The first day of the CRTC's network management hearing featured some interesting discussion from deep packet inspection providers Sandvine and Juniper as well as Canadian consumer groups. A summary of the day, thanks to University of Ottawa student Frances Munn, is posted below. There is additional coverage from the National Post liveblog, CBC.ca, and lots of posts on Twitter [update: CRTC transcript].
While the Sandvine comment that an unmanaged network is not a neutral network captured the headline, I thought the more important part of the DPI provider discussion was Juniper's focus on consumer-controlled prioritization. This is not currently available in Canada, but the notion that consumers should choose how to prioritize the bandwidth they pay for would address many concerns.
It was the consumer presentation that did the most to link network management to the law and it also highlighted reason for great concern. I think that the consumer groups rightly focused on who should bear the burden of demonstrating that DPI and other Internet traffic controls are consistent with current Canadian law. The groups argued that these are prima facie violations of Section 36 of the Telecommunications Act and that the onus therefore should fall on the carriers to show that there is a serious problem, the solution minimally impairs users' rights, and is proportional to the harm.
Unfortunately, the questions that followed suggest that the CRTC Commissioners start these hearings having accepted the carriers' claims that congestion is a problem and that inhibiting the use of deep packet inspection could result in increased consumer costs for Internet access. This suggests that there is a steep mountain to climb in these hearings, leading me to believe that the issue will ultimately be a political one with pressure on the Conservatives to join with the Liberals and NDP in supporting net neutrality.