Harris-Decima Poll on Net Neutrality

The Canadian Press is reporting on a Harris-Decima poll that it says shows that Canadians are supportive of traffic management provided that all users are treated fairly.  The survey indicated that Canadians are generally happy with their Internet service.  Interestingly, just prior to the release of the survey, one of the people who was called over the weekend (the survey was conducted July 9 – 12th) contacted me to report:

I took a Harris-Decima phone poll over the weekend and their questions about traffic shaping could be roughly summed up as "Did you know that your neighbour's movie downloading is slowing down your Internet?".

This doesn't exactly inspire confidence about some of the poll results.


  1. I took the Decima Poll
    and there were no specific questions on internet traffic shaping but leaned more towards are you happy with your current internet service/long distance/customer service type questions. The questioning did start to lean towards Bell towards the end of it. But if you want to do a survey on traffic shaping then be specific and don’t hide it behind how do you like your present phone/internet provider? Would you say your most likely to stay with them or leave? Out here there is only 1 choice internet or no internet

  2. Gerry Curry says:

    Statistics and Damned Statistics
    The average customer today barely knows how to turn on their computer and use a web browser. Of course they’re happy. It’s like asking a Windows user if they’re happy with Windows. How can they comment? Usually they’ve never tried anything else to compare. Ask them after they’ve had a day on a fibre optic network with no throttling.

  3. Who paid for the poll?
    From the story, it sounds to me that a large ISP paid for the poll and that the questions were weighed heavily to get a desired result. What questions were asked, and how many people understood what traffic shaping and throttling really is? Do people understand that they’re not getting the service they paid for when their connections are throttled?

  4. Public Poll as a tool?
    Interesting. Bell mentioned something along those lines in their hearing. As if they might have used this Poll as reference. I highly doubt that a lawyer will go online, the morning of a hearing, to look up new facts for a presentation. According to A.P., the poll results where released Tuesday. So if this is their source, they must have known about it before hand. The poll began the day of MTS’s talk bout throttling and concluded a day before Bell’s talk. Since polls such as these have limited responses, they could easily generate wanted results.

    Like I said, interesting.

  5. sorry but…
    ..what sort of maroon would respond to a harris-decima poll in the first place? would anyone who knew the least bit about the issue or cared in the slightest about the technical or policy aspects be in a position to answer the question. highly unlikely. (apologies to jeff. assuming you went through the process as an intellectual/research excercise)

  6. What another load of Bullshit!
    Who paid for this poll and created the questions?

  7. Lurker hit it
    Polls are becoming less a tool about gauging public opinion and more a tool of swaying public opinion (the sheep syndrome). Political party and special interest group funded polls, in particular, tend to be “engineered” to give a desired answer by leading the person being questioned to give the desired answer so they don’t look a hypocrite.

    For instance, polls on abortion would start out with questions about murder, leading to the money question, the only one the gets reported on, about an attitude towards abortion… after all, how many people are likely to answer that they are in favour of on-demand abortion if they’ve answered a series of questions on murder and assisted suicide as being wrong. The desired answer is then used to lobby the politicians to ban abortion. The same occurs with pro-choice groups.

  8. Furthermore
    To follow up on my previous. The other way that a polling company can sway the results is to knowingly poll a disproportionate number of folks on the desired side of the issue. All that they report is the number of people called; this is used to generate the standard deviations reported (plus or minus 2.3%, 19 times out of 20). Using my previous example, the funding group supplies a list of its members. If they represent, say 20% of the population, then they make up 40% or 50% of the calls. Alternately more calls are made to regions where the funding group has higher support. This skews the results while allowing the pollster to report, with a straight face, the “accuracy” of the results which could be verified (if you look purely at population and ignore the actual randomness of the calls).

  9. Drew_in_NS says:

    Does your dog bite?
    It’s an old line from one of the Pink Panther movies, but it certainly applies to this. It *all* depends on the questions being asked. Disraeli’s great quote about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” also comes to mind.

    p.s. for any who don’t know the Pink Panther scene, it’s approx. one-minute into this clip

  10. Deliberation
    Don’t forget, the CRTC is not doing a closed deliberation. Which means that releasing this study today, before they decided what to do, is just like throwing in a late punch after the breakup. The commission can potentially get wind of this and think it’s new data, not realizing it may just be rehash data used by bell.

  11. Tech Not So Savvy
    Where are the actual poll questions and specific results? From published comments such as “most Canadians are happy”, most Canadians don’t know what traffic shaping is. I would like to know the answer to the question “Are you happy…” from those who know what traffic shaping is and have some interest in what these hearings actually produce. Typical of our mainstream media to not actually look at what the relevant question and answers really are. What a joke.

  12. Remember as well that these polls are done by telephone to landlines only. A very large percentage of the population no longer have landlines, and use VOIP or cel phones instead. People with landlines tend to be older and less technically saavy and probably not very aware of technical issues.

    I’m sure if Harris/Decima called up my grandma and asked if everyone should be able to use the internet fairly she would respond with “Well yes, that sounds nice, dear”

  13. I think the bigger story here is that 40 percent of respondents said traffic shaping was various degrees of unreasonable, and the 60 percent that said it was OK actually said “…they found the practice reasonable as long as customers are treated fairly”.

  14. @BJC
    What do you call a very large percentage? I understand that about 20% or so of the population doesn’t have a landline, instead relying on cell or VOIP over cable. And these are primarily “Gen Y” folks who live in urban areas. But you are correct that this does tend to skew the results somewhat. Although, I am not so sure that the folks without a landline would generally qualify as less technically savvy or are more aware of the technical issues.

    Granted, the folks that don’t have a landline are more likely to use the so called high bandwidth applications; however, is this because they are more technically savvy, or is it a function of where they live? In areas without high speed service, these apps are not an option. I can’t get high speed where I live; I’m not about to download a 3.5 MByte song on a 26,400 bps dialup line… That would take, as a minimum, 20 minutes allowing for some compression on the link. Imagine what it would take to download a movie or a linux distribution.

  15. THE Fatman says:

    J. G. Diefenbaker and Poles
    As I understand, years ago, when John G. Diefenbaker was our PM (Conservative) and was asked his opinion about a pole that had reflected rather negatively on his party’s performance or chances in an upcoming election or some such thing, apparently replied to the effect “You know what dogs do to poles.” So….. take ‘er from there!

  16. I was among those polled (as part of a varied opinion poll on Saturday, for those wondering about when this was done). The questions on traffic shaping were very biased and leading, always asking about “reasonable” shaping that would not interfere with “normal use”, whatever those might be. Clearly designed to get the uninformed to say yes.

    Even with all that, a lot of people still said no.

  17. You like polls when they agree with you, but question others
    I see from that you sometimes like public opinion polls, but aren’t “confident” when the results are contrary to your views.

  18. Sal780535 says:

    The whole thing seems more like a press release to me.

    “which slows down service to some users, to manage and prioritize online traffic during high-volume periods.”

    It’s like they hint down the line that the users downloading movies are the only ones being slowed down. As not to effect grandma checking her emails.

    With the fact that Bell has decreased their cap offerings, from their original caps gives me a bad feeling about the outcome of the hearings. It’s like they are in the know already…

  19. there’s no such thing as unbiased anymore
    Polling companies, think-tanks, all of them. All money grubbing whores prepared to lie for whoever shows up with a bag of money. Can’t trust anything any more.

  20. Michael, start a poll on this issue!
    I think Michael should post a poll of his own on this website. This will likely provide a better result than the one that was published!

  21. lets all ask misleading questions.
    “Sixty per cent of survey respondents said they found the practice reasonable as long as customers are treated fairly”
    – Sure, I would also be ok with monopolies if customers were treated fairly. I would be ok with a tiger in my kids room if it would never hurt my kid or make a mess.

    “54 per cent – said they did not know whether traffic management affects them personally”
    – No I don’t know if traffic management has affected me personally. I also don’t know if restaurant employees spitting in peoples drinks has affected me personally. Ignorance is bill eh?”

  22. Little Old Lady says:

    I smell some dirty policy laundering afoot here….

  23. Bias Questions
    I found the results very interesting myself. A large portion of the people I know are completely against throttling, and I’m sure if you sat the public down and explain they are not getting the speeds they are paying for or advertised in their packages, and that Canada lags behind the world in ISP speeds, these results might actually change direction.

    We should connect with Allen Greg over there at Harris-Decima and provide us will full disclosure on exactly who paid for this, and what the questions were.

  24. Noticed for this, they didn’t use a reputable pollster?

  25. new poll audience
    They should poll developers. I know I would love to know if the network performance problem in my app is due to intentional interference from Telus.

  26. sure, Canadians luv paying for less.
    “…The Canadian Press is reporting on a “BELL-ROGERS-Harris-Decima” poll that it says shows that Canadians are supportive of traffic management…”

    They wasted our money on a “lying” poll like this !?
    sad 🙁

  27. Confirmation
    Does that mean we have confirmation that Rogers and Bell both help fun this Poll? I wonder who designed the questions.

  28. Michael O'Connor Clarke says:

    The timing, the content, the lack of disclosure…
    Everything about this seems sketchy. I can’t find any mention of the poll on the Harris-Decima website. Nor does it appear to have been released over the wire. The single source appears to be CP’s own site.

    As a flack, I’ve worked on a lot of opinion surveys and polls over the years, and I know there are certain things you’re usually required to include by the research company. Reputable research firms insist on rather more disclosure than there seems to be in this case – this is sometimes a point of pain for clients and their PR folk, but it’s understood as one of the rites of passage.

    There are no solid details about the methodology, no “factum” with the actual questions as they were asked, no breakdown of the stats – none of the normal elements one expects to see from a polling firm. The CP piece also, bizarrely, quotes “the survey” making rather opinionated and conjectural statements as if it were a live spokesperson, but I’ve been unable to find any record of the original survey anywhere online.

    There is no real evidence to suggest that Harris-Decima are doing anything underhanded with this. They seem to have a reasonable reputation, from what I can determine. But this piece certainly falls far below acceptable standards of disclosure, IMHO.