MTS Allstream, CAIP, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business are among the companies and groups that have launched the Campaign for Competitive Broadband, an effort to overturn a recent CRTC decision on competitor access to broadband networks.
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Day three of the CRTC's network management hearings brought in the views of several additional stakeholders along with the first large telco of the week. Witnesses included the Independent Film and Television Alliance, the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, Council for Canadians with Disabilities, the ARCH Disability Law Centre ACTRA, and MTS Allstream.
While all the creator and producer groups expressed support for net neutrality, it was their position on BitTorrent that was particularly noteworthy. Perhaps heralding an end to the demonization of file sharing, ACTRA emphasized that it wants to compete with illegal downloading and that the best way to do that is to ensure that its members can use applications like BitTorrent to distribute their content. In other words, copyright alone won't address their concerns (they added the need for copyright reform) as network management practices that create a level playing field are essential. Meanwhile, the independent producers emphasized the economic potential of BitTorrent-based distribution. Moreover, ACTRA argued that it was not the role of ISPs to determine the legality of content on their networks. That position is a far cry from what groups like CRIA would like to see happen.
The other big story of the day was MTS Allstream arguing that dominant carriers should never be permitted throttle wholesale services (ie. they argue that any throttling should only occur at the retail level). This led to repeated discussion about the nature of wholesale services (referred to as GAS or Gateway Access Service) with MTS explaining that wholesale service is not like buying Internet access as a retail customer (it was described as akin to a private virtual network). For that reason, there is no valid claim that congestion concerns are the basis for throttling wholesale services (left unsaid is why a company like Bell would throttle – competition from the very ISPs to whom it supplies wholesale access). The discussion was stunning since it left the distinct impression that the Commission did not fully understand what was at issue in the CAIP throttling case.
There was two other exchanges involving Commissioner Len Katz worthy of note. The first was a question in which he suggested that Bell and Rogers do not have a dominant position in Ontario, something that will be news to the overwhelming majority of broadband subscribers in the province. The second was the recognition that prioritization of content is effectively the same thing as throttling of content since the effect in both instances is to place some content on a fast lane and other content on a slow one.
These issues may arise again tomorrow when CAIP appears. Today's summary was compiled by Yael Wexler, a law student at the University of Ottawa. Other coverage available from the National Post liveblog, CBC.ca, and the cippic twitter feed (or mine for MTS).
Today's CRTC network management hearing featured some stunning discussion on the throttling of wholesale services that undoubtedly left many observers wondering whether the Commission actually understood what it was doing in the CAIP throttling complaint against Bell (CAIP has asked the Commission to reconsider the decision). The discussion started when […]
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hosts long-awaited network management hearings this week, pitting Canada’s telecom and cable companies against a broad range of consumer, creator, and technology groups in a fight that may help clarify whether Canada has – or should have – net neutrality laws.
The telecom and cable companies will likely maintain that managing their networks, which may include using "deep packet inspection" to identify subscriber activity and limiting available bandwidth for certain applications (a practice known as throttling), is essential to ensure optimal access for all subscribers. Consumer associations, independent Internet service providers (ISPs), broadcasters, creator groups, and technology companies are likely to warn against network management practices that raise competition, privacy, and consumer rights concerns.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that as the Commission weighs the various claims, it would do well to consider the testimony it heard just a few months ago during the February new media hearings. The issue at play at those hearings was whether ISPs should face a levy to fund new media or be required to prioritize Canadian content (the CRTC declined to do both in its decision released last month). Interestingly, the same telecom and cable companies that will now argue that managing their networks is essential, offered a somewhat different take when confronted with the prospect of doing so in the name of supporting Canadian content.
Appeared in the Toronto Star on July 6, 2009 as Neutrality Hearings Begin With Conflicting Claims The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hosts long-awaited network management hearings this week, pitting Canada’s telecom and cable companies against a broad range of consumer, creator, and technology groups in a fight that may […]