CRTC Updates Internet Traffic Management Practices Guidelines

Earlier this year, I launched an access-to-information request with the CRTC requesting all records related to net neutrality complaints filed under the Commission’s 2009 Internet traffic management practices decision. The result was a post titled Canada’s Net Neutrality Enforcement Failure, which listed dozens of complaints and a discouraging lack of CRTC investigation into them. The post concluded:

After more than 30 investigations in nearly two years, it is clear improvements are needed. At a minimum, the CRTC should be publishing all public complaints and resolutions so that the issues obtain a public airing. Moreover, the system needs penalties for violations as well as pro-active audits to ensure Internet providers are compliant with their obligations. Without change, the CRTC’s net neutrality rules offer little protection for Canadian Internet users.

Yesterday the CRTC took a first step in this direction by releasing new guidelines for responding to complaints and enforcing the rules. The best aspect of the ruling is a commitment to publish quarterly reports featuring a summary of the number and types of complaints it has received, including the number of active and resolved complaints. Moreover, any findings of non-compliance will be published on the Commission’s website and will include the ISP’s name and the nature of the complaint. The move toward greater transparency is welcome and an important step in pressuring ISPs to comply with the guidelines. The new guidelines also establish a strict timeline for responses by complainants and ISPs, which should help avoid Xplorenet-type situations that dragged on for months before the ISP addressed complaints over its traffic management practices.

The remainder of the guidelines set out the specific requirements for individual complaints. The CRTC says complaints are appropriate if:

  • the ISP has not met the disclosure requirements of the ITMP policy;
  • the ISP’s ITMP adversely affects his or her ability to access certain applications (for example, if he or she is continuously disconnected from an application, resulting in the application becoming unusable);
  • the ISP has changed an ITMP to make it more restrictive or has introduced a new ITMP without providing 30 days’ notice;
  • the ISP has otherwise failed to comply with the requirements of the ITMP policy; or
  • the ISP’s ITMP violates the Act.

The CRTC says the complainant must provide evidence describing:

  • what part of the ITMP framework the complainant believes the ISP has not followed (see the list above for examples of circumstances that would warrant a complaint);
  • when the problem occurred and whether it is a recurring problem;
  • what application was affected;
  •  how the application was affected; and
  • any steps taken to resolve the complaint directly with the ISP, including the ISP’s response(s).

Unfortunately, these requirements will be beyond the capabilities of most Internet users, who typically lack the technical expertise to mount an effective complaint. If the Commission is serious about enforcement, it should supplement the user complaints-based approach with pro-active audits of ISP practices (the Commission contemplates third-party audits only after a statistical pattern of user complaints about a specific ISP).

The pro-active audits should include regular reviews of ISP disclosure practices (and analysis of whether the traffic management practices as described by the ISPs meet the ITMP requirements) and technical analysis to determine whether the actual practices create unintended consequences that violate the rules. When combined with the new transparency commitments, it would help ensure that Canadian net neutrality rules can be more effectively enforced and remove the fiction that users can easily file complaints against their ISP.


  1. A much harder line needed from the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law
    I very much disagree that the CRTC has taken any first steps with this policy update. Let’s look at this a different way in the context of Broadcasting complaints. In order to make a complaint on false representation of fact in a news cast, consumers do not have to describe:

    1)What TV their using, make and model
    2)Go through extensive troubleshooting with their TV sets and cable to ensure what they heard in the newscast is what they heard
    3)Contact their cable provider to ensure their cable box is working perfectly
    4)Record any of the newscast
    5)Get into consistent fights with the news agency about false information.

    What they have in place now is a joke! Not even worthy of a pat on the back, and we need to stop treating the employees at the CRTC as though they are recovering drung addicts taking their first step in rehab!

    It SHOULD be extremely easy here for the consumer to file a complaint with the CRTC as it is for the consumer to do with Boradcasters. All the CRTC has to do with Broadcasters is call up the logger tapes and look at the logs on complaint to issue noncompliance with policy. It should not be on the consumers back to provide the CRTC with such information. I agree we need an audit system, and the complaints system needs to be fixed, and brought in line with what the CRTC already has in place with the Broadcasters

    Geist, Rogers is currently in violation of CRTC policy on this misclassification problem. Where’s this list, and where is Rogers on it? Simply publishing a list quarterly is a joke. Any list should be available to the public, and this list continuously updated. Do you really think that Rogers is going to be on this first list published?

    I expected a much harder line on this from you considering you are the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. Do you have any idea’s on the expenses this current policy puts on developers. Developers are the first point of contact for troubleshooting application connection issues, not ISPs. Do you have any idea how much money throttling non P2P traffic this is costing e-commerce?

  2. Agree with Jason
    Agree with Jason, what’s not needed is more “fair minded policy” but actual enforcement and punitive fines at a minimum. We met briefly at the recent UBB hearing but like I was saying to Tamir, actual impact on the ground despite Canada having the “best” net neutrality rules (according to him) anyway, nothing is actually effectively better. Just like how the telco competitiveness should not be about who is ‘more Canadian’, what the CRTC should be thinking about is who and how to actually treat Canadians better. These so called ‘Canadian’ companies are pretty much running the country into the ground


    I’m writing this blog, not as the head of the Canadian Gamers Organization, but rather someone with an extensive technical and problem solving background, consumer service work history.

    Yesterday the CRTC released its policy update to its consumer complaints procedures. Several past complaints have required extensive amount of technical troubleshooting lasting months before the CRTC was notified and got involved. Nothing in the policy update has changed this. Consumers are still required to follow through with extensive troubleshooting both at the developer end of the applications affected, and with the ISP. It isn’t until after that troubleshooting occurs that the new policy updates and guidelines can be applied. There is still months and hours of calls needed on the consumers behalf to ensure that problems with affected applications fall into the CRTC’s new guidelines

    Imagine you buy a game, or pre-order a game you’ve been waiting to play. You pop it in, and you find out it doesn’t work. You can’t connected to multiplayer or play with your other buddies. You contact the developer thinking is could be a problem with the game. You go through hours of troubleshooting with the developer to find out in the end they cannot help you and do not know what is wrong. You contact your ISP who often doesn’t support application problems, but goes through extensive troubleshooting and hours of network set up to find out they don’t know what’s wrong either. So they send a network tech to your house, replace all the equipment, and ask you to replace any routers you may have purchased, and networking lines throughout the house. You do this even though it can cost you money, only to find the game you bought a few weeks or months before still doesn’t work. Only then are you allowed to put forth a complaint to the CRTC.

    By the time consumers get to the point where the CRTC can get involved, they are extremely frustrated. Most consumers do not get to this point because the technical troubleshooting needed is time consuming, requires excellent technical knowhow, and the efforts needed to fix such a problem destroy any entertainment or usefulness attached to the product they bought. I don’t think the media has quite the grasp of the situation here that consumers have been put in by the CRTC. And I fail to see how any of this is beneficial or a step forward. It does not address any of the issues consumers have with the current complaints system with the CRTC on net neutrality, nor does it encourage Canadians to come forth with complaints on throttling, in fact it deters such complaints thus most problems with throttling will continue unchecked, and basically nothing changes. This is against the CRTC’s own policy!

    What boggles my mind the most here, is that the CRTC has an effective complaints process for Broadcasters, but for some reason will not put forth the needed effort to migrate that complaints process to ISPs. Some of it needs to be legislated in, some of it can be put into place by the CRTC right now. In Broadcasting, if a consumer complains, the CRTC doesn’t need to know any technical specs, they just pull the stations tapes to look for noncompliance on complaint, and also on a regular basis. Why do we not have an active audit system like this with ISPs? Why is the CRTC continuously putting policy enforcement on the backs of consumers? How much is this costing application developers? How much is this costing our economy? Where are our politicians on this?

  4. Patent Attorney says:

    Bytemobile widens traffic management net
    Mobile carriers are increasingly reliant on traffic management to boost their quality of service, and to differentiate between different types of packets and subscribers. Bytemobile is coming into its own on the back of these trends, and expanding from its core video optimization business into more generic data management.

  5. Devil's Advocate says:

    @Patent Attorney:
    “Mobile carriers are increasingly reliant on traffic management to boost their quality of service…”

    This self-conflicting statement seems to come from the mouths of several providers (not just from the wireless world). It just demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the consumer from the entire industry.

    Improving the quality of any service involves doing things that DON’T IMPACT it. Any other approach is just disingenuous, as it implies the providers have no choices availaable to them that don’t involve screwing all their customers (such as increasing the infrastructure), and disregards the fact they made the conscious choice to oversell their services in the first place.

  6. @Jason K:

    Isn’t it the developer’s/publisher’s task to make sure that his product works with the equipment that their targeted audience has available?

    How many major ISPs are in Canada? 4-5? How long does it take to try to play the freakin’ game on all of them? 1 day? 3 days? Then you can list the working ones on the box as recommendations? (like with the video cards, processor, memory, OS, connection speed and so on)? Then if it says “ATI” and you insist with “NVidia”, at least you know from the beginning that it might not work? And you won’t hold responsible either the publisher or Nvidia?