Independent Internet Providers Take Bell to Task

April 4, 2008 - Ottawa, ON - On April 3 the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) asked the CRTC to direct Bell Canada to cease and desist with the "traffic shaping" activity that has been causing Canadian Internet users to experience slow speeds and degraded service.

In the middle of March CAIP members, who are largely independent Internet Service Providers not affiliated with the incumbent telephone and cable companies, began noticing an increase in complaints from their clients describing a reduced ability to transmit and receive files, listen to Internet radio or use their Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service.

Coincident to this, the CBC released the final episode of Canada's Next Great Prime Minister on the Internet using a distribution tool called BitTorrent. Thousands of fans of the political game show were appalled to discover that it was taking as long as 11 hours to download the show.

It was quickly determined that the cause of the prolonged downloads and customer complaints was a new "traffic shaping" strategy Bell Canada had undertaken to manage what the phone company believed to be abusive Internet use.

When Internet traffic is "shaped", also described as "throttled" or "choked", the data is inspected to determine its function. Certain types of data, in this case torrent or peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic, is identified and slowed down. The result is that downloads that would normally take minutes can now take hours to complete.

On March 28 Bell Canada officially informed CAIP and its members that it had indeed undertaken "traffic shaping" of the data flowing to and from Bell's wholesale ISP clients. In its complaint to the CRTC CAIP contends that Bell's traffic shaping activity is in breach of a number of regulated activities which the phone company must adhere to.

CAIP has asked the CRTC to step in and instruct Bell to immediately end this anti-competitive interference in the activities of Internet users.

Tom Copeland, Chair of CAIP states, " Bell has undertaken an activity that it has no regulatory authority to do and it did so without notifying it's wholesale ISP customers which it has a legal responsibility to do before making such changes. It did so without the knowledge of its customers and the CRTC. We believe this is an abuse of Bell's dominance in the market and it puts Canadian ISPs at a competitive disadvantage".

The industry association, the largest in Canada, has asked the CRTC to provide relief on an expedited basis and hopes to return a normal level of service to Internet users across Ontario and Quebec within ten days.

CRTC Application - April 3, 2008