Bell urges CRTC to toss out providers

The CRTC should hang up on a demand by Internet providers for an immediate temporary injunction against Bell Canada’s traffic-shaping efforts, the telco has told the telecommunications regulator.

In a response to an application filed by the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP), many of whom are wholesale buyers of Bell’s DSL service, the telco says there is no evidence that by slowing traffic during peak hours of bandwidth-hogging peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent slows traffic of anyone else.

That includes those using virtual private networks, voice over IP phones or streaming applications such as Internet radio and YouTube.

Quite the contrary, it says: Thanks to its deep packet inspection solution, P2P traffic during peak hours (4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.) has dropped 50 per cent, and there’s been a decrease in the number of congested links.

Other types of traffic such as web browsing, and audio or video streaming, previously impacted by congestion at peak periods has quickly filled the bandwidth made available, the telco says, improving those users’ online experience.

“Granting CAIP’s request would actually have the perverse effect of providing an unreasonable preference to wholesale ISP customers and their end users who will be able to continue to use a disproportionate amount of available bandwidth during peak periods creating an unreasonable disadvantage for (Bell’s) Sympatico retail and business customers,” Bell argues in its brief.

“Furthermore, it would not be in the public interest to allow the end users of wholesale ISP customers to continue to use the freed up bandwidth resulting from the deployment of the company’s traffic management DPI solution to its retail and business customer base.”

“In order to continue to ensure a consistently high level of service for all of its customers, whether retail or wholesale customers, Bell Canada is required to manage its network in such a way that no customer, service or application consumes excessive bandwidth that may impede the use and enjoyment by other customers,” the brief says.

“This type of network management during peak periods allows Bell Canada to deliver a more consistent and reliable experience to all its customers who use real-time sensitive applications like browsing, instant messaging and streaming. All online applications continue to be available to all customers. All customers can continue to use P2P applications at any time. However, they will simply not work as fast for some users during peak Internet usage periods in order to ensure optimized service for all of our customers.”

Bell also flatly denies allegations that it is managing traffic to stop its Sympatico subscribers from moving to other providers. Perhaps most importantly, it denies CAIP members have suffered harm, which the association has to prove to get an injunction.

“To begin, CAIP has not produced any evidence of actual lost customers,” the brief says. As for allegations that CAIP subscribers complain traffic other than P2P applications has slowed, the brief says Bell has investigated several of these reports and claims in each case it can show that traffic shaping was not the cause of the reported problem.

“Ongoing daily traffic reports and internal testing continue to confirm that VPN, VoIP and online streaming traffic such as YouTube and Internet radio are not being shaped or affected by the Company’s solution,” the brief says.

In fact, Bell says, usage of these streaming applications has tended to spike during peak periods thanks to the Internet traffic management solution compared to previous levels.

Some of the reported problems were due to unrelated factors, such as a slow third party server, clients modified from normal configurations, reported problem occurring outside traffic management hours, internal wiring issues, and a recent third party software patch with default settings, Bell claims.

The deep packet inspection method allows Bell identify protocol headers only on P2P applications.

The providers allege that Bell’s traffic management is a violation of their Gateway Access Service agreement. But the telco insists it is operating within the tariff. Subscribers are told Internet speeds are not guarantees but maximums, Bell says. And since Bell applies deep packet inspection to its own Sympatico subscribers as well as to its wholesale customers it can’t be accused of discrimination.

Finally, Bell notes that if CAIP don’t like its policy, members have lots of options such as leasing unbundled local loops, to invest in co-location and Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexers (DSLAMs) buy High Speed Access or subscribe to wholesale Internet high speed access service from cable carriers.

CAIP has until April 21 to file a response to the Bell brief.

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