Canadian regulators smarter than Americans

Canada’s Internet users have won a measure of victory over bandwidth hogs. In a ruling from the CRTC, Canada’s FCC, Bell Canada is permitted to continue managing network over-use:

Bell Canada today won a largely clear victory in an anti-throttling lawsuit filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The government body has issued a ruling dismissing claims by Internet providers using part of Bell’s network that accused the carrier of unfairly throttling the connection speeds of their services while also constricting its own. These rivals, represented by the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP), had accused Bell of trying to hinder competition and violating the basic concepts of net neutrality by discouraging large transfers.

The CRTC’s dismissal is based on the observation that peer-to-peer usage does appear to have a detrimental impact on Bell’s network and so requires at least some level of control to keep service running properly for all users. It also rejects neutrality concerns by claim that Bell’s throttling system, which uses deep packet inspection to investigate traffic, is adjusting speed and doesn’t restrict the content itself.

Bell hails its successful defense as proof that those running online networks are “in the best position” to judge how their networks are managed.

Canada’s Larry Lessig, a populist/demagogue law professor named Michael Geist, was heart-broken over the decision, and pro-piracy web site Ars Technica shed a few tears as well:

The proceeding was also notable for the frank admissions from other large ISPs like Rogers—they admitted that they throttle traffic on a discriminatory basis, too. It also produced wild allegations from companies like Cisco that “even if more bandwidth were added to the network, P2P file-sharing applications are designed to use up that bandwidth.” Such assertions allow the ISPs to claim that they must be able to throttle specific protocols simply to stay afloat—survival is at stake.

This is (to put it politely) highly debatable.

Actually it’s not debatable, not by sane people anyhow. Residential broadband is as cheap as it is only because ISPs can count on people sharing the wires in a civilized fashion. People who keep their broadband pipes constantly saturated take resources away from their neighbors. There are alternatives, of course. You can buy a T-1 line with a Service Level Agreement that you can saturate with all the traffic you want. In the US, count on paying $400/mo for 1.5 Mb/s upload and download. Want something cheaper? Learn to share.

Canada is widely regarded as a more left wing, business-hostile country than the US. How to account for the fact that the CRTC got this issue right while Bush’s FCC got it wrong in the Comcast case?

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2 Responses to Canadian regulators smarter than Americans

  1. Jason says:

    You should actually look at what was the issue under consideration. It
    is not about throttling but about what service discrimination. In
    Canada there is government mandated local loop unbundling which is
    supposed to provide DSL competition. Bell is supposed to provide local
    loop to CLECs (for a fee) in a non-discriminatory fashion (CLECs do
    their own backhaul). Bell began throttling their own customers and
    those customers started moving to the CLECs Bell states in their own
    CRTC submissions that it was unfair to Bell that they couldn’t
    throttle CLECs because otherwise they would lose customers. Bell then
    started applying the throttling to CLEC customers at which point a
    complaint was filed: Bell is supposed to provide wholesale,
    non-discriminatory access. My understanding is that the ruling stated
    that since Bell was doing the same thing to their own customers that
    the throttling was not discrimanatory and therefore did not violate
    Bell’s obligation to the CLECs. So the ruling doesn’t really have
    anything to do with throttling.

    A ruling specifically on the issue of throttling will be decided in
    July 2009.

  2. My understanding of the issue is the same as yours, minus the timeline. Bell Canada had to deal with congestion, which they did in a non-discriminatory fashion. The law professors are still upset, however.

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