ISPs should prove they need to control Internet traffic, consumers tell CRTC

Michael Lauzon mlauzon-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w at
Mon Jul 6 23:04:27 UTC 2009

First day of hearings:

GATINEAU, Que. — The federal regular has an obligation to Canadians to
ensure efforts by Internet providers don't unjustly discriminate
against certain classes of users when they manage their networks,
consumer groups said Monday.

In a presentation that drew a line in the sand between end users and
the big Internet service providers, the Consumers' Association of
Canada, representing several public interest groups, told CRTC
commissioners it was their responsibility to ensure access is fair and

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission called
the one-week of hearings to determine under what conditions providers
such as Bell (TSX:BCE), Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI,B), Telus
(TSX:T) and Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B) can control flow of traffic on their

The issue not only involves the speed on the Internet, but also raises
concerns about anti-competitive practices and privacy, since certain
management practices allows providers to discern the content being
shared by users.

NDP digital affairs spokesman Charlie Angus said the hearings were
critical because of the Internet's importance in the new economy.

"It sets a really bad signal if it's the telcoms that get to decide
what's in the fast lane and what's in the slow lane," Angus said.

Providers say they need to be able to "manage the flow of traffic,
particularly during peak hours, in order that the relative few users
that require a lot of bandwidth can't clog up the pipeline and slow
traffic for everyone else."

The one-week hearings began with testimony by two network managing
firms that argued that providers need to ensure the vast majority of
users are not disadvantaged by the few.

"An unmanaged network is not neutral," said Don Bowman, chief
technology officer with Sandvine Inc., a Waterloo, Ont. network
management firm.

"Certain bandwidth-hungry applications introduce delays into the
network that prejudice" others.

But John Lawford, representing the consumers association and several
public interest groups, questioned whether providers are using
high-bandwidth peer-to-peer file sharing as a scapegoat for their
failure to expand networks to meet demand.

Peer-to-peer is used to distribute large files, including software,
academic files, movies, television programs and music, from computer
to computer over the Internet.

Lawford said one service provider estimated peer-to-peer at about
three per cent of network traffic, although it is growing.

"If three per cent is causing a problem, how finely tuned is your
network?" Lawford asked. "Are we getting in Canada a good enough
Internet, and the answer is no."

Lawford said he is not opposed to all network traffic management, but
providers must first justify why it is necessary and receive
permission from the CRTC.

And he said some forms of control, such as deep packet inspection
(DPI) that allows providers to detect the types of content on the
Internet, is a violation of privacy laws and open to abuse. He said
providers can measure the traffic without resorting to such intrusive

The hearings continue until next Monday.


Michael Lauzon
The Toronto Linux Users Group.      Meetings:
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