Do Bell’s Throttling Practices Violate CRTC Net Neutrality Rules?: It Says P2P Congestion Declining

Earlier this week, Bell wrote to its wholesale ISP customers to let them know that it is shifting away from throttling practices that have been in place for several years. The letter states:

Effective November 2011, new links implemented by Bell to augment our DSL network may not be subject to Technical Internet Traffic Management Practices (ITMP).  ITMPs were introduced in March, 2008 to address congestion on the network due to the increased use of Peer-to-Peer file sharing applications during peak periods. While congestion still exists, the impact of Peer-to-Peer file sharing applications on congestion has reduced. Furthermore, as we continue to groom and build out our network, customers may be migrated to network facilities where Technical Internet Traffic Management Practices (ITMPs) will not be applied.

Bell’s letter raises several interesting issues. First, it is an acknowledgment of what groups like CIPPIC, PIAC and others were saying as far back as 2009 in the net neutrality hearing. Peer-to-peer traffic is declining as an overall percentage of network traffic and the stresses on the system are far more likely to come from online video services such as Netflix.

Second, this acknowledgement raises the prospect that Bell’s current throttling practices may now violate the CRTC’s Internet traffic management guidelines. While Bell says its congestion has been reduced, its retail throttling practices have remained unchanged, throttling P2P applications from 4:30 pm to 2:00 am.  Given the decline in congestion, a CRTC complaint might ask whether the current throttling policy “results in discrimination or preference as little as reasonably possible” and ask for explanation why its data cap policies “would not reasonably address the need and effectively achieve the same purpose as the ITMP.”  In fact, the same can now be said for many other ISPs who deploy broad based throttling practices (Rogers, Cogeco), which may not be reasonable under the CRTC policy.


  1. Next thing you see they’ll remove UBB. I wonder if that’s not related to the “obsolete phone line technology” smear ad campaign from Rogers…

  2. Very interesting development. The Canadian Gamers Organization sent in a complaint explaining that Rogers ITMP practises are not in line with CRTC policy. According to Rogers, their ITMP systems are not the only ones effected by problems. Anyone using Cisco ITMPs are effected. Rogers disclosure is almost a virtual cut and paste from Bell. Take a look at the gamers recent submission to the CRTC:

  3. I’m not sure the motive is as declared by Bell
    Personally, I think Bell is coming to the conclusion that their use of Technical ITMPs is becoming indefensible and the cost vs benefits ratio is just too high. The CRTC did say after all that Technical ITMPs should only be used as a last resort.

    So, by eliminating Technical ITMPs they can now put their efforts into the more defensible Economic ITMPs (aka UBB or whatever its current incarnation is). They will use the fact that they eliminated Technical ITMPs per CRTC guidelines and are satisfied that the necessary control can now be achieved by Economic ITMPs.

    This has all the appearance of a smile at your face while they find a way of sticking a knife into the customers’ (retail and wholesale) backs.

  4. Elliot Ross says:

    One thing I can say from experience – Bell has stopped throttling old fashioned FTP like they used to.

  5. getting around
    Not to mention that isp’s such as tekksavvy would actually sell you a router pre-loaded with tomato to allow you to get around their throttling. Essentially they where just pushing their consumer base away with these horrible policies. What ever happened to giving your consumers what they want? I hope this present a massive shift in thinking over at Bell.

    Also it would be interesting to see some numbers. Apparently congestion is declining but, I’m sure all those old torrent downloaders did not go back to old fashion cable. I’m would suspect it has more to do with streaming and BEll’s inability to throttle it without massive backlash from their entire consumer base.

  6. They were losing customers left and right. The good kind of customers – some web browsing, Windows updates, some gaming, skype, video chat with the parents and so on. Nothing heavy but sensitive to speed. The “congestion” (I remember ping times like 1400 ms while doing nothing) completely killed all the fun and they moved elsewhere. Taking with them phone and TV plans too.

  7. When I was with a small ISP…
    They said the majority of the BW hogs were VOD services and P2P was neglible.

    Who do we believe?

  8. The real issue…
    … is that current “ITMP” technology is not adequate for what ISPs really need.

    Let’s see what we have on the pipes:

    1. bandwidth limited but real time, latency sensitive stuff like gaming and VOIP. They are not causing “congestion” as they don’t need much bandwidth (it’s pretty constant and lower than max speed of end mile connection), it is predictable and scalable – bigger pipe means you can service more homes (people won’t hog the pipe with 200 VOIP conversations at once, they can only do 1 at a time).

    2. Similar to 1 but buffered so latency is not a big problem. Video streaming is here. Predictable and scalable. HD takes 6 Mbps, it will fill to the max an old ADSL connection but is easy on the cable.

    3. Nearly real time stuff like web browsing; serviced in bursts for short periods of time; latency is not a big problem; fills up the last mile connection to max capacity but only for short intervals of time; not very predictable but scalable; we can include Windows/antivirus patches and updates here too, as the download size is finite and reasonable.

    4. And here my friends comes the No 1 Enemy of any ISP: QUEUED DOWNLOADS. Like in a long list of huge files queued in a P2P or ftp client. The protocol is irrelevant. What is important is that there is a long queue that never ends (the user will keep adding files to it). Doesn’t care about latency or speed. But keeps the connection at 100% bandwidth utilization and is NON-SCALABLE. The bigger the pipe you add, more files will the user add in the queue. Give them 1 TB/sec, they will put the whole Internet in the queue to have a fresh copy in the morning.

    What you would want to do as a sensible ISP is to give absolute priority to 1, followed by 2 and 3, and curb 4 so there’s bandwidth left for 1, 2, and 3. This is what they were trying with ITMP. Unfortunately it didn’t work – as it was not able to detect queued downloads. It was just assuming that if it’s a protocol like P2P or ftp, it must be a queued download. True most of the time, but went wrong in particular situations (World of Warcraft).

    So what can you really do? UBB baby. A large, punitive overage will curb 4 like nothing else. And now you can retire the ITMP machines as we know them. Have something easier that just prioritizes stuff like 1.

  9. Fiber Rollouts
    Basically what Bell is saying is that the sheep are switching over to the new overpriced FTTH connections.

  10. Mark Kingston says:

    Does “customers may be migrated to network facilities where Technical Internet Traffic Management Practices (ITMPs) will not be applied” mean that Bell will put the wholesale business on a separate network that is not ‘groomed’?

  11. @Mark: “customers may be migrated…”

    “If you can hold a little bit longer on this crappy connection we *may* upgrade it some day. But phleaase oh please don’t switch to cable right now…”

  12. WhiteNecromancer says:

    You all have vary good points, even the negative ones.
    But I seriously ask you,

    What happens to rape victims in real life court of law???? The emotional and financial damage is done, not to mention their reputations. If ALL corporate rape is allowed to their customers, especially without their consent or knowledge, then a twenty year sentence would be a walk in the park, RIGHT?????????? Termination or castration would be more fitting and (lol) humane.

  13. What a headache!!!
    I’ve been with Hell since 2004, I’ve noticed some issues a few years ago but never really put my finger on it cause it would happen once in a while, so the basic reboot modem and ip changed and would be resolved. But I’ve been using XBS Link which is a P2P gaming engine for system link since March 2012 and that’s when it all started for me!!! I’ve called them like 2 to 3 times per month cause they would illegally drop my speed profile from 2 to 5 mb, had a 3rd level tech come over after upgrading from 5 mb to 15mb cause i was still having issues with COD Mw3, Mw2 and black ops on Xbox live and loose my connection when watching Netflix!!!!!!!!!

    I’ve had enough of their BS lies, they didn’t stop their ITMPs and Napalm said it best it’s the 4’s that should be penalized!!!

    I DO NOT recommend Hell to anyone, go with Videotron or Techsavy. I am leaving them this week as soon as I get my new provider that won’t LIE to me and will give the customer what he is paying for.