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net neutrality

FCC To Punish Comcast Over Traffic Shaping

The FCC reportedly stands ready to punish Comcast for its "network management" practices, a decision that may bolster the prospect of CRTC action against Canadian providers who engage in similar traffic shaping.

Google Responds to the CRTC Throttling Case

The CBC reports on some of the responses to the CRTC's throttling case between Bell and CAIP, with Google among those coming out strongly against Bell's position.

SaveOurNet.ca Launches Fundraising Campaign

SaveOurNet.ca, which is focused on net neutrality, has just launched a new campaign

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NTT To Impose Upload Broadband Limits

NTT, a leading Japanese ISP, plans to establish a new daily upload limit for subscribers.  The limit?  30 gigabytes per day.  There is no cap on downloads.

Bell's Congestion "Problem"

Bell files its congestion data as demanded by the CRTC.  The data suggests no congestion problems for at least 95 percent of the network in Ontario and Quebec.

Wednesday June 18, 2008
CRTC Raises Prospect of Major Net Neutrality Consultation
One year ago, the telecommunications companies were seeking to downplay the importance of net neutrality.  It would appear that the CRTC is not buying that anymore.  In a speech to the 2008 Canadian Telecom Summit, CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein had the following to say about the issue: Another issue of increasing importance is net neutrality.

On April 3, the Canadian Association of Internet Providers - CAIP - asked the Commission to issue a cease-and-desist order to Bell Canada. It would direct Bell to stop the practice of traffic shaping on its wholesale broadband access services. The members of CAIP buy these tariffed services from Bell to enable them to serve their own Internet customers. Traffic shaping is the slowing down or “throttling” of Net activity. CAIP said that this practice by Bell was interfering with its members' ability to serve their customers. As part of its application, CAIP asked for interim relief in an order that would require Bell to immediately stop throttling its Gateway Access Service.

On May 14, after receiving further submissions, we denied CAIP's request for interim relief. We determined that they had failed to show that their members would suffer irreparable harm without that relief. Since then we have asked for, and received, more specific information from CAIP and Bell. We expect to deliver our final decision on CAIP's application in the fall.

We are currently addressing the traffic-shaping issue in the context of Bell's wholesale broadband access tariff. But this particular dispute is just the tip of the iceberg. Under the heading of “net neutrality” lies a whole range of questions affecting consumers and service providers. Fundamental issues of technology, economics, competition, access and freedom of speech are all involved. Here are some of them.

Access to content or services


For example:

  • Blocking of services or websites.
  • Preferential treatment for certain content providers.
  • Modification of content.

Carriage-related issues

For example:

  • A review of limitations on which devices can be connected to the networks of different providers.
  • Disclosure by ISPs to ensure transparency in their service agreements with consumers. This would cover issues such as network management and speed.

And there are also privacy concerns. In the coming year, we will continue to study the issues surrounding net neutrality. This process could evolve into a major public consultation in order to obtain the views of interested parties. It is one of the polarizing issues of the day. It will have to be addressed and debated by all of us.

The CRTC Chair has put all the issues on the table - shaping, blocking, preferential treatment, open access, and transparency - while raising the prospect of a major public consultation on the issue.  This could represent a major step toward addressing the Canadian net neutrality concerns.

crtc on net neutrality

One year ago, the telecommunications companies were seeking to downplay the importance of net neutrality.  It would appear that the CRTC is not buying that anymore.  In a speech to the 2008 Canadian Telecom Summit, CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein had the following to say about the issue:

Another issue of increasing importance is net neutrality.

Apple iTunes to Offer Downloadable Movies in Canada

Apple has announced plans to offer downloadable movies in the Canadian market. The development points to the two big policy issues of the moment - first, will these downloaded movies face ISP throttling in light of the competition with ISP's own video-on-demand services? Second, why does Industry Minister Jim Prentice insist that a Canadian DMCA is needed to facilitate new business models in Canada when the market seems quite willing to do so without legislative intervention?

Tuesday June 3, 2008
Digital Advocacy Comes to Parliament Hill
Last week, hundreds of Canadians descended on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for a public rally in support of net neutrality, a contentious issue that focuses on the need for Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all content and applications in an equal, non-discriminatory manner.  The event succeeded in attracting politicians from two major political parties, labour leaders, independent ISPs, and individuals concerned with the Internet in Canada.  My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, Ottawa Citizen version, Vancouver Sun version, homepage version) notes that while it is tempting to view the rally as an anomaly, it is more accurately seen as just the latest in a series of advocacy actions around the world that illustrate both how digital issues are rapidly moving into the policy mainstream and how the Internet can be used to mobilize offline advocacy.

The mounting interest in digital issues such as net neutrality comes as the online environment weaves its way into the fabric of the daily lives of millions of Canadians. Whether for education, entertainment, communication, or commerce, the demographic data demonstrates that an ever-increasing percentage of the population is either "born digital" or has been "raised digital."

In Canada, five and a half million people (17 percent of the population) were born after Netscape launched its first web browser in 1994.  While these Canadians are not yet eligible to vote, there is another very large cohort that is - the additional seven million Canadians (20.5 percent of the population) who were under the age of 15 when Netscape debuted. Putting this into perspective, it is no exaggeration to say that nearly 40 percent of the Canadian population can scarcely recall a world without the Internet and that this group unsurprisingly views digital issues as important.

Not only is the Internet increasingly the focus of policy advocacy, but it also serves as the platform to enable such advocacy.  For example, the net neutrality rally was promoted online through a Facebook group and a website dedicated to the event. Event participants also established mobile Internet connectivity on the grounds of Parliament Hill so that attendees could quickly post news and photos of the rally online. Indeed, the use of Facebook in rally planning has become the defacto standard in Canada. With more than seven million Canadian users, the social network is a proven tool for rapidly bringing together tens of thousands of Canadians.  Facebook users may find one another online, yet they often use it to organize offline activities ranging from local meetups to large rallies.

The link between online and offline advocacy is not limited to Canada.  Earlier this year, opponents of the FARC, the longtime Colombian rebel group, established a Facebook group to voice their opposition.  The group garnered 250,000 members in just one month, leading to offline protests in 185 cities around the world.  Similarly, Egyptian activists used Facebook in early April to galvanize labour strikes in cities throughout the country.

When combined with the plethora of other Internet-based tools - sites like Ushahidi.com that uses Google Maps to catalog incidents of violence in Kenya, political videos on YouTube that spread virally to millions of people, and instant messaging services such as Twitter that can quickly inform protesters about events in real-time - last week’s net neutrality rally in Ottawa provided yet another sign that the age of effective digital advocacy is here.

digital advocacy

Last week, hundreds of Canadians descended on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for a public rally in support of net neutrality, a contentious issue that focuses on the need for Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all content and applications in an equal, non-discriminatory manner.  The event succeeded in attracting politicians from two major political parties, labour leaders, independent ISPs, and individuals concerned with the Internet in Canada.  My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, Ottawa Citizen version, Vancouver Sun version, homepage version) notes that while it is tempting to view the rally as an anomaly, it is more accurately seen as just the latest in a series of advocacy actions around the world that illustrate both how digital issues are rapidly moving into the policy mainstream and how the Internet can be used to mobilize offline advocacy.

Digital Advocacy Comes to Parliament Hill

Teaser: 
Appeared in the Toronto Star on June 2, 2008 as Internet Matures as Tool For Political Advocacy Appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on June 3, 2008 as Facebook Helps Digital Advocates Hook Up on Parliament Hill Appeared in the Vancouver Sun on June 3, 2008 as Digital Advocacy Comes to Parliament Hill Last week, hundreds of Canadians descended on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for a public rally in support of net neutrality, a contentious issue that focuses on the need for Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all content and applications in an equal, non-discriminatory manner.  The event succeeded in attracting politicians from two major political parties, labour leaders, independent ISPs, and individuals concerned with the Internet in Canada.   While it is tempting to view the rally as an anomaly, it is more accurately seen as just the latest in a series of advocacy actions around the world that illustrate both how digital issues are rapidly moving into the policy mainstream and how the Internet can be used to mobilize offline advocacy. The mounting interest in digital issues such as net neutrality comes as the online environment weaves its way into the fabric of the daily lives of millions of Canadians. Whether for education, entertainment, communication, or commerce, the demographic data demonstrates that an ever-increasing percentage of the population is either "born digital" or has been "raised digital." In Canada, five and a half million people (17 percent of the population) were born after Netscape launched its first web browser in 1994.  While these Canadians are not yet eligible to vote, there is another very large cohort that is - the additional seven million Canadians (20.5 percent of the population) who were under the age of 15 when Netscape debuted. Putting this into perspective, it is no exaggeration to say that nearly 40 percent of the Canadian population can scarcely recall a world without the Internet and that this group unsurprisingly views digital issues as important. Not only is the Internet increasingly the focus of policy advocacy, but it also serves as the platform to enable such advocacy.  For example, the net neutrality rally was promoted online through a Facebook group and a website dedicated to the event. Event participants also established mobile Internet connectivity on the grounds of Parliament Hill so that attendees could quickly post news and photos of the rally online. Indeed, the use of Facebook in rally planning has become the defacto standard in Canada. With more than seven million Canadian users, the social network is a proven tool for rapidly bringing together tens of thousands of Canadians.  Facebook users may find one another online, yet they often use it to organize offline activities ranging from local meetups to large rallies. The link between online and offline advocacy is not limited to Canada.  Earlier this year, opponents of the FARC, the longtime Colombian rebel group, established a Facebook group to voice their opposition.  The group garnered 250,000 members in just one month, leading to offline protests in 185 cities around the world.  Similarly, Egyptian activists used Facebook in early April to galvanize labour strikes in cities throughout the country. When combined with the plethora of other Internet-based tools - sites like Ushahidi.com that uses Google Maps to catalog incidents of violence in Kenya, political videos on YouTube that spread virally to millions of people, and instant messaging services such as Twitter that can quickly inform protesters about events in real-time - last week’s net neutrality rally in Ottawa provided yet another sign that the age of effective digital advocacy is here. Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He was listed as a supporter of the net neutrality rally.  He can reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.
Date Published: 
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Publisher: 
Ottawa Citizen / Canada.com
Description: 
digital advocacy column

Bell Files Response in CRTC Throttling Case

Bell has filed its response to the CRTC's questions regarding its throttling practices.  The public documents have confidential and sensitive data removed.

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