Canadian regulator allows ISP "traffic shaping"

Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:34am EDT
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By Etan Vlessing

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - Canada's TV regulator dealt a blow Wednesday to network neutrality -- the concept calling for Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all Web content the same with regard to transmission speed -- by upholding the right of domestic ISPs to control online content and traffic.

In a much-awaited ruling, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said major phone and cable giants can employ controversial "traffic-shaping" practices to manage the flow of Internet content on their networks, but must tell subscribers when and how they are doing so. The landmark CRTC decision comes as the Federal Communications Commission in Washington prepares to vote Thursday on proposed network neutrality rules that will codify how much control U.S.-based ISPs have over online traffic.

In its Canadian market ruling, the CRTC ordered the ISPs to give notice to subscribers of efforts to "throttle," or slow down, Internet traffic. And they must shape Internet traffic only when necessary, after employing "economic measures" that include upgrading networks to ease congestion and usage limits.

"Technical means to manage traffic, such as traffic shaping, should only be employed as a last resort," the CRTC told ISPs in its ruling.

CRTC critics view rulings or policies that allow ISPs to slow down Internet traffic, charge subscribers for how much bandwidth they use or offer discounts for off-peak usage as violating the principal of network neutrality, where all Internet traffic is treated equally.

But the regulator defended the use of traffic shaping by ISPs to ensure continued innovation.

"Canada is the first country to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to Internet traffic management practices," CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said in a statement.

"The centerpiece of our approach is a framework of analysis that will be employed to determine whether economic and technical practices are acceptable," he added.   Continued...