Day three of the CRTC's network management hearings brought in the views of several additional stakeholders along with the first large telco of the week. Witnesses included the Independent Film and Television Alliance, the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, Council for Canadians with Disabilities, the ARCH Disability Law Centre ACTRA, and MTS Allstream.
While all the creator and producer groups expressed support for net neutrality, it was their position on BitTorrent that was particularly noteworthy. Perhaps heralding an end to the demonization of file sharing, ACTRA emphasized that it wants to compete with illegal downloading and that the best way to do that is to ensure that its members can use applications like BitTorrent to distribute their content. In other words, copyright alone won't address their concerns (they added the need for copyright reform) as network management practices that create a level playing field are essential. Meanwhile, the independent producers emphasized the economic potential of BitTorrent-based distribution. Moreover, ACTRA argued that it was not the role of ISPs to determine the legality of content on their networks. That position is a far cry from what groups like CRIA would like to see happen.
The other big story of the day was MTS Allstream arguing that dominant carriers should never be permitted throttle wholesale services (ie. they argue that any throttling should only occur at the retail level). This led to repeated discussion about the nature of wholesale services (referred to as GAS or Gateway Access Service) with MTS explaining that wholesale service is not like buying Internet access as a retail customer (it was described as akin to a private virtual network). For that reason, there is no valid claim that congestion concerns are the basis for throttling wholesale services (left unsaid is why a company like Bell would throttle – competition from the very ISPs to whom it supplies wholesale access). The discussion was stunning since it left the distinct impression that the Commission did not fully understand what was at issue in the CAIP throttling case.
There was two other exchanges involving Commissioner Len Katz worthy of note. The first was a question in which he suggested that Bell and Rogers do not have a dominant position in Ontario, something that will be news to the overwhelming majority of broadband subscribers in the province. The second was the recognition that prioritization of content is effectively the same thing as throttling of content since the effect in both instances is to place some content on a fast lane and other content on a slow one.
These issues may arise again tomorrow when CAIP appears. Today's summary was compiled by Yael Wexler, a law student at the University of Ottawa. Other coverage available from the National Post liveblog, CBC.ca, and the cippic twitter feed (or mine for MTS).