CRTC Rules in Favour of Bell’s Traffic Throttling Practices

In a move that could easily open the door for others to follow, the CRTC announced today that they ruled in favour of Bell Canada Inc.’s claim that internet speeds should be slowed down for its customers (both wholesale companies and retail subscribers) so that the “series of tubes” doesn’t get clogged up. Really, CRTC? CRTC received thousands of letters supporting net neutrality in Canada, and Google Inc. even stepped in in July, arguing that “[n]etwork management does not include Canadian carriers’ blocking or degrading lawful applications that consumers wish to use.”

The decision today doesn’t necessarily mean that retail subscribers will face super-stiff throttling practices, but it still feels disappointing. It was only based on an investigation of whether or not Bell’s regulation of bandwidth for its wholesale customers was discriminatory. The CRTC announced that they would be opening a new probe on the larger issue of throttling in general, but it probably won’t be concluded until 2010. The first public hearing will be held in June 2009. If you want to voice an opinion directly to the CRTC, interested parties are invited to submit comments up to February 16, 2009.

“The broader issue of internet traffic management raises a number of questions that affect both end-users and service providers,” said, CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein said. “We have decided to hold a separate proceeding to consider both wholesale and retail issues. Its main purpose will be to address the extent to which internet service providers can manage the traffic on their networks in accordance with the Telecommunications Act.”

Von Finckenstein’s quote doesn’t sound all that hopeful for Canadian consumers, seeing as how he has already determined that ‘managing traffic’ is a-ok, and it is just a question of how much is too much. Some are trying to look on the bright side though: “Though we’re disappointed with the outcome of this proceeding, we’re pleased the CRTC are looking at how to best keep the internet open, an important public policy issue for the future of the internet worldwide,” said Jacob Glick, policy counsel for Google Canada.

In August, the FCC ruled against Comcast’s decision to slow p2p traffic, calling it “invasive and outright discriminatory.”