Caught in the Throttle

The Ottawa Business Journal has a front page article on traffic shaping this week that highlights yet again why the lack of transparency around Canadian Internet service is a significant problem.  The story focuses on the Rogers' traffic shaping issues and includes references to three comments on the issue from the company:

  • Tom Turner, the VP and GM of Rogers High Speed Internet is quoted in the article as saying "to make sure we have optimized performance for our customers, time sensitive and immediate uses such as web surfing and e-mail are given priority. We don't traffic shape."
  • Ken Englehart, Rogers Regulatory VP, who said in the letter to the editor that Rogers is not "degrading encrypted traffic" and that "our equipment ensures network capacity is reserved for such services as email and Web surfing, and peer-to-peer traffic does not overwhelm the system."
  • Tanta Gupta, Rogers spokesperson, who told that Globe and Mail in 2006 that the company uses bandwidth shaping to slow file-sharing applications.

What is a consumer to think when the company's website says nothing about the issue but promotes its services as offering "blistering speed for sharing large files and much more", while personnel alternately say that Rogers bandwidth shapes, doesn't traffic shape, prioritizes traffic, and/or reserves space for some traffic?


  1. An excellent question. It’s great to finally see this issue get some attention in the mainstream press. We need more articles like this calling attention to the fact that our ISPs have government enforced monopolies and simply don’t want to put the money and time into expanding their network capacity to deal with new technology. They want everyone to be stuck in 1995 where all you did was surf the web, but you pay $50 to do it faster.

  2. Mark McCutcheon says:

    High-handed actions undertaken in secrecy seem to be a hallmark of Canadian ISPs. My ISP is Shaw cable. Last week my (non-Shaw) business email provider’s SMTP stopped working. After several days they (and I) learned that Shaw has begun blocking packets to port 25 directed to any non-Shaw host. This was done without warning or notice. The excuse is, of course, reducing spam. Given that the big spam problem with cable networks comes from compromised home machines acting as open relays, and that the spammers who control these can use any port they choose, this is unlikely to be effective. Internal to Shaw’s network, most of the spam I see enters Shaw’s mailservers directly from what appear to be personal machines (most commonly in China) with no rDNS address. Shaw doesn’t seem to be capable of figuring out how to configure their mailservers to reject this. Fortunately my email provider has made a TLS-secured server available on a different port. Shaw’s arrogance is disturbing, but my only alternative is Telus DSL, and there are issues with DSL and my premises alarm system.

  3. I wrote about this last December. Short version: got a different response from everyone at Rogers I spoke to.
    Glad to see I’m not the only one.

    [ link ]

  4. George Gebara says:

    Rogers claims at [ link ] (“Watch Videos & Movies – I am always looking for the latest video clips on sites like: Youtube – Myspace – Bit Torrent”) that if “I want to download a full movie in: 5 minutes” I need their “Extreme” service. How does one reconcile this promotion of Bit Torrent use and claim of a specific speed and their severe degradation of Bit Torrent traffic?

  5. Encryption
    Yes, I know Rogers slows down encrypted traffic, but if everybody does it, they won’t have any choice. One of the things that can be done is to have both Apache and Firefox use SSL by default for all pages. Then people should use PGP or another encryption protocol for email. Then, all BitTorrent clients and P2P clients (not that I’m advocating filesharing beyond what has been judged legal in Canada) should use encryption by default. When 90% of Rogers’ traffic is encrypted, they won’t have any choice but to allow it.

  6. For any customer of Rogers (even those using their Extreme High Speed, such as myself), it’s very obvious that they are throttling certain types of traffic, and certain port ranges.

    It’s sad. There’s no excuse for doing this in secrecy and hoping people won’t notice. I wonder if deceptive business practices might apply to their advertising for a service that is crippled by design to be unable to fulfill their promises.

  7. “There’s no excuse for doing this in secrecy and hoping people won’t notice. I wonder if deceptive business practices might apply to their advertising for a service that is crippled by design to be unable to fulfill their promises.”

    That’s an interesting idea. I looked at the Competition Bureau’s website and although IANAL, I can read! Under Paragraph 74 of the Competition Act they look at false and misleading representations in a material respect but take into account the “general impressions” conveyed by a representation as well as the literal meaning of the representation in determining whether there has been a material breach of the act.

    If an ISP is claiming “blistering downloads” in its advertising while deliberately slowing down certain types of traffic it sounds like a breach of the Competition Act to me…but IANAL.

    But our host here is indeed a lawyer and so perhaps he might have some thoughts on this???

  8. Wow I checked that link that George posted, and I can’t believe they are actually advertising the use of bit torrent as a way to get video quickly while essentially lying to the customers face. There’s got to be some legal issues there no?

  9. Randy Legault says:

    I for one am dropping Rogers and going non-corporate for my high-speed. You should think about doing so too. See: [ link ]

  10. Switch to Bell SOHO
    If you are an internet user versus “surfer” you may want to consider switching to Bell’s SOHO (Small office home office) offerings. 6 megabit, unlimited downloads, no shaping, no restrictions on use (other than illegal stuff obviously) and for a few extra bucks you can get a static IP. It works out to only a little bit more than what it costs to get Rogers high speed extreme. No bandwidth caps, no BS. It is just internet as internet should be. I pay a premium for my internet service because I use the internet… I don’t surf it. If you surf stick with Rogers. If you USE the internet. Get Bell SOHO. They even have an SLA on the plan!!