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Internet Traffic Management in Canada eConsultation

March 11, 2010

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Welcome to the CRTC’s online consultation on Internet traffic management practices in Canada. We’re looking for your thoughts on these practices. The comments and discussion resulting from this consultation will help shape the upcoming CRTC hearing on Internet traffic management practices, as well as form part of the public record. We welcome your participation and thank you for sharing your opinions on the various topics.

Background

Some Internet service providers (ISPs) use traffic management techniques to influence or alter the flow of Internet traffic on their networks. The use of certain practices has raised concerns in Canada and other jurisdictions. On November 20, 2008, the CRTC initiated a proceeding to examine Internet traffic management practices and consider whether such practices are appropriate.

The Heavy Reading research report, commissioned as part of the CRTC’s public proceeding, analyzes different traffic management technologies and practices available to Internet service providers. These include technologies that can inspect, identify and react to different types of traffic, or focus on particular subscribers. Different practices can have different impacts on the end-user experience.

See:Save Our Net and the CBC! Please Take the Time and share your opinion.

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Bandwidth throttling

Bandwidth throttling is a method of ensuring a bandwidth intensive device, such as a server, will limit (“throttle”) the quantity of data it transmits and/or accepts within a specified period of time. For website servers and web applications, bandwidth throttling helps limit network congestion and server crashes, whereas for ISP’s, bandwidth throttling can be used to limit users’ speeds across certain applications (such as BitTorrent), or limit upload speeds.

A server, such as a web server, is a host computer connected to a network, such as the Internet, which provides data in response to requests by client computers. Understandably, there are periods where client requests may peak (certain hours of the day, for example). Such peaks may cause congestion of data (bottlenecks) across the connection or cause the server to crash, resulting in downtime. In order to prevent such issues, a server administrator may implement bandwidth throttling to control the number of requests a server responds to within a specified period of time.

When a server using bandwidth throttling has reached the allowed bandwidth set by the administrator, it will block further read attempts, usually moving them into a queue to be processed once the bandwidth use reaches an acceptable level. Bandwidth throttling will usually continue to allow write requests (such as a user submitting a form) and transmission requests, unless the bandwidth continues to fail to return to an acceptable level.

Likewise, some software, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) network programs, have similar bandwidth throttling features, which allow a user to set desired maximum upload and download rates, so as not to consume the entire available bandwidth of his or her Internet connection.

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Bell Canada Confirms Throttling

Techdirt, Slashdot and Canadian law Professor Michael Geist all discuss our report yesterday on Bell Canada’s decision to start throttling traffic of their residential wholesalers before it hits their networks without telling those ISPs they were doing so. The result was a flurry of angry users, and executives at major ISPs who had to explain why they “broke” promises not to throttle traffic. Popular Canadian ISP Teksavvy met with Bell Canada today, and CEO Rocky Gaudrault says Bell is confirming the practice:

They’re now openly acknowledging that they are rolling out a full throttling process. They plan to have things fully throttled by April 7th. All BT and P2P traffic will be affected. They claim they are allowed to do so according to their Terms and Services under the Fair Usage Policy in the tariffed contracts… We’ll be looking into this shortly.

In other words, Bell Canada is using their monopoly power to degrade the quality of the bandwidth headed to ISP partners. The move makes those competitors immediately less of a threat — given Sympatico throttles their own customers and wouldn’t want a competitor offering better service.

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Canadian ISP Sympatico Admits to P2P Throttling-Nov 2007

The rhetoric issued by Sympatico in defense of bandwidth throttling resembles Comcast’s recent defense of similar practices. The ISPs claim that bandwidth throttling leads to a better Internet experience for customers. As numerous advocacy groups have pointed out in response to such claims, bandwidth throttling and other kinds of discriminatory content filtering fundamentally change the nature of the Internet to the detriment of consumers. Selectively blocking transmission of content hardly constitutes a valid means of improving the Internet experience.

The bandwidth throttling practices used by these companies are made more egregious by the secrecy surrounding the precise nature of what gets blocked and when. In the official Sympatico forum, the company representatives who admit that bandwidth throttling is occurring are declining to respond to questions about the extent of the throttling or the conditions that Sympatico uses to determine whose connectivity to degrade. Some ISPs, like Comcast, actively punish employees for disclosing such information to the public.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 21, 2010 3:19 pm

    Great site. Dugg!

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