Home > crtc, internet, net neutrality > The farce that is net neutrality in Canada

The farce that is net neutrality in Canada

Friday represented the second anniversary of the establishment of so-called net neutrality rules in Canada, which were directives issued by the CRTC to prevent service providers from unduly discriminating against content, uses and applications of the internet. Two years on, it’s pretty clear the rules - which the regulator has touted as world leading - aren’t worth the paper (or digital bytes) they’re printed on.

Internet advocates have found the CRTC’s net neutrality framework to be wanting. Back in July, University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist uncovered a systemic failure by the regulator to enforce the rules despite numerous violations by most of Canada’s big ISPs.

The anecdotes explain it. Despite months of back and forth, including a dismissal of a complaint from a group of gamers by the regulator, cable provider Rogers is still slowing down perfectly legitimate uses of the internet, namely the World of Warcraft online game. The game makers themselves are starting to publicly bristle at this. If anything, the ongoing case proves the CRTC’s net neutrality rules are just a bunch of huffery and puffery, with no real teeth behind them.

The numbers confirm it. According to results released last week by researchers using M-Labs, a project started by Google a few years ago that lets internet users keep tabs on how their connections are being throttled, Canada has some of the highest prevalence of throttling in the world. In an accompanying essay, one of the investigators explains that Canada’s rate of throttling is triple that of the United States, which doesn’t even have net neutrality rules.

Open Media, the advocate group that most vocally opposes net neutrality violations, celebrated Canada’s rules and unfortunately regurgitated some of the CRTC’s self-congratulatory rhetoric in a release:

On October 21, 2009, open internet supporters breathed a sigh of relief. Big telecom companies had been caught red-handed restricting access to online services, and the pro-internet community responded and prevailed. This victory brought Canada some of the strongest internet openness (net neutrality) safeguards in the world.

The group did acknowledge that Canadians are still fighting to get the rules enforced, but until that happens, it’s way to early for anyone to declare or celebrate victory. While a group such as Open Media has to sound positive in order to give its supporters hope that they are making progress, there are no two ways about it - for the past two years, net neutrality has been an abject failure in Canada.

Categories: crtc, internet, net neutrality
  1. October 24, 2011 at 11:03 am | #1

    AFAIK, the concept of net neutrality deals primarily with ISPs not interfering with services on the web in such a way that their own service or those of preferred partners become more appealing. While traffic throttling is frustrating to be sure, *if* it’s done as a means of managing network bandwidth - and I’m not suggesting that this the case in all instances of throttling - it’s not a violation of net neutrality. The question really is, especially in the case of WoW, is this throttling a network management necessity, and if not, what’s the reason for it? Who stands to profit from this?

    • October 24, 2011 at 11:07 am | #2

      Sorry, should have mentioned that ISPs are saying the throttling is necessary to prevent congestion while critics charge it is in fact to limit BitTorrent, which regardless of its legal status is a competitor. I’m sure no one wants to be throttling WoW or any other game, but it’s looking like those instances are collateral damage in the war on BitTorrent. So yup, it’s a pretty heavy net neutrality violation.

      • October 26, 2011 at 9:51 am | #3

        I don’t buy the argument that BitTorrent throttling is a net neutrality issue so long as the ISP can prove that there is a QoS reason for the throttling in the first place. Many ISPs eliminate the throttle on BT during non-peak hours when demand subsides. They reckon (and I tend to agree) that it’s more important for Skype and other real-time apps to work flawlessly than for you to get your file download immediately. I can wait overnight ;-)

    • Patricia
      October 24, 2011 at 9:13 pm | #4

      Gaming is in indirect competition to the media companies — people gaming are not watching TV. I daresay they also want to establish throttling as common.

      • October 26, 2011 at 9:46 am | #5

        That’s some pretty weird logic. You’re saying that a company like Rogers would intentionally undermine the performance of gaming connections on their internet service as a way to get gamers to say “this gaming sucks, I’m gonna watch more TV” ? I think the much more likely outcome is that the gamer just switches ISPs. You can bring a horse to water…

  2. Serge
    October 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm | #6

    Hey, remember when Comcast paid $500,000 to the U.S. government, which doesn’t have net neutrality rules, for net neutrality violations? Good times.

  3. Myles
    October 25, 2011 at 3:48 am | #7

    Well said, Pete!

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