CRTC Raises Prospect of Major Net Neutrality Consultation

One year ago, the telecommunications companies were seeking to downplay the importance of net neutrality.  It would appear that the CRTC is not buying that anymore.  In a speech to the 2008 Canadian Telecom Summit, CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein had the following to say about the issue:

Another issue of increasing importance is net neutrality.

On April 3, the Canadian Association of Internet Providers – CAIP – asked the Commission to issue a cease-and-desist order to Bell Canada. It would direct Bell to stop the practice of traffic shaping on its wholesale broadband access services. The members of CAIP buy these tariffed services from Bell to enable them to serve their own Internet customers. Traffic shaping is the slowing down or “throttling” of Net activity. CAIP said that this practice by Bell was interfering with its members' ability to serve their customers. As part of its application, CAIP asked for interim relief in an order that would require Bell to immediately stop throttling its Gateway Access Service.

On May 14, after receiving further submissions, we denied CAIP's request for interim relief. We determined that they had failed to show that their members would suffer irreparable harm without that relief. Since then we have asked for, and received, more specific information from CAIP and Bell. We expect to deliver our final decision on CAIP's application in the fall.

We are currently addressing the traffic-shaping issue in the context of Bell's wholesale broadband access tariff. But this particular dispute is just the tip of the iceberg. Under the heading of “net neutrality” lies a whole range of questions affecting consumers and service providers. Fundamental issues of technology, economics, competition, access and freedom of speech are all involved. Here are some of them.

Access to content or services

For example:

  • Blocking of services or websites.
  • Preferential treatment for certain content providers.
  • Modification of content.

Carriage-related issues

For example:

  • A review of limitations on which devices can be connected to the networks of different providers.
  • Disclosure by ISPs to ensure transparency in their service agreements with consumers. This would cover issues such as network management and speed.

And there are also privacy concerns. In the coming year, we will continue to study the issues surrounding net neutrality. This process could evolve into a major public consultation in order to obtain the views of interested parties. It is one of the polarizing issues of the day. It will have to be addressed and debated by all of us.

The CRTC Chair has put all the issues on the table – shaping, blocking, preferential treatment, open access, and transparency – while raising the prospect of a major public consultation on the issue.  This could represent a major step toward addressing the Canadian net neutrality concerns.


  1. Fall?
    The fall? Yuck, that\’s a long time from now. I think they\’ve already received hundreds, if not thousands, of comments from interested parties anyway, many of which have not been forwarded to Bell. And there are probably more comments to come. I\’d imagine that this exceeds the number of comments received in the past couple of years at the CRTC.

  2. North of 49 says:

    Fall’s not so far
    Fall seems like a long way away but in government terms (summer = downtime) it’s not that far at all. Sure, we’d like action on it yesterday, but the CRTC’s telegraphing it like this, giving everyone the summer to think about it, puts all ISPs and any other conniving content-throttlers on notice that the issue of Net Neutrality is not going to be dealt with in a back room somewhere, like the new copyright bill, but will be (more or less) out in the open.

    It also gives us all a chance to re-hone and polish our arguments over the summer before the real fireworks begin. Sounds good.

  3. crtc
    Not much point in waiting this is the crtc we are talking about.

    Unless they are forced by someone else they kiss bell and rogers butt so much they must have a case load of lip bomb.

    Now a bad public move on bell part could force them too (this bell they seem to higher morons with big mouths and facebook pages).

    Its basically like having members of bell doing the review

  4. Negative Billing says:

    I just don’t understand how the CRTC lets them get away with this. Should it not be prudent for them to make Bell et al prove that they NEED to net shape, etc, instead of allowing them to do so and leaving the burden on the public to prove it is unnecessary/counter to public needs?

  5. Single sided changes
    While the CRTC is at it they should also bring up the one side changes they make on a regular basis. I know for a fact the service from my ISP has changed since I signed up. Unfortunately with only two broadband providers (mine is the lesser of two evils) in my area, and the pain of changing e-mail addresses for the family, I don’t have any good alternatives

  6. Municipal Easements Can Force Net Neutra
    I have stated it before here and I’ll state it again.

    Every single Canadian village, town city and municipality has the ability to force carriers to provide at neutral network through local easement leases.

    Every single major carriers’ line run over public land which requires them to get an easement and leases from the city or municipality. These leases are usually very long 20, 50 sometimes 100 years in length.

    What citizens should do is demand the local governments reopen easements and leases and force carriers to include network neutral guarantees.

    And these agreements should NOT be longer than the terms of the local government. That way we will have a regular mechanism to ensure that the carriers are honouring their neutral network obligations.

    It is public land and the public MUST be able to decide how it is used.

  7. wish
    i wish this crtc logic was also applied to wireless providers as well. for example rogers wireless who offers ‘unlimited’ internet access but only to a selection of hand-picked websites and only up to a specified amount of data.

  8. “Adressed and Debated”
    I just hope they don’t pull a Prentice and actually consult those ultimately effected – consumers.

  9. Public service and Bell
    Everybody should think a little different.
    The CRTC is a gv office which receives the right for their existence through us. They are paid through out Taxes.
    Bell is using a infrastructure which was build in times where the public paid for it.
    Conclusion: The CRTC should be on the peoples side (their employer) and should order Bell to stop this nonsense immediately till they decide.

    Bell on the other hand should not even think that the infrastructure is theirs.

    What really should be done. The infrastructure should be owned by an independent Telecom company which serves all ISP’s the same way and fair, so that all ISP’s who use this infrastructure have the same rights and obligations including Bell / Sympatico. This has been done in Europe and works very well. It could be very easy done. Or Bell gets rid of sympatico and does the providing only to ISP’s and no more Internat retailing. This would put an stop to all this playing around with ISP clients which are depending on the infrastructure.

  10. Wadih M. says:

    An alternative
    Large networks like Bell’s are not trivial to monitor, and only them can do it properly since they’re the only one with the vital information.

    For that reason, I suggest Bell to stop the throttling practises and set up a website to let consumers complain about bad network congestion. During two months, they should record the complaints of customers, and once the test is done, the number of unhappy customers without throttling should be compared against the number of unhappy customers with throttling, and it’ll become clear that the idea of crippling p2p connections of 100% of the consumers for the good of the 1%, which is not justifiable. Instead, Bell should locate which regions suffer the most of congestion, and add processing power there.

    I personally trust this way of tackling the problem more than letting Bell analyze their own network and taking decisions with no real proof of customer dissatisfaction.