Archive for July, 2011

The Usage Based Billing Hearing Concludes: Has the CRTC Come to Competition Too Late?

The CRTC’s usage based billing oral hearing concluded yesterday with a final decision expected some time in the fall.  This long post focuses on the shift in CRTC thinking on the state of broadband competition in Canada but wonders whether it comes too late to make a difference. For many years, the CRTC has steadfastly maintained that the Canadian ISP market is competitive. For example, in the net neutrality decision from October 2009 it stated:

Consistent with the current regulatory approach, under which the Commission has granted forbearance for retail Internet services, primary ISPs may continue to apply ITMPs to retail Internet services as they consider appropriate, with no requirement for prior Commission approval. This approach remains valid due in part to the large number of existing ISPs. A change in the approach would amount to interference with market forces and would result in inefficient regulation, which is contrary to the Policy Direction.

The current CRTC FAQ says much the same thing:

A retail customer is the end user who purchases access to the Internet. The CRTC does not regulate rates, quality of service issues or business practices of Internet service providers as they relate to retail customers. This is because there is enough competition in the market that retail customers can shop around for service packages.

The view that the Canadian Internet services market is competitive has shaped virtually every recent important CRTC decision on broadband regulation. Given its longstanding view that the market was competitive, the frustration felt by independent ISPs, businesses, and consumers simply didn’t resonate with the commission. That led to a decade of decisions on TPIA (the cable access for independent ISPs) that rendered the market practically unusable for independent ISPs. It led to years of delay on speed matching, which effectively left independent ISPs with slower, uncompetitive speeds to offer potential customers. It led to the decision to block ADSL-CO, which would have allowed independent ISPs to co-locate closer to the residential customers. It led to the net neutrality decision, which encouraged ISPs to use “economic ITMPs” such as usage based billing without restriction. Finally, it led to the approval of wholesale usage based billing, which came within days of implementation before the public outcry ground it to a halt.

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July 20, 2011 36 comments News

Reacting to the Xplornet Response to CRTC Net Neutrality Documents

Last week I posted my response to Xplornet’s press release warning others to not pick up on my report on CRTC net neutrality documents involving the company. Now Jesse Brown and David Ellis have written their own responses, that are both well worth reading.

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July 19, 2011 2 comments Must Reads

Access Copyright Responds to Transactional Licence Complaint

Access Copyright has filed its response to the AUCC motion on its refusal to provide transactional licenses.  As I’ve noted in recent posts, a growing number of Canadian universities are dropping the Access Copyright interim tariff, with or without the transactional licence.

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July 19, 2011 Comments are Disabled Must Reads

European Parliament Commissioned Study on ACTA Released

A study on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement commissioned by the European Parliament has been released.  The report raises concern about conformity with the EU Acquis, particularly with how it will be implemented by EU Member States.

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July 19, 2011 Comments are Disabled Must Reads

Competition, Not Congestion Driving Internet Data Cap Debate

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has struggled for years to deal with an issue that lies at the heart of Internet services in Canada: how can it foster greater competition from independent Internet providers while also addressing telecom and cable company concerns about network congestion.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that in 2009, the CRTC believed it found the right solution. It established Internet traffic management guidelines (often referred to as net neutrality rules) that created limits on how Internet providers could throttle or limit download speeds and encouraged providers to use “economic measures” such as data caps to manage demand by making it costlier to consume large amounts of data.

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July 18, 2011 14 comments Columns