it’s $50.00 If you use 0 it’s $0. Just charge everyone for what they use. They have money to pay for infrastructure upgrades as necessary, the customer pays for what they use. End of Story. This package crap, but I’m going to selectively shape is stupid. The problem is no ISP wants to do that for fear all their customers will bolt, so they dance around the issue.

  12. I want to thank Mr. Geist for his blog and attention to this matter and respond to “silkander” who wrote above.

    ” Written by sikander on 2007-04-16 12:00:08Thanks for your article about Rogers. My connection has been degrading constantly for weeks now. I’m calling Bell later today to switch to their Sympatico service. I don’t know why anyone would pay $45/month for an Extreme service which is close to dialup on certain protocols.”

    I have been a cable customer of the same company for 32 years, the last 20 or so it has been owned by Rogers. I also have been a cable internet customer of Rogers since the awful days of HOME and I suffered with them through all of the birthing pains that begat what is now arguably a very good, usually fast and reliable service.

    This also means that I, and several of my family members, have had the same email address for over a decade. One can imagine how much trouble it can be to disrupt what has become a vital form of communication with new email addresses to all those with whom you accumulate an “E”-relationship over all of that time.

    Not to mention the fact that just because the tall foreheads at Rogers are today busily covering up their inadequacies in other management areas, like not providing enough bandwidth to deliver what they have sold, by pointing their fingers at their best and most loyal customers and crying “criminal behaviour”, it should not be up to me to disrupt my routines and lines of communications until they get their heads straight.

    Having said that, I wrote to Rogers yesterday, (April 19), and explained my extreme disappointment in their current attempts at what I termed their “Customer Behaviour Modification Methodology” and asked them to stop immediately this practice of traffic shaping.

    They did this a year ago when I had a Vonage Voip line. They would degrade my signal until I started dropping calls and I finally gave in and cancelled Vonage. I explained that I would not give in this time. If they did not stop, I will be complaining loudly and publicly to the CRTC and to the politicians who control the purse strings of the CRTC.

    Failing any relief there, I will consider some form of legal action. I have a strong belief that Ontario Small Claims Court might just work. They bill me for 5 MB, 100 Gig a month of service and actively work against my fair use of that service, sounds like a slam dunk “wronged consumer” case to me.

    I am further convinced that their reliance on the so called TOS “Agreement” is a very shaky platform. I do not believe that a dictatorial, monopolistic and take it or leave it “agreement” would carry much wait in todays consumer protectionist court atmosphere.

    Finally, I promised to leave Rogers if all else fails, and made a point of asking them to consider what they are doing to their customer base if someone who has been a Rogers customer since Rogers began could be driven to such drastic action. And, I will carry through on this promise, it was not an idle threat.

    Thank you Mr. Geist for your work on this matter.

    Tom C

  13. “Rogers can provide up to 35 to 38 MBps up and down per user”
    This is complete nonsense. Whatever “pros” came up with it know nothing about how networks are actually structured. To start with DOCSIS does not support the same bandwidth for up/down. It just can’t be done. Second dedicated bandwidth costs a lot more than $45 a month. Why do you think a 1.14mbps T1 line costs $900 a month?
    Go ahead and string a line from your house to anywhere. That tells us nothing. Its as valid as testing how fast your car can go on a private race track and saying that should be the speed limit on the 401.

  14. anti_idiot says:

    RE: on 2007-04-20 09:04:57
    Oops, I’m totally wrong Sir/Ms on, and I guess so are the Pros. And I just find it interesting that the WIKI for DOCSIS could be wrong too?
    So here is the link to it for your and anyone’s convenience: [ link ]
    Please DO read the whole thing and understand it before rebuttal.

  15. Friday, April 20/07

    We are reassured today in the Toronto Star Letters section by none other then Mr. Ken Engelhart, VP of Regulatory for Rogers Comm., that Mr. Geist is wrong in his assertion that Rogers is “degrading encrypted traffic”.

    Mr. Engelhart explicitly states that Rogers “is not” degrading encrypted traffic. Further, Rogers has had no complaints to their call centre regarding email issues at Ottawa U, and have tested common encrypted applications and cannot detect any performance issues.

    I feel so much better now. Even though he goes on to state that “our equipment” makes sure that the network capacity is RESERVED (my caps) for email and surfing and (makes sure) that P2P traffic does not overwhelm the system.

    This is of course wrong, not true and possibly deliberately deceiving. Not a good thing for a VP of Regulatory to be doing.

    He is clearly wrong/in denial/outright making stuff up if he is trying to convince us that he does not degrade encrypted traffic. I am certain that he degrades encrypted P2P traffic every chance he gets. As I read his letter he seems to be proud of it in fact.

    Obviously his argument is that Torrent traffic is a different kind of animal and that our Extreme Internet 5 MB, 100 Gig service is only meant to be used for email or surfing.

    Wonder if that is spelled out in the TOS.

    I suppose that we no longer have to wonder about the “brains” behind Rogers thinking on this issue.

    Courage, Courage. (Dan Rather)

    Tom C.

  16. As a U of O student, a torrent user and (unfortunately)a rogers subscriber I thank you for drawing attention to this issue.

  17. Thank you for highlighting this issue. Rogers traffic shaping of P2P protocols stifles torrents.

    I would be much happier if Rogers came out clean about traffic shaping or offered an alternative (pay per GB download?).

    In any circumstance, more competition is needed in the broadband and wireless arenas.

  18. Rogers
    Would a class action suit get certified?

  19. consider other options
    Just a few suggestions, there are other options to speed up your current Internet connections, which you need to do some research and an upgrade of a modem from 802.11g to 802.11N or even an Apple computer will ease your connection woes. Costly though, but you can consider it.

  20. A Wainberg says:

    My findings…
    Please visit: [ link ]
    (it\’s the LARGE post, I doubt it could be missed 😛 )

    as my comment(s) & experiences with Rogers are quite long and I do not want to clog up another comment box as I have unintentionally done at 😛

    There are many other issues that I believe have not been addressed concerning how Rogers has started to us their new policies. This includes possible GPA policy infractions and/or acceptable use policy infractions from web browser corporations such as Microsoft, Mozilla, Netscape, & Opera. I have included some technical details of my findings as well as my latest follow up with Rogers.

    There are quite a few findings posted within this letter that I am hoping will give a little more edge in this battle. Some findings might be useful, some might be rubbish but I would like some valid opinions from those who are familiar with this situation if it is not too much trouble.

    Please note that I have no direct experience with these issues prior to last week and that all of my findings are based on one night\’s worth of research and testing. I would also like to mention that I have absolutely no Java experience and I was able to research, gather, dissect, & test my findings within that same night.

  21. Net Neutrality
    I use Telus and always have issues with Rogers sites. One of their customer service reps for their wireless service got me to sign up for e-billing, I did to help the environment but problems with their sites are horrible. I told Rogers (Shaw in BC) that I will no switch over to their internet service the slowest in the west. My father uses Rogers and is always complaining about it. Now I get paper billing because of their net problems. I’ve tried this on 3 different OSes Windows, OS X, and Linux.

  22. Unfortunately it is true that firefox 3 final is slower and even worse than 2.0.14. I used two copies of firefox 2.0.14 on two computers, one is XP sp3, one is Vista sp1, both of them have plenty of unused memory.

  23. good site
    good site man, i downloaded a few files from there but a couple asked for a rar password, lucky i found them pass on

  24. Nice
    ut rather a “HTTP [unencrypted] provider”. There is a huge difference and if they chose to do that hopefully their advertising reflects that much more than their “Unlimited Internet” I signed up for that caps at 100 GB.

  25. free download says:
    Your raised important question about non-p2p-applications. I think many arcticles on htto:// help you to solve.

  26. Use Resellers says:

    DSL resale
    look into bell dsl resellers, they have different
    standards and practices with respect to policy.

    Bell will still have backbone policy control.

    Big BIG BIG difference in speed and latency when
    I switched from DSL resale to rogers. HUGE.
    there are times websites take 30 seconds and
    multiple reloads… HIGH power corporate websites.

    CTV.CA for example (bell media lol)