The final answers: Bell, CAIP respond to CRTC over traffic shaping

Traffic-shaping measures put in place by Bell Canada on services offered to wholesale ISPs don’t affect voice over IP or VPN services, the carrier claims in its response to questions from the CRTC, filed Friday.

The Canadian Association of Internet Providers says that’s not true, and provided the CRTC with the customer complaints to back its case.

It’s the latest salvo in an ongoing battle over Bell’s controversial traffic-throttling campaign, designed to stifle peer-to-peer content the carrier says is hogging bandwidth and affecting network performance for the 95 per cent of Internet users who don’t use file-sharing services, which typically provide audio, video and software content. CAIP has applied to the CRTC for a cease-and-desist order.

Both Bell and CAIP have made submissions to the CRTC, which demanded fuller explanation of some of both parties’ arguments.

CAIP has said that because Bell won’t share details of the deep packet inspection (DPI) process it uses to identify and curb P2P traffic, ISPs don’t know what Internet services and applications are “collateral damage” to the targeted P2P traffic. Bell shared some of those details in its reply to the CRTC, though some details were abridged in the public version of the filing because, Bell claims, they would benefit competitors and cause “specific direct harm” to Bell.

According to the company, DPI can identify VoIP, virtual private network and Skype traffic with “100 (per cent) recognition.”

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“VoIP communications are UDP based and not TCP based and so VoIP communications are not impacted by the current shaping rules,” Bell wrote. “To be clear, Skype and all other forms of VoIP traffic are not being shaped by Bell Canada.”

But CAIP says tests by a member ISP on April 16 showed VoIP traffic being throttled with the same 30 kbps cap as P2P traffic. “Once a connection has been flagged as a P2P user, all traffic that is not white-listed is throttled,” the member ISP reported.

The CAIP submission catalogued user complaints about collateral damage to VPN and telecommuting applications, online troubleshooting, gaming applications and VoIP traffic, with several users saying the 30kbps cap — half the speed of dial-up — makes working from a home office impossible and IP phone services unreliable.

“I can barely do my day-to-day work whilst telecommuting,” wrote Christian Weeks, a work-from-home technologist. “I cannot turn to another ISP because now they are all affected by the same problems. If this isn’t the very definition of not just uncompetitive practice, but in fact an extreme abuse of a duopoly position, I cannot fathom what would be.

“I fear that if we do not act now, the only technological advances we will see will be aimed specifically at delivering Bell and Rogers’ exclusive content on what would otherwise be a perfectly capable Internet platform.”

Encrypted traffic is also suffering, some users wrote.

“When Rogers implemented the DPI technology last year to my connection at home, (programs that rely on encrypted traffic) became useless,” wrote Jacob Koblovsky. And, as Daniel Matan bluntly put it, “Unless Bell is decrypting these packets, they cannot determine with any certainty what they are.”

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.

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