CRTC decisions on ‘Net Neutrality reinforce status quo
OTTAWA – October 30, 2009 – Last week the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) introduced a long-awaited but disappointing Internet
traffic management policy.
Yesterday the CRTC responded negatively to a request from the Canadian Association of
Internet Providers (CAIP) and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) to review and vary
the original “traffic shaping” decision issued in the spring of 2009 after CAIP had complained to
the CRTC about the interference Bell Canada was causing to the broadband traffic of
During the seven month public proceeding which emanated from the CAIP complaint, Canadian
Internet users and competitive Internet Service Providers (ISPs) hoped for a change in attitude.
Instead, the CRTC has simply codified previous decisions.
“Despite the CRTC calling last week’s policy announcement a world ‘first’ and ‘comprehensive’
the only real change for Canadian Internet users is that they must now be informed prior to the
implementation of any traffic management practices by their ISP. What’s worse is that the
CRTC has condoned higher prices for Internet access as a method of managing
telecommunications networks”, says Tom Copeland, Chair of the Canadian Association of
Internet Providers (CAIP).
Copeland elaborates, “The CRTC has done little to placate the concerns of the competitive ISP
industry and Canadians. We had hoped for clear guidelines on when traffic shaping was
permissible, how long such measures were permissible and under what circumstances the
Commission would approve such practices. Instead, the CRTC has simply reinforced the need
to use the cumbersome and time consuming regulatory complaints system should an individual
or competitive ISP feel the actions of a ‘primary ISP’ be disproportionate or unfair”.
In their first traffic management policy recommendation the CRTC has stated that their preferred
Internet Traffic Management Practice (ITMP) would be higher prices for Internet access as
“economic practices are the most transparent ITMPs”.
In the new policy the CRTC has also coined the phrases “primary ISP” and “secondary ISP” to
describe the regulated wholesale arrangement between the dominant incumbent carriers and
their downstream competitors who purchase network access from the carriers.
“The CRTC continues to mistake Internet services for regulated wholesale access to Canada’s
telecommunication networks,” notes Copeland. “The wholesale services we purchase from the
dominant carriers and the interference caused by their traffic management practices affect far
more than Internet access. In many cases these wholesale services are not used to deliver
Internet access yet they are subject to the same anti-competitive traffic management tactics.
The CRTC has yet to understand that these wholesale services are used as inputs to deliver a
far broader range of services than just Internet access.”
The debate on traffic management practices was brought to a boil in April 2008 when CAIP and
its members discovered that Bell Canada had begun “throttling” or slowing down the traffic
destined for the customers of CAIP’s members. After denying relief sought by CAIP, the CRTC
launched a proceeding which led to the October 21 policy announcement.
The following day, the Federal Communication Commission launched a similar proceeding to
codify four principles which the FCC had been using as a guide in their decisions relative to the
Internet since 2005. They added two more draft principles, similar to those in the CRTC policy,
regarding non-discrimination and transparency.
“Nowhere in the FCC draft principles will one find the suggestion that higher prices for Internet
access is an acceptable method of network management. By contrast, Canada’s regulator,
through its policy statement, has further eroded Canada’s standing in international Internet
metrics,” notes Copeland.
“Canada’s largest phone company has been throttling the traffic of its own customers 9.5 hours
a day, seven days a week, across its whole network for two years and doing the same to the
customers of competitors for 18 months”, Copeland states. “The recent announcements do
nothing to limit the duration, longevity or location of these actions. The CRTC has once again
given the dominant carriers, who have 94% market share of all residential high-speed access in
Canada, carte blanche to continue to abuse the trust and privilege bestowed upon them by
Canadian consumers,” concludes Copeland.
The Canadian Association of Internet Providers, a division of CATAAlliance, is Canada’s oldest
and largest industry association representing the independent Internet industry. CAIP’s
members serve hundreds of thousands of Canadian consumers and businesses with data,
telephony and Internet services. Founded in 1996, CAIP’s Mission is to foster the growth of a
healthy and competitive Internet service industry in Canada through collective and cooperative
action on Canadian and international issues of mutual interest.
Founded in 1976 the Public Interest Advocacy Centre has been vigilant in compelling
government and private corporations to administer programs or to conduct business in
accordance with fairness and due process. The organization provides Canadian policy makers
with key research and is engaged in advocacy on issues associated with fairness, financial
consumer protection, and access to banking services. PIAC is focused on ensuring that
important public services are delivered for the benefit of all Canadians.
Chair, Canadian Association of Internet Providers
| John Lawford
Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre
613-562-4002 ext. 25
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