CRTC’s Net Neutrality Rules in Action: Bell To Drop P2P Traffic Shaping

Bell advised the CRTC yesterday that it plans to drop all peer-to-peer traffic shaping (often called throttling) as of March 1, 2012.  While the decision has been described as surprising or as quid pro quo for the usage based billing ruling, I think it is neither of those. The writing was on the wall in October when Bell announced that it was dropping the traffic shaping for wholesale traffic, citing reduced network congestion from P2P. At the time I wrote that the Bell move:

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.”

The CRTC Internet traffic management practice policy, often referred to as the net neutrality rules, make it clear that the Commission prefers network investment and “economic ITMPs” (ie. usage charges) to traffic shaping. The Bell letter to the CRTC addresses this directly, citing its network investment, the use of economic ITMPs, and declining P2P file sharing as a proportion of network traffic as the reason for the change. Given the CRTC rules, Bell had little choice but to drop traffic shaping since it was increasingly difficult to justify given network and marketplace developments.

The big question is now how much longer Rogers will maintain its throttling practices. Most of the larger Canadian ISPs no longer traffic shape (Cogeco seems to have quietly dropped it after maintaining just two years ago that it had no other alternative), leaving Rogers as the outlier. Moreover, the company is currently facing an enforcement action for violating the CRTC ITMP rules with respect to the impact its throttling practices have had on online gaming.  The company might try hold out for awhile, but given the network congestion profile in Canada and CRTC pressure to address its net neutrality violations, it seems likely that it will follow Bell’s lead or face further complaints that its practices do not comply with CRTC policy.


  1. Why am I not surprised!
    This is ridiculous. “citing its network investment, the use of economic ITMPs,”

    That’s right. They are essentially saying “because we were allowed to use UBB, we can remove the throttling!!!!”

    They’re offering a reason / proof that UBB is necessary.

    I don’t think I need to go into details as to why this is bad.

  2. Devil's Advocate says:

    “They are essentially saying ‘because we were allowed to use UBB’…”

    The UBB movement was defeated, wasn’t it?

    If its such a profitable business why dont more companies get into it? Isnt competition supposed to be the salve for high prices?

  4. Not Rocket Science
    Personally I think both Dr. Geist and the posters here got it wrong or are confused.

    With the new usage scheme (capacity based billing) it’s not in Bells best financial interest to throttle anymore. The more traffic they can throw at the resellers the more congested they become and the more capacity they have to buy.

    Why would they manage the traffic of the reseller for them and prevent money from going back into their own pockets?

    It doesn’t matter if the resellers have to charge their own customers more at all. The bottom line here is that there has to be a contractual obligation in order to buy capacity from Bell.

    This is a win-win for Bell.

    Let us look at the teksavvy-Rogers agreement currently going on as the example here.

    Teksavvy has for months (almost a year) completely dropped the ball on the capacity they required to buy. The result has been extreme cable users getting 2-meg internet and not being able to even watch youtube.

    Bottom line:
    Not enough purchased capacity = major slow-downs across the board = people leaving for Bell = resellers buying more under contract.

    The outcome and the math is pretty simple to comprehend. It also shows why Bell is dropping the throttle. It’s a win-win for them with capacity based billing.

    The reseller will have to buy more driving costs up for the end-user.
    The reseller may have to throttle = unhappy end-user
    The reseller will become congested = unhappy end-user

    Unhappy end-users will move to Bell.

    This isn’t rocket science and pretty plain to see.

    How congestion and capacity based billing will affect the end-user costs is going to be very interesting come February and beyound.

    Which ISP’s hit the breaking point of no longer being profitably able to compete against a non-throttled Bell due to increasing costs of capacity come February and beyound will also be interesting.

    Seeing end-users scream in the forum about their 50-meg internet doing 1-meg is also going to be a fun watch.

    I am betting that at least a couple of ISP’s will throttle their users down at peak time while Bell won’t, or they will have to increase costs. These users will then switch to Bell.

    With the equal speed ruling this is even more favourable for Bell and Rogers.

  5. data caps != ITMP
    Data caps are not an (economic) ITMP for congestion. I can provide two proofs of that:

    1. I can only consume data during “no congestion” windows and easily exceed my cap.

    2. I can stay within my cap and only use my connection during the “highest congestion” windows.

    These two proofs completely invalidate data caps as an ITMP, IMHO. When will the CRTC understand this?

  6. Hope Xplornet is next!
    This is a major step in the right direction and puts us back in the modern world again. Now if the CRTC would look into Xplornet’s throttling practices here in New Brunswick I’d be the happiest guy on the planet!

  7. More Rocket Science

    While the costs go up for the resellers and as they get drawn into more and more contractual obligations with the likes of Bell and Rogers, something will have to give.

    You want unlimited? Pay more.

    You only use 100-gigs? Pay this.

    You watch Netflix at peak time? Buy our congestion free package for 9.99$/month to get priority.

    You exceed your cap? Buy extra B/W packages

    Bell, Rogers and Videotron gave free speed upgrades. Here is your monthly 4$ bill increase so we can buy the extra needed capacity.

    The resellers have already shown that they can’t manage traffic as they thought they could. Thus all the congestion they have that lasts for months in Rogers land.

    Oh? what was that? Videotron is now bumping all regular high-speed users to 10-meg now from 8? Oh well buy more capacity to handle it while Videotron chuckles as the resellers get congested. (this scenario already happened in Rogers land and caused TSI resale cable customers to be congested all to hell as their customers left them).

    This will now be the case in Bell resale land as well.

    It’s going to be a fun watch.

    Do you honestly think Bell got rid of the throttle for “neutrality” reasons as the Doc put it (Sorry doc)? Do you honestly think Bell got rid of the throttle because they magically just finished upgrading all Quebec and Ontario?

    The name of the game here is to let the resellers choke. Neutrality be damned.

  8. Owner
    There are too many conflicts of interest. Bell/Rogers should either own the pipe or be media/advertising/content companies, but not both. As long as they own both and they continue to be granted monopoly for both, they’ll shape things in their interest.

    What we need is a public pipe that any company can access at a set price and resell if they want.

  9. Nelson Quiroga says:

    Perhaps all of this will become meaningless once the new WiFi network known as White Spaces comes on line. It launched in the U.S. today and it won’t be long before Canadians will start demanding it as well to break the oligopoly of Telus, Bell & Rogers. (see article in business insider)

  10. Feeling Xploited says:

    Ditto on the Xplornet investigation
    @Rob McNicol
    Agree with your comment Rob, I hope Xplornet terrestrial wireless is on the CRTC’s radar.

    Their marketing practices are deceptive and throttling practices beyond draconian. At least they’ve been forced to reveal them publicly now. Would you expect your “5mbps Xtreme” line to be throttled back to 900kbs between 9am and 1am? Neither would I, but it is.

    The reality is that they can’t even sustain 500kbps during those hours, so talking about “burst speed” is irrelevant. The whole network is an insane mess, avoid at all costs.

    Worst ISP in Canada.

  11. Mickey Hickey says:

    Uncommon Carriers
    It is of the utmost importance that the Common Carriers be confined to carrying traffic. Now they are building up their content provision arms which results in clear conflicts of many interests. Telus seems to me to be the only pure play telco. (correct me if I am wrong).

    Charging has to be a flat monthly fee for access and then pay for usage. Bits and Bytes are undifferentiated and charges should be a flat rate per GB whether you are a lowly residential customer or a big bank. If that takes regulation base4d on ROI then so be it.

  12. bell still throttling 2012
    its september of 2012 bell still throttles third party users as well as there own users of adsl internet