The CBC recently released its submission to the CRTC as part of the examination of the future of broadcast in Canada. The submission interestingly raises network neutrality concerns, though it does not use that specific term. Rather, as part of a discussion on Internet video at page 19, the CBC says:
The business case analysis for Internet video is complicated by the fact that suppliers of broadband connections may also have incentives to control the bandwidth available for Internet video. Canadian cable companies engage in "bandwidth shaping" which allocates different levels of transmission capacity to different services according to the operational preferences of the cable company. This type of bandwidth shaping can ensure efficient use of transmission capacity. It can also ensure that Internet video by third parties does not become a threat to the business of the cable company, whether it be the delivery of traditional television programming to cable subscribers, VOD or the distribution of cable company-owned Internet video services. In light of this complex mix of issues, it remains unclear whether Internet video will become a primary means of distributing video content on a commercial basis.
This is network neutrality in action.
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Tyler Hamilton of the Toronto Star has an interview with Tim Berners-Lee in which the WWW founder expresses concern about a two-tier Internet.
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The Telecommunications Policy Review Panel report was released earlier this afternoon and while the immediate reaction will no doubt focus on the recommendations for a market-oriented approach with significant changes to the CRTC, I would call attention to three other recommendations gleaned from reading the executive summary (the full document is nearly 400 pages).
First, the Panel has called for a new legislative provision protecting net neutrality standards. The panel calls this an open access provision, with Recommendation 6-5 stating that:
"The Telecommunications Act should be amended to confirm the right of Canadian consumers to access publicly available Internet applications and content of their choice by means of all public telecommunications networks providing access to the Internet. This amendment should
(a) authorize the CRTC to administer and enforce these consumer access rights,
(b) take into account any reasonable technical constraints and efficiency considerations related to providing such access, and
(c) be subject to legal constraints on such access, such as those established in criminal, copyright and broadcasting laws."
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Update: I have now had the chance to read the Vonage filing which is better described as a request for an investigation as opposed to a complaint. In fact, Vonage concludes its submission by arguing that "Shaw' s QofS Service has the potential to greatly damage nascent competition for local VoIP services across its serving territory. Vonage Canada is of the view, however, that not enough is known at this point about the Shaw service in order to formulate an appropriate regulatory response."
Vonage Canada has filed a complaint with the CRTC against Shaw over Shaw's VoIP premium surcharge. The cable company charges a $10 "quality of service enhancement" fee for VoIP users, which Vonage is characterizing as a VoIP tax. Vonage argues that because it "competes directly with the telephone services of the network operators that also provide the high-speed Internet access, the incentives to discriminate against us are clear. This will result in less innovation, less choice and higher prices for Canadian consumers in the long run."
This could become a hugely important case since much of the two-tier Internet is based on similar enhancement fees for either customers or web services. The CRTC mistakenly declined to address the net neutrality last year in its VoIP decision, despite considerable evidence that this was an emerging issue that could have debilitating effect on the Internet. In the months since that decision, both the telcos and cable cos have openly discussed their plans for a two-tier Internet. While it appears that Vonage has focused primarily on the need for greater transparency with the Shaw fee, this has opened the door to the CRTC becoming more engaged on network neutrality.
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