Two panelists at the CRTC’s usage based billing hearing have published op-eds on the regulatory issues. Steve Anderson of Open Media writes Canadians have spoken against a metered Internet in the Ottawa Citizen, while TekSavvy CEO Marc Gaudrault is the author of The telecom-policy quadruple play in the Financial Post.
Post Tagged with: "ubb"
The second day of the CRTC hearing on usage based billing left the Commission with three fairly divergent views on Canadian networks, traffic management, and the wholesale tariff (coverage from the Globe, Cartt.ca, Wire Report). While Bell focused on network congestion in its presentation on the first day, the cable providers and independent ISPs provided a much different perspective, focusing instead on incentives to invest (cable) and competition (independent ISPs).
While the cable and independent ISPs provided most of the substantive debate, the much-anticipated appearance of Open Media garnered the most fireworks. Open Media (and CIPPIC) were told that much of their submission was outside the scope of the proceeding, since it focused on retail UBB and the Commission had already rejected extending the hearing to cover those issues. Instead, it faced questions about its membership, funding, and self-interest as well as shocking questions from new CRTC Commissioner Tom Pentefountas, who asked “I am trying to find out what is undemocratic about the system we have right now ‘allowing a few companies to control the Internet access market would be irresponsible and undemocratic’.” The question came in the context of questions that suggested independent ISPs were tremendously profitable without needing to invest in networks. While many Commissioners have asked informed, tough questions over the first two days of all sides, that line of questioning is precisely the sort that generates public skepticism about the CRTC.
Once Open Media was done, the floor was open to lengthy sessions with both the cable companies (Rogers, Videotron, and Cogeco) and independent ISPs. The cable companies provided a well organized opening presentation that avoided the focus on network congestion (the word congestion was barely mentioned) and instead emphasized the complexity of networks, the differences between cable networks and Bell’s network, and the need for policies to encourage ongoing investment.
Bell opened by focusing specifically on network congestion. Its opening remarks emphasized the existence of network congestion, the contribution to congestion by wholesale ISPs, and that IPTV does not contribute to congestion. It also provided a chart of the Bell Internet network, noting that congestion occurs in the portion of the network that aggregates traffic from both Bell customers and customers from independent ISPs (thereby again confirming that there is no congestion issue in the so-called last mile nor once the traffic hits the backbone network and the public Internet). Bell’s emphasis on network congestion is not surprising since the CRTC approach to network management – both net neutrality (technical Internet traffic management practices) and UBB (economic ITMPs) has been premised on dealing with congestion concerns. If the proposed solutions do not address congestion problems, the rationale behind the regulatory framework falls apart. Given the lack of robust competition in some Canadian markets, this suggests that the regulator should be playing a far more active role in addressing UBB.
Once the questioning began, the claims associated with congestion quickly unravelled.
The UBB hearing comes immediately on the heels of my report last week on two years of failed enforcement of the net neutrality guidelines, known as Internet Traffic Management practices. My report has received wide media coverage (Montreal Gazette, CBC, Wire Report, GeekTown) as well as responses from both the NDP and Liberal parties. While net neutrality and UBB are ostensibly separate issues, it is important to recognize the clear linkage between them. As the title of this post suggest, they are two sides of the same coin.
The numerous violations of net neutrality (and make no mistake, over one complaint per month when the burden is exclusively on the shoulders of individual Canadians is significant) and the near-universal use of UBB are both a function of the lack of competition within the Canadian market and the inability (or unwillingness) of the CRTC to play a more proactive regulatory function in the absence of robust competition. For the dominant ISPs, they jointly provide the means to erect barriers to competitive services by rendering such services either unusable (throttling speeds) or more costly (data caps).
Shaw has announced new broadband plans that offer far more data, faster speeds, and better pricing than comparable plans at competitors such as Rogers, Bell, and Telus. Shaw says the plans will be rolled out over the coming months and offer far bigger caps (including some unlimited plans). While the […]