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Sunday July 5, 2009
The Angus Net Neutrality Bill
NDP MP Charlie Angus introduced his private member's net neutrality bill in the House of Commons this afternoon. The short bill seeks to add transparency, neutral network management, and open devices to the Canadian telecom law framework: Network operators shall not engage in network management practices that favour, degrade or prioritize any content, application or service transmitted over a broadband network based on their source, ownership or destination. The bill includes several notable exceptions to this general principle, including action to provide computer security, prioritize emergency communications, offer differentiated pricing or bit caps, anti-spam filters, handle breaches in terms of service, and to prevent violation of the law. The bill also focuses on open devices and greater transparency. It provides that "network operators shall not prevent or obstruct a user from attaching any device to their network, provided the device does not physically damage the network or unreasonably degrade the use of the network by other subscribers." Further, it requires that "network operators shall provide and make available to each user information about the user’s access to the Internet, including the speed, nature, and limitations of the user's broadband service at any given time." The bill is hardly the "regulate the Internet" approach anti-net neutrality advocates would suggest, but rather is a measured response that deserves broad support.
angus net neutrality bill

NDP MP Charlie Angus introduced his private member's net neutrality bill in the House of Commons this afternoon. The short bill seeks to add transparency, neutral network management, and open devices to the Canadian telecom law framework:

Network operators shall not engage in network management practices that favour, degrade or prioritize any content, application or service transmitted over a broadband network based on their source, ownership or destination.

The bill includes several notable exceptions to this general principle, including action to provide computer security, prioritize emergency communications, offer differentiated pricing or bit caps, anti-spam filters, handle breaches in terms of service, and to prevent violation of the law.

The bill also focuses on open devices and greater transparency. It provides that "network operators shall not prevent or obstruct a user from attaching any device to their network, provided the device does not physically damage the network or unreasonably degrade the use of the network by other subscribers." Further, it requires that "network operators shall provide and make available to each user information about the user’s access to the Internet, including the speed, nature, and limitations of the user's broadband service at any given time." The bill is hardly the "regulate the Internet" approach anti-net neutrality advocates would suggest, but rather is a measured response that deserves broad support.

Friday June 26, 2009
Rogers Again Injects Web Pages With Its Own Content
Canadian Internet watchers may recall a controversy in late 2007 when Rogers began experimenting with adding its own content to webpages that its subscribers visit. The company used the technology to alert customers about their data usage. Google was one of the targets of the experiments and the company reacted angrily: We are concerned about these reports. As a general principle, we believe that maintaining the Internet as a neutral platform means that carriers shouldn't be able to interfere with Web content without users' permission. We are in the process of contacting the relevant parties to bring this to a quick resolution. According to one of my blog readers, the Rogers content substitution approach is back. The image below shows Rogers warning a customer about the expiry of some parental controls. The warning is included in a Flickr page. This approach again raises concerns about Rogers interfering with the delivery of content without permission of the end user. When combined with its ongoing policy of redirecting web pages that do not resolve to a company-sponsored paid search page, Rogers own content seems to show up unasked on a regular basis.   From Net Neutrality
rogers injecting sites

Canadian Internet watchers may recall a controversy in late 2007 when Rogers began experimenting with adding its own content to webpages that its subscribers visit. The company used the technology to alert customers about their data usage. Google was one of the targets of the experiments and the company reacted angrily:

We are concerned about these reports. As a general principle, we believe that maintaining the Internet as a neutral platform means that carriers shouldn't be able to interfere with Web content without users' permission. We are in the process of contacting the relevant parties to bring this to a quick resolution.

According to one of my blog readers, the Rogers content substitution approach is back. The image below shows Rogers warning a customer about the expiry of some parental controls. The warning is included in a Flickr page. This approach again raises concerns about Rogers interfering with the delivery of content without permission of the end user. When combined with its ongoing policy of redirecting web pages that do not resolve to a company-sponsored paid search page, Rogers own content seems to show up unasked on a regular basis.

 

From Net Neutrality
Friday June 19, 2009
Liberals Take A Stand For Net Neutrality
Yesterday's Question Period featured an unexpected and welcome surprise - the federal Liberal Party has expressed its support for net neutrality. Industry critic Marc Garneau rose on the floor of the House of Commons and asked (video version here): Mr. Speaker, in a free and open democracy in the 21st century, in an innovative and progressive knowledge economy, no tool is more paramount than the Internet. The Internet is the backbone of today's flow of free ideas and sharing. My party, the Liberal Party, supports the principle of net neutrality and an open and competitive Internet environment. Do the Conservatives support the principle of net neutrality? Minister Clement responded by pointing to his digital economy strategy conference next week, but did not take a position on the issue. Sources say that the official Liberal position is that: "Internet traffic management should not be permitted for anti-competitive behaviour, nor should it target specific websites, users or legitimate business applications. The Liberal Party will also continue to ensure internet management does not infringe on Canadians privacy rights." This marks a critically important development for net neutrality in Canada just weeks before the CRTC hearings on network management. With two major parties - Liberals and NDP - now standing squarely in favour of protecting an open Internet, pressure is likely to build on the Conservatives to take a position, particularly given the growing emphasis on developing a national digital strategy for Canada. Update: The official Liberal press release on the issue is here
liberal position on net neutrality

Yesterday's Question Period featured an unexpected and welcome surprise - the federal Liberal Party has expressed its support for net neutrality. Industry critic Marc Garneau rose on the floor of the House of Commons and asked (video version here):

Mr. Speaker, in a free and open democracy in the 21st century, in an innovative and progressive knowledge economy, no tool is more paramount than the Internet. The Internet is the backbone of today's flow of free ideas and sharing. My party, the Liberal Party, supports the principle of net neutrality and an open and competitive Internet environment. Do the Conservatives support the principle of net neutrality?

Minister Clement responded by pointing to his digital economy strategy conference next week, but did not take a position on the issue. Sources say that the official Liberal position is that:

"Internet traffic management should not be permitted for anti-competitive behaviour, nor should it target specific websites, users or legitimate business applications. The Liberal Party will also continue to ensure internet management does not infringe on Canadians privacy rights."

This marks a critically important development for net neutrality in Canada just weeks before the CRTC hearings on network management. With two major parties - Liberals and NDP - now standing squarely in favour of protecting an open Internet, pressure is likely to build on the Conservatives to take a position, particularly given the growing emphasis on developing a national digital strategy for Canada.

Update: The official Liberal press release on the issue is here

Thursday May 21, 2009
CAIP Calls on CRTC To Reverse Bell Throttling Decision
The Canadian Association of Internet Providers has filed an application with the CRTC that calls on the Commission to rescind its November 2008 Bell throttling decision. The application alleges multiple errors of fact and law in the decision and points specifically to the CRTC's lack of a full understanding of the issues raised in the proceeding. CAIP argues that the CRTC specifically launched the larger net neutrality proceeding this summer in order to gain that fuller understanding, but argues that A broader proceeding in order to understand the complex issues raised in the CAIP application is a perfectly acceptable and responsible means of developing a thoughtful policy approach and decision on network management. What is entirely unfair and unacceptable, however, is the fact that the Commission rendered Decision 2008-108 without the benefit of a comprehensive understanding of the factual, legal and policy issues at play. In particular, if the Commission did not believe that it had an adequate evidentiary record or did not have a full understanding of the factual and legal issues raised by Bell's throttling of wholesale GAS services to be able to determine in an unqualified and final manner the issues raised in the CAIP proceeding, then it was procedurally unfair for the Commission to have rendered a decision on CAIP's application. Moreover, CAIP highlights a concern raised by many in the net neutrality world - that the CRTC has already decided many of the bigger issues even before the July hearings begin. CAIP notes that:

in effect, the Commission has pre-judged certain factual and legal issues raised in the PN 2008-19 proceeding, thereby narrowing the scope of the Commission's decision in the PN 2008-19 proceeding even before it is made. As long as Decision 2008-108 stands, the perception that the Commission has pre-judged the outcome of PN 2008-19 on the key issue of the legality of CAP-based throttling pursuant to subsection 27(2) and section 36 of the Act will persist.

The application continues with specific examples of error in fact and law.  These include errors in fact on P2P activities and the use of deep packet inspection as well as numerous errors in law, particularly in the way the CRTC interpreted sections 27(2) and 36 of the Telecommunications Act.  The CAIP application comes as a surprise given that most of the attention had moved to this summer's net neutrality hearings and places the CRTC on the defensive just weeks before those hearings are scheduled to take place.

crtc caip appeal

The Canadian Association of Internet Providers has filed an application with the CRTC that calls on the Commission to rescind its November 2008 Bell throttling decision. The application alleges multiple errors of fact and law in the decision and points specifically to the CRTC's lack of a full understanding of the issues raised in the proceeding. CAIP argues that the CRTC specifically launched the larger net neutrality proceeding this summer in order to gain that fuller understanding, but argues that

A broader proceeding in order to understand the complex issues raised in the CAIP application is a perfectly acceptable and responsible means of developing a thoughtful policy approach and decision on network management. What is entirely unfair and unacceptable, however, is the fact that the Commission rendered Decision 2008-108 without the benefit of a comprehensive understanding of the factual, legal and policy issues at play. In particular, if the Commission did not believe that it had an adequate evidentiary record or did not have a full understanding of the factual and legal issues raised by Bell's throttling of wholesale GAS services to be able to determine in an unqualified and final manner the issues raised in the CAIP proceeding, then it was procedurally unfair for the Commission to have rendered a decision on CAIP's application.

Moreover, CAIP highlights a concern raised by many in the net neutrality world - that the CRTC has already decided many of the bigger issues even before the July hearings begin. CAIP notes that:

Wednesday May 13, 2009
U.S. and Europe Talking Tougher on Net Neutrality
Officials in the U.S. and Europe are talking tougher on net neutrality.  FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz has said that his Commission may start enforcing net neutrality rules and take action against bad network management practices.  Meanwhile, European Commissioner Viviane Reding has told a conference that net neutrality is essential.
net neutrality in us and eu

Officials in the U.S. and Europe are talking tougher on net neutrality.  FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz has said that his Commission may start enforcing net neutrality rules and take action against bad network management practices.  Meanwhile, European Commissioner Viviane Reding has told a conference that net neutrality is essential.

Thursday February 26, 2009
Quebecor Opens Door to Canadian Three Strikes Policy
The CRTC's net neutrality hearing submissions have generated several comments that link net neutrality with copyright.  As noted yesterday, CIRPA believes that content blocking of P2P sites should be considered.  Quebecor, which owns Videotron, a leading Quebec ISP, goes even further.  While ISPs in countries such as New Zealand are pushing back against "graduated response" policies that would create a three strikes and you're out policy terminating subscribers based on unproven allegations of copyright infringement, Quebecor argues that CRTC network management policies should account for the possibility of a Canadian three strikes model. The Quebecor submission [zip] includes the following: Certains participants à la présente instance ont déjà fait état de situations où le contrôle de contenus peut être bénéfique non seulement pour les utilisateurs de services Internet mais pour la société en général.  On peut penser au contrôle des pourriels et des virus, ou à la pornographie infantile.  À cette liste pourrait éventuellement s’ajouter des mesures de protection du droit d’auteur pouvant possiblement s’inspirer des modèles de riposte graduée déjà adoptés dans d’autres pays occidentaux. Translated, Quebecor argues in favour of certain instances of ISPs controlling content, including anti-spam or child pornography blocking.  Moreover, it suggests that copyright policies that build upon the graduated response policies in other countries should be added to the list of content controls that benefit society.  The Quebecor submission achieves a remarkable combination - arguing against net neutrality and for a three strikes approach that would terminate its own subscribers.  That any ISP could demonstrate such hostility toward its own customers provides a clear indicator of the utter lack of broadband competition in Canada and serves as a warning that the New Zealand fight could eventually make its way here.
quebecor three strikes
The CRTC's net neutrality hearing submissions have generated several comments that link net neutrality with copyright.  As noted yesterday, CIRPA believes that content blocking of P2P sites should be considered.  Quebecor, which owns Videotron, a leading Quebec ISP, goes even further.  While ISPs in countries such as New Zealand are pushing back against "graduated response" policies that would create a three strikes and you're out policy terminating subscribers based on unproven allegations of copyright infringement, Quebecor argues that CRTC network management policies should account for the possibility of a Canadian three strikes model.

The Quebecor submission [zip] includes the following:

Certains participants à la présente instance ont déjà fait état de situations où le contrôle de contenus peut être bénéfique non seulement pour les utilisateurs de services Internet mais pour la société en général.  On peut penser au contrôle des pourriels et des virus, ou à la pornographie infantile.  À cette liste pourrait éventuellement s’ajouter des mesures de protection du droit d’auteur pouvant possiblement s’inspirer des modèles de riposte graduée déjà adoptés dans d’autres pays occidentaux.

Translated, Quebecor argues in favour of certain instances of ISPs controlling content, including anti-spam or child pornography blocking.  Moreover, it suggests that copyright policies that build upon the graduated response policies in other countries should be added to the list of content controls that benefit society. 

The Quebecor submission achieves a remarkable combination - arguing against net neutrality and for a three strikes approach that would terminate its own subscribers.  That any ISP could demonstrate such hostility toward its own customers provides a clear indicator of the utter lack of broadband competition in Canada and serves as a warning that the New Zealand fight could eventually make its way here.
Monday February 23, 2009
Privacy Commissioner Enters Net Neutrality Fray
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has entered the net neutrality debate with a submission to the CRTC network management hearing on the privacy implications of network management that uses deep packet inspection technologies (hat tip: P2PNet).  The submission notes concerns with several uses of DPI, including scanning Internet traffic for certain content such as spam, copyright infringing materials, and hate content as well as for monitoring traffic loads to measure network performance.  The Commissioner expresses the need to factor privacy into the network management issue, stating that: "We respectfully submit that in order to advance the privacy objectives contained in the Act, telecommunications policy, decisions and regulation with respect to Internet traffic management practices in general, and DPI specifically, should consider the potentially invasive nature of DPI technology, and the manner in which it has been implemented by ISPs." With regard to the Canadian ISP use of DPI, the Commissioner pulls no punches: "There is concern that the implementation of DPI for Internet traffic management has been done in a manner that is less than transparent and potentially inconsistent with an individual's/consumer's expectations. There has been soem evidence in a number of jurisdictions suggesting that such technology has been used for 'unreasonable network management practices.'"
privacy commissioner on net neutrality
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has entered the net neutrality debate with a submission to the CRTC network management hearing on the privacy implications of network management that uses deep packet inspection technologies (hat tip: P2PNet).  The submission notes concerns with several uses of DPI, including scanning Internet traffic for certain content such as spam, copyright infringing materials, and hate content as well as for monitoring traffic loads to measure network performance.  The Commissioner expresses the need to factor privacy into the network management issue, stating that:

"We respectfully submit that in order to advance the privacy objectives contained in the Act, telecommunications policy, decisions and regulation with respect to Internet traffic management practices in general, and DPI specifically, should consider the potentially invasive nature of DPI technology, and the manner in which it has been implemented by ISPs."

With regard to the Canadian ISP use of DPI, the Commissioner pulls no punches:

"There is concern that the implementation of DPI for Internet traffic management has been done in a manner that is less than transparent and potentially inconsistent with an individual's/consumer's expectations. There has been soem evidence in a number of jurisdictions suggesting that such technology has been used for 'unreasonable network management practices.'"
Tuesday February 17, 2009
Rogers - "We're A Dumb Pipe"
Net neutrality is frequently re-characterized as "network management," with ISPs arguing that they should be able to manage their networks in a manner that distinguishes between certain applications (and potentially content).  Funny, though, what happens when groups ask that the same network management tools be used for alternate purposes such as Canadian content rules.  When that happens, Rogers, the same ISP that acknowledges traffic shaping,  now says "We're a dumb pipe. We don't know what you're downloading . . . so how can we be responsible for the content?"  In other words, when Rogers appears before the CRTC during the new media proceeding it runs a "dumb pipe."  When it returns several months later for the network management proceeding, it runs a smart pipe engaged in deep packet inspection to identify the traffic on its network.  
rogers net neutrality
Net neutrality is frequently re-characterized as "network management," with ISPs arguing that they should be able to manage their networks in a manner that distinguishes between certain applications (and potentially content).  Funny, though, what happens when groups ask that the same network management tools be used for alternate purposes such as Canadian content rules.  When that happens, Rogers, the same ISP that acknowledges traffic shaping,  now says "We're a dumb pipe. We don't know what you're downloading . . . so how can we be responsible for the content?"  In other words, when Rogers appears before the CRTC during the new media proceeding it runs a "dumb pipe."  When it returns several months later for the network management proceeding, it runs a smart pipe engaged in deep packet inspection to identify the traffic on its network.  
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