Friday, November 21, 2008

The CRTC, Bell and Canada's broken Internet

For those here in Canada who have not been paying attention, Bell Canada, along with Rogers have started screwing with our internet. Both Bell and Rogers monitor what you do on the internet, and based on that monitoring, shape your bandwidth based on weather you are doing something they deem appropriate.

Now Bell and Rogers are free to do this for the moment. However, CAIP, a group representing Canadas independant ISPs began having their connections throttled by Bell earlier this year. Keep in mind that most of these ISPs do not simply resell Bells services. They only lease the last mile. The actual copper line going from the switching station to your home. At the point of the switching station, the connection is wholly run by the ISP. These independent ISPs are not having a problem with bandwidth in any way. But Bell claims that these switching stations (specifically, the DSLAM hardware) are being saturated, and that they are forced to degrade service for "bandwidth hogs".

So CAIP earlier this year complained to the CRTC that this practice was in fact illegal. It took the CRTC 7 months to reject this complaint. Now, 7 months is a VERY long time on the Internet. It's been an incredibly frustrating time to have your 500kb/s + connection degraded to 60k (or worse) because you happen to be using an application that Bell doesn't like. The gist of the CRTC decision is that there is no discrimination against the independent ISPs since Bell does the same thing to it's own customers under the Sympatico brand.

The CRTC made some major errors in it's decision.

  1. The CRTC claimed that Bell is not actually monitoring the connection in any way that infringes on privacy. This is untrue because the very nature of the technology requires the connection to be analyzed. In fact the CRTC contradicts itself in ti's response by claiming later that bell does in fact inspect every packet.

  2. The response stated that Bell had to do this because of congestion. Bells proof of this congestion was submitted as part of this process and made publicly available (sorry, can't find the link right now). This document was made as confusing as possible. But the gist of it was that maybe a couple of it's DSLAMS was congested 0.1% of the time during one or two 4 hour monitoring periods. In other words they proved nothing. I doubt the CRTC spent any time actually reading this document or if they did, didn't understand it.

  3. Lastly, the CRTC is harming innovation and competition in Canada. With this decision, not only will Bell (and of course Rogers) continue to limit what people can do on the internet by application, they are about to limit what people can do per month. Starting January of 2009, Bell will be limiting the total bandwitdh usage of it's resellers as well to 60GB. This is especially ridiculous when you consider that the bandwidth usage has nothing to do with Bell as it's the ISP you're with that has to pay for it. I'm sure Bell will come up with some way to make the CRTC see their view, and after all, Bell does that to it's own subscribers. Now I have no problem paying for my usage. In fact, my current connection is capped at 200GB. But that I believe is reasonable. And that is only a temporary reasonableness for todays applications and media.

That last point is the major one for me.
Currently Bell does not allow P2P applications, and caps their users to 60GB transfer (for most of their offerings). That's almost reasonable for the average user, today. Now. And that's the problem. This is the Internet. This is technology. Think about how far we've come in the last decade. Just imagine what we'll be doing on the internet in another decade? Well, at least the rest of the world will. We'll be stuck in this decade.

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