The CRTC has again opened the door to fee-for-carriage, saying that "is now of the view that a negotiated solution for compensation for the free market value of local conventional television signals is also appropriate. The Commission expects that these negotiations will be completed before the long-term renewal of licences […]
Archive for July 6th, 2009
The first day of the CRTC's network management hearing featured some interesting discussion from deep packet inspection providers Sandvine and Juniper as well as Canadian consumer groups. A summary of the day, thanks to University of Ottawa student Frances Munn, is posted below. There is additional coverage from the National Post liveblog, CBC.ca, and lots of posts on Twitter [update: CRTC transcript].
While the Sandvine comment that an unmanaged network is not a neutral network captured the headline, I thought the more important part of the DPI provider discussion was Juniper's focus on consumer-controlled prioritization. This is not currently available in Canada, but the notion that consumers should choose how to prioritize the bandwidth they pay for would address many concerns.
It was the consumer presentation that did the most to link network management to the law and it also highlighted reason for great concern. I think that the consumer groups rightly focused on who should bear the burden of demonstrating that DPI and other Internet traffic controls are consistent with current Canadian law. The groups argued that these are prima facie violations of Section 36 of the Telecommunications Act and that the onus therefore should fall on the carriers to show that there is a serious problem, the solution minimally impairs users' rights, and is proportional to the harm.
Unfortunately, the questions that followed suggest that the CRTC Commissioners start these hearings having accepted the carriers' claims that congestion is a problem and that inhibiting the use of deep packet inspection could result in increased consumer costs for Internet access. This suggests that there is a steep mountain to climb in these hearings, leading me to believe that the issue will ultimately be a political one with pressure on the Conservatives to join with the Liberals and NDP in supporting net neutrality.
The CRTC has released a decision that sets the requires for the over-the-air transition from analog to digital. The Commission has ruled that conventional broadcasters are expected to convert to digital transmitters in all major markets, which it defines as "the Commission determines that major markets shall include the national capital and all provincial and territorial capital cities, as well as markets either served by multiple originating stations (including CBC stations) or with populations greater than 300,000." The policy excludes Kelowna, Abbotsford, Sudbury, Kingston, and Thunder Bay (among many others). The complete list of mandatory markets includes:
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hosts long-awaited network management hearings this week, pitting Canada’s telecom and cable companies against a broad range of consumer, creator, and technology groups in a fight that may help clarify whether Canada has – or should have – net neutrality laws.
The telecom and cable companies will likely maintain that managing their networks, which may include using "deep packet inspection" to identify subscriber activity and limiting available bandwidth for certain applications (a practice known as throttling), is essential to ensure optimal access for all subscribers. Consumer associations, independent Internet service providers (ISPs), broadcasters, creator groups, and technology companies are likely to warn against network management practices that raise competition, privacy, and consumer rights concerns.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that as the Commission weighs the various claims, it would do well to consider the testimony it heard just a few months ago during the February new media hearings. The issue at play at those hearings was whether ISPs should face a levy to fund new media or be required to prioritize Canadian content (the CRTC declined to do both in its decision released last month). Interestingly, the same telecom and cable companies that will now argue that managing their networks is essential, offered a somewhat different take when confronted with the prospect of doing so in the name of supporting Canadian content.
Appeared in the Toronto Star on July 6, 2009 as Neutrality Hearings Begin With Conflicting Claims The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hosts long-awaited network management hearings this week, pitting Canada’s telecom and cable companies against a broad range of consumer, creator, and technology groups in a fight that may […]