Canada's telecommunications regulator today issued a ruling upholding the right of major telcos and cable providers to manage the traffic of its Internet customers, but requiring the wholesale providers to give wholesale customers 60 days notice and forbidding them from throttling video conferencing without the government's permission.
The decision resulted from CRTC hearings held last July. At the time, small Internet service providers such as TekSavvy Solutions Inc. and the SaveOurNet.ca coalition, had protested traffic management techniques in favour of what they call net neutrality.
On Wednesday the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said it realizes Internet providers may need “measures to manage the traffic on their networks at certain times.”
But they must ask the CRTC before they block delivery of content to an end user or slow down time-sensitive traffic, such as video conferencing or voice over IP, “to the extent that content is degraded.”
The CRTC stated it "will only grant its approval in the most exceptional cases."
“This has really not changed anything,” said Tom Copeland, chair of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, many of whose members buy Internet connectivity from phone or cable companies. The association complained to the CRTC last year after Bell Canada began managing traffic during peak hours to these wholesale customers, which prompted protests from subscribers that their Internet service was sometimes slow.
Copeland said the “biggest, most glaring omission” from the ruling is the lack of restraints on the time of day or how long suppliers like phone or cable companies can manipulate traffic. “So we could continue to see traffic management every day of the year,” he said.
“We’re still not addressing the cause of the problem,” he added: “Either weak points in the network, or abuse by users.” Most casual users of peer-to-peer applications – the biggest offending programs in the eyes of providers - aren’t the problem, he said.
However, they are being treated as if they are.
Bell Canada praised the ruling.
"It addresses fundamental policy concerns around consumer issues in an appropriate manner, in particular regarding transparency and disclosure," a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to Network World Canada. "Bell’s existing Internet traffic management practices are already compliant with it."
Wednesday's decision got faint praise from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, based at the University of Ottawa, faculty of law
"It is a step in the right direction, said Tamir Israel, a CIPPIC staff lawyer."We’re a little bit disappointed we didn’t see something a little more definitive on application specific traffic management. We would have liked them to say if you’re doing these types of things that’s not okay."