CAIP Responds to Bell Throttling Submission

CAIP has submitted its response [update – now online] to the Bell throttling submission and it does not pull any punches:

It is also clear from Bell's Answer that it fundamentally misunderstands (or has consciously misrepresented) several key facts and issues that are of direct relevance to the issues under consideration in this proceeding, including, most significantly, the nature of the local access and transport service that Bell provides to its wholesale customers, the extent to which its DPI "traffic shaping" technology interferes with both the content and privacy of end-user communications, and the tremendous impact that its traffic shaping practices have had – and are continuing to have – on competitors, their end-users customers and providers of new media content that make use of P2P applications to deliver content to their on-line users, listeners and viewers.

CAIP continues to focus on the competitive implications (and rationale behind) Bell's throttling, arguing that:

There is also uncontradicted evidence . . . that strongly suggests that the reasons behind Bell's decision to throttle its competitors' GAS traffic have little to do with Bell's unsubstantiated claims of "network congestion" and more to do with a desire to lessen competition in retail telecommunications markets. There are far too many "coincidences" between the timing of the initiation of Bell's throttling practices and the timing of a number of other events in order to conclude otherwise.  

The CAIP submission also includes some interesting new allegations.  It notes that Bell personnel have only a superficial knowledge of their deep-packet inspection technologies and that the throttling apears to have affected virtual private networks and VoIP services (in addition to P2P).  The submission includes a statement from SaskTel in which it confirms that, unlike Bell, it "does not use any form of traffic shaping, rate limiting, or usage caps on a per user or per application basis at this time."

Perhaps most importantly, it focuses on whether throttling violates the common carrier provisions found in Section 36 of the Telecommunications Act.  The CAIP argument, reproduced in full, goes to the crux of whether the current Act is able to address this component of the net neutrality issue:

With respect to Bell's argument that it is not controlling the content or influencing the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it because it "does not block access to any content or applications", CAIP submits that blocking access to content is not the appropriate threshold test for determining whether a carrier has violated its duties as a common carrier under section 36 the Act.

Section 36 of the Act states very clearly that a carrier "shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public."  Bell's traffic shaping measures clearly influence the meaning and purpose of the telecommunications that it carries for the public.  Indeed, as noted by CAIP in its Application, Bell is reducing the throughput or data transfer speeds available to the end-user customers of competitors by as much as 90 per cent.  At speeds such as this, mainstream content available on the Internet, such as audio or video content (e.g., the CBC's "Next Great Prime Minister" program), would be slowed beyond recognition or meaning.  

These drastically reduced speeds also make it clear that Bell is exercising control over this content by isolating the data packets that make up this content, classifying those packets as low priority vis à vis other types of content and quarantining the packets until Bell decides that they can be released to end-user recipients at a time and in a manner determined wholly by Bell.  

In a similar fashion, Bell is influencing the "meaning" and the intended "purpose" of this content by preventing it from being delivered in the manner and within the time frames intended by the content sender and the content recipient. To use the example referenced in CAIP's Application, if a musical selection that is lawfully downloaded from the Internet is constantly interrupted by Bell's traffic shaping measures such that it can only be heard in fragments or only with the repeated clicking sounds that come from delays and re-buffering, then the meaning of the musical selection has been influenced by measures deliberately adopted by Bell.

It is ludicrous for Bell to suggest that the only way that content can be controlled or its meaning or purpose influenced is if it is blocked outright.  Section 36 of the Act clearly contemplates instances where the meaning or purpose of a communication is being controlled or influenced while in transit from the content sender to the content receiver.

Bell's throttling of GAS customer traffic degrades communications between users to the point where the intended meaning and purpose of these communications is fundamentally altered.  This conduct, like the privacy concerns discussed above, also gives rise to a serious issue that Bell has violated its duty under section 36 of the Act.

The issue is now in the hands of the CRTC.


  1. Joel Balfour says:

    Most Enlightening
    If only one good thing comes out of this battle Michael, is that I discovered your blog in the process.

    Back to the matter at hand, I am very happy that CAIP has brought up all the conflict of interest clauses that the CRTC should be noting in it’s decision.

    It is a sad state of affairs in this country when we have to rely on a regulator to level out the field for competition.

    The only solution I can see at this point is for the government to reclaim the COs from Bell and set up an independant or crow corporation to administer these.

  2. Joel Balfour says:

    Most Enlightening
    If only one good thing comes out of this battle Michael, is that I discovered your blog in the process.

    Back to the matter at hand, I am very happy that CAIP has brought up all the conflict of interest clauses that the CRTC should be noting in it’s decision.

    It is a sad state of affairs in this country when we have to rely on a regulator to level out the field for competition.

    The only solution I can see at this point is for the government to reclaim the COs from Bell and set up an independant or crow corporation to administer these.

  3. Start Local Action
    I am continually amazed at how brazen and just down right disrespectful North America’s telcom giants have become.

    Whether it’s Bell lying about “congestion” or Comcast and AT&T lying about Bitorrent what is becoming crystal clear is that every Internet user on this continent (if not the world) is going to have to FIGHT for our right to an open and accessible Internet. Free of corporate pirates and robber barrons who seek nothing but full control of public leases to entrench the next generation closed distribution system.

    I believe this fight starts at home with local municipal governments. All Internet and telephone cables use public lands via leases and these lease agreements MUST contain language that requires the owner, operator or any third-party lease holders to maintain open and equal access to networks and systems that utilize public leased land to maintain their infrastructure.

  4. How does throttling a file transfer slow it beyond recognition or meaning? This is not streaming content.

  5. You obviously have never tried P2P on dial-up. It’s not just impractical, it’s unusable. P2P protocols are sent over TCP so you have connection timeouts killing your downloads. That’s the kind of performance you’d expect with throughput reduced by “as much as 90%” as indicated in the original CAIP submission. I’d say that qualifies as beyond recognition or meaning.

    One strange thing. Ubuntu just had a new release and while I couldn’t download it via http due to server overload, it came down at full speed, over 500 mbps, by bittorrent, on Bell DSL. What throttling?

  6. Slower is not a change?
    Ok then, let’s ask that question. You want to get a 1GB file. You have a 5Mb/s connection. The server sending you the file has 5Mb/s of capacity. This should take (ideally) just under 30 minutes. Between you is your ISP (or an involved party) who wants to slow the transfer.

    How slow is ok vs too slow? Is 1MB/s ok? Is 300kb/s ok? What about 50kb/s? 10kb/s?

    At 10kb/s, it will take over 9 days. But it still gets there. Is this unreasonable? Why? Why not?

  7. slowing transfers
    I think the examples of streaming audio and video were analogies to make it easier to understand. However, you *can* stream from P2P if your client supports it.

    Throttling completely defeats a key purpose of most P2P technologies, which is to maximize download speed across a large number of users without increasing the load on the data’s originator. Arbitrarily removing 90% of the available bandwidth works directly against that purpose. What gives BT “meaning” is its speed. It doesn’t do anything else that, for example, HTTP could do, that’s it’s whole reason to exist.

  8. Antoine W. says:

    Ready to pay
    I believe that the Government should repossess the last mile. Then rent it to the DSL operators on a usage basis with a certain add-on percentage for network maintenance/upgrades. From the way BELL has been handling the last mile, a governmental agency would be just has bad (no loss/no gain). But Bell could do whatever it wanted with it’s users speed. However, freerer competition would enable “market forces” to challenge it’s role as top DSL dog. In these circumstances, BELL would loose terribly to the competition of companies like Network Nomad and Teksavvy.

  9. VPN
    There are out there lots of people that telework from home using Virtual private network connections. I’m one of them and although I pay for the fastest possible connection, at 2:00 PM the transfer of data I need to work with it slows definitely down . I need 30 minutes to download 100MB during the morning and over 1 hour in the afternoon. What kind of service is a service that doesn’t sustain the performance I’m paying for? I do not care if it is P2P fault or whatever. Just DO NOT SLOW DOWN VPN connections which are used by people working to pay their bills included the internet one.

  10. Throttling
    The whole idea of throttling is absolutely ludicrous. You slow a customer’s connection to a crawl so you can improve customers internet experience. How much sense does that really make. Instead of taking this out on its customers Bell should invest in upgrading its technology and infrastructure – the root of the problem. Now that is improvement!

  11. Bell is getting PWNED!

  12. I think it would be appropriate to give some space to what Bell actually said (not just a link to their submission) before attacking what they said.

  13. Actually I’m wrong – there isn’t even a link to what Bell said!!! How are we supposed to judge this?

  14. Michael Geist says:

    What Bell Said
    There is a full posting on the Bell submission. Just scroll down from the front page – [ link ]

  15. CRTC Down?
    is it just me or is the down? I can\’t follow the link. Thinking that the document may have moved I tried to load [ link ] and got the same \”Failed to connect error\”. I can ping it and get slowish responses but there doesn\’t seem to be an answering webserver.

  16. Ryan Shepherd says:

    CRTC website pwn’d by Michael Geist
    Way to go Michael, I think you just took down with a flood of traffic to that pdf!
    If that isn’t a solid measure of success on your part (if it’s true), I don’t know what is!

  17. What is Bell/Rogers trying to do? Take away unlimited downloads, seemingly offer faster transfer rates yet people can make no use of it else be charged a fortune for doing so. They are taking a step back to the days of dial-up here and its just wrong.

    As for Bell insisting that there are enough phone and internet competitors there is no need for them to be using their network, I can think of a number of areas that have Bell as the only leading high-speed network available, so WTF are they getting on with? What choice do these people have, none.

  18. I was talking to a Bell Support person the other day, they say the reason upload limits are capped so low is because the majority of internet users do not upload.

    Are you kidding me? Everyone does these days, from videos to photos to their own podcasts, creating their own games, maps, music.. everything, no one utilizes upload? Bullsh*t.

  19. Content Providers Control the Distributi
    I only see one solution to the current conflict of interest. The current duopolies main income source is as content providers. (Bell Expressvu and Rogers Cable) Rogers has bought content producers like A-Channel and supplies shows on its own local area network through On Demand services. Bell is beta testing its own internet based on demand movie service(sic).

    Bit Torrent (BT) is their direct competitor. As an example until Rogers put the HBO show Dexter on their excellent On Demand service I downloaded it off of the internet. (Even though I had the right to watch it on TMN) I could get an episode in 30 minutes of its release and only one hour after its airing (private BT movie club). If you can degrade my service to 9 days instead of half an hour I wouldn’t bother to use it and if my share ratio dropped below 1/1 I would be kicked out of the club as well. I believe without BT Rogers would never have bothered with free On Demand with pay TV service. It must be very nice to control the distribution channel for your competitors products.

    It’s time for internet to become a public utility. Fibre last mile should be put down by the municipality and then we can buy internet from any third party supplier we want. No more pole fees and other nonsense. I would actually gut Canada Post daily deliver service to get the funds for it. Easy enough to simply ban CPost from delivering flyers and junk mail, they would go under in 6 months. There would be enough money to finance the roll out (Just a dream, unrealistic I know). Back on topic though, you cannot allow content providers to illegally block competing products.

  20. The CRTC site was not brought down by these attempts. There had been a notice last week that there would be server maintenance through the weekend, resulting in no service on Saturday (April 26)

  21. paul kambulow says:

    I too would now rightfully like to see the provisions that made DPI (deep packet inspection) by ISPs to be made illegal not just by the CRTC but also by the federal government now too, including many of the bad acts of Bell, the Big Brother’s false invasion of our home, personal privacy. Since we can readily know that the reasons given for the internet downloading inspections, capping are unjustifiable, what are the actual reasons now for these online now inspections too?

    [ link ]

  22. Shortsighted
    I fully agree with most of the comments noted above, and should underscore that the throttling, metering and DPI current being proposed by ISPs is very shortsighted and fails to contemplate increased bandwidth speeds that will soon be much more affordable as fibre is deployed in the last mile — particularly in greenfield and MDU developments. The capital expenditure (“cap-ex”) required to deploy fibre optic cable has already decreased to a point where it is comparable to copper. Note that in a matters of 5-7 years the cost of DSLAM ports decreased from $900 to $9 making always on bandwidth affordable; and now the same phenomenon is occuring with fibre newtork/hardware ports, and will dramatically decrease the cap-ex requireed to deploy same. Once the cap-ex for fibre cable/ports is on par with copper (i.e. 2-5 yrs), deployments will be much more prevelant. This deployement of glass in the last mile will alleviate the bottleneck that is driving this debate … in the meantime, I can only hope that ISPs are not successful in implementing their plans and possibly doing irreversible harm to an open/free Internet business model.

  23. won’t go anywhere
    I hate being the naysayer here, but I suspect this is going to go nowhere. The CRTC will rule against Bell, they’ll appeal to Cabinet, where the Harper Government (in the name of copyright protection) will over rule the CRTC.


  24. Where are we at w/this
    Any news on where the CRTC is with this, or is it a wait and see game for the month of May?

  25. Throttling
    Rock band Nine Inch Nails just released their new album to the world (for free) via P2P bit torrent.

    Another legitimate use of the technology that will be throttled by my ISP.