Geist: CRTC Deserves Credit for Work on Canadian Traffic Throttling Issue

While criticizing the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) seems to be a frequent activity for many Canadians unhappy with the way it deals with problems related to broadcast media and the Internet, Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa Michael Geist recently penned an editorial praising the commission.

The editorial, "Putting an end to Internet throttling," appeared in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper yesterday. He contends that, if the commission deserves grief when it is wrong, then it surely deserves praise when it is right or it does the right thing.

One of those things is that it put an end to ISP Rogers' practice of throttling traffic. Here's a large swath of the editorial, which gets right to the heart of the matter:

That is the case on the thorny issue of net neutrality, which only a few years ago seemed destined to become mired in a never-ending battle between regulation-averse telecom companies and mounting public calls for government intervention.

Instead, the CRTC took carriage of the file, established widely praised guidelines, and after some prodding over weak enforcement, pushed the industry to the point that Internet traffic shaping — often described as throttling — will soon be a thing of the past in Canada.

When the CRTC conducted hearings on Internet traffic management practices in the summer of 2009, most Internet providers used traffic shaping technologies to limit peer-to-peer applications arguing that it was necessary to manage subscriber demands and to avoid network congestion.

The Internet providers were virtually unanimous in their opposition to regulatory guidelines or even requirements for mandatory disclosure.

For example, Rogers Communications told the commission “the Internet is too new and is changing too quickly to establish ITMP guidelines at this time.”

The CRTC rejected that advice and implemented guidelines that required Internet providers to publicly disclose their traffic management practices. Moreover, it established rules that require providers to respond to complaints by describing their practices, demonstrating their necessity, and establishing that they discriminate as little as possible.

Geist goes on to say that not much happened with the new net neutrality policy for the first two years that it was enacted. But once the commission decided to put an end to traffic shaping, ISPs had no other alternative but to comply.

"Once the CRTC demonstrated its willingness to enforce the guidelines, it was game over for traffic shaping. In September, the commission issued an advisory on responding to complaints and enforcing the rules. The Canadian Gamers Organization followed up with complaints about guideline violations at Rogers and within months, the company threw in the towel, grudgingly promising changes by end of the year."

Of course, experts like Geist and advocacy groups helped bring the issue of throttling to the forefront of the political discourse in Canada. Without them perhaps Canadians would still be dealing the practice. 

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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