Net Neutrality

Over the last month or so, Bell Canada Enterprises (Bell) has been taking a beating over its stance regarding throttling peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic on its network. The key here is to understand that Bell actually has 3 roles as a Canadian ISP.

  1. They are a major commercial backbone carrier servicing numerous businesses and downstream ISPs.
  2. They are a major residential ISP.
  3. They are a content provider.

Bell claims the reason it needs to shape traffic is to reduce the burden that P2P network places on its network. They claim they want to ensure that P2P traffic does not disrupt its business partners and downstream ISPs. Sounds noble until you look at points 2 and 3.

As a major residential ISP, I would argue that this is were Bell needs to focus its traffic shaping capabilities if at all. These are the consumers that are generating the P2P traffic “within” the Bell network. Their commercial clients and down stream ISPs are paying both for bandwidth availability AND usage. That means the more they consume, the more money Bell makes. It seems kind of silly to kill off or throttle this traffic doesn’t it?

Well the reason why they might want to kill off 3rd party traffic becomes more appearant with point 3. Since Bell is also in the content distribution game, they need to guarantee the bandwidth for their own content distribution schemes. Last week Bell announce it’s own content on demand service for example. With Apple Canada new Itunes movie download service and others now competing in this market place, Bell’s move takes on a more ominous preemptive tone. It is also important to remember that Bell has also previously announced a desire to play in the VoIP and IPTV markets.

As a corporate consumer of Bell services, or potential downstream consumer, you need to be aware that the throttling provision being put into effect also effect you. By throttling bandwidth availability via traffic shaping, Bell is essentially putting a cap on the throughput from your network. That means your site-to-site VPNs, laptop based VoIP clients or video conferencing services will also be shaped potentially rendering the technology unusable. As Bell moves more aggressively into these growth market areas, you will probably be asked to pay a premium for guaranteed QOS over their network. The question to you as a consumer is since QOS is not needed today, why should you need to pay for it tomorrow? Just because Bell wants to provide itself competitive advantage as an ISP doesn’t mean you need to suffer.

Again, it is time for your voice to be heard by signing a petition on the issue and communicating to your MP in writing.

Update : Mark Evans actually has a great post on the topic of Net Neutrality both from a wired and wireless perspective.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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