Bell opened by focusing specifically on network congestion. Its opening remarks emphasized the existence of network congestion, the contribution to congestion by wholesale ISPs, and that IPTV does not contribute to congestion. It also provided a chart of the Bell Internet network, noting that congestion occurs in the portion of the network that aggregates traffic from both Bell customers and customers from independent ISPs (thereby again confirming that there is no congestion issue in the so-called last mile nor once the traffic hits the backbone network and the public Internet). Bell’s emphasis on network congestion is not surprising since the CRTC approach to network management – both net neutrality (technical Internet traffic management practices) and UBB (economic ITMPs) has been premised on dealing with congestion concerns. If the proposed solutions do not address congestion problems, the rationale behind the regulatory framework falls apart. Given the lack of robust competition in some Canadian markets, this suggests that the regulator should be playing a far more active role in addressing UBB.
Once the questioning began, the claims associated with congestion quickly unravelled.
Discussion on the lack of a link between congestion and UBB continued as Commissioners Molnar and Denton asked why Bell was promoting a plan that involves aggregate usage rather than peak usage. Molnar noted that aggregate usage is not linked to congestion and that it appeared to simply create incentives to reduce Internet use more generally. Bell agreed, leaving Molnar to respond that this was a problem since it reduced Internet use with no benefit to addressing congestion. Denton continued on the same theme, asking why the CRTC would want to try to reduce Internet use other than in an effort to address congestion.
Add Bell’s acknowledgement that its pricing is not a function of actual costs but rather the market and the conclusion is that all elements of UBB – use of caps, pricing, and size of caps – are a function of the regional marketplace dynamics, not congestion concerns. Moreover, the Commissioners seemed to understand why this issue is so troubling, with Molnar emphasizing the dangers of a policy that discourages Internet use and Denton linking UBB to cloud computing and the fears that caps would harm that emerging industry. The question and answer period made for a good first day, though tough questions undoubtedly lie ahead for all the participants, including Open Media, which appears today.