Traffic shaping brings Net Neutrality debate to a boil

Last week, Howard Solomon’s story on ISP reaction to Bell’s traffic shaping policies — the throttling of P2P content whether it’s on Bell’s own Sympatico high-speed service or that of an ISP re-selling bandwidth bought from Bell — struck a chord with IT World Canada readers, becoming one of the most-read and most-commented article we’ve ever run. And while I’ve got a healthy respect for search engine optimization, I don’t think it was just the fact that we used “Bell” and “outrage” in the head that drove all that traffic.

(There are some words that are guaranteed to drive traffic when used in headlines, viz, “iPhone,” “porn,” and “Britney Spears.” Perhaps “Britney Spears iPhone porn outrage” is the perfect storm of a headline. But I digress.)

On Thursday, the Canadian Association of Internet Providers asked the CRTC for a cease-and-desist order against Bell, bringing the long-simmering Net Neutrality debate to a boil. Make no mistake — the CRTC’s decision on this matter will be precedent-setting. A CAIP victory could entrench the principle of Net Neutrality in Canada, without going the American route of trying, and failing, to pass legislation guaranteeing equal rights to the Internet backbone.

Reader comments on the story were uniformly critical of Bell, much of them along the lines of “typical monopolistic behaviour.”

“This level of anti-competitive behaviour from Bell should be expected,” commented Myrcurial. “Anyone remember the Centrex crisis from the mid-90s? The Canadian Association of Internet Providers was formed in 1996 as a direct response to Bell retroactively making significant changes to contracted services.”

“Does this move not negate any and every contract Bell has with any of its clients?” chimed in Samantha Vickers.

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