Home > Bell, CRTC, Digital Policy, net neutrality, Rogers > Major Net Neutrality Policy Debate Looming At The CRTC

Major Net Neutrality Policy Debate Looming At The CRTC

In the past four years there have been three substantial abuses of the CRTC’s net neutrality guidelines and the use of Internet Traffic Management Practices (ITMPs).  Rogers has been caught throttling all connections, Bell has been caught giving priority bandwidth to it’s own content, and now Bell is being called on by The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) over using traffic management systems like deep packet inspection (DPI) to track users online.  All of which are against the CRTC’s net neutrality policy.

Rogers has been given a slap on the wrist with respect to throttling all traffic using DPI.  Bell interestingly got a reprieve from the CRTC on giving priority traffic of it’s owned content when the CRTC suspended a part one application (meant to change the net neutrality rules to stop Bell) that arose from Ben Klass on the issue.  Another complaint today based on privacy was filed by PIAC today based around privacy issues of Bell’s use of DPI systems.  Over the past few months it’s starting to become quite clear that the big telecom providers are effectively testing out the waters of new business models, but also putting the test to the CRTC’s net neutrality rules.

I’ve been monitoring the situation around Ben Klass’s part one application. The pieces to the puzzle seem to be pointing to an inevitable direction.  There has been a bit of a spat between Klass and PIAC at the CRTC regarding how to handle Klass’s complaint on Bell giving priority to its own content over others.  Basically Klass has been calling for a broad review of the CRTC’s net neutrality policy based on his findings.  PIAC on the other hand has been mulling over it’s position, first calling for a more targeted approach to net neutrality policy, then to a broader one, which was rejected by the CRTC.  The Klass part one application has now been suspended by the CRTC for the past few weeks.

What seemed to some policy wonks as being an over the top greedy move by PIAC to get involved in Klass’s application, may be in fact that PIAC doesn’t want to spark a net neutrality debate at the CRTC due to what has happened over net neutrality in the US.  US courts have recently overruled the FCC on net neutrality issues, essentially meaning that net neutrality is a thing of the past in the US for now.  In my experience in dealing with these net neutrality issues in Canada,  I can tell you the US situation is on a lot of peoples minds who deal with public policy here in this country.

With ISPs now becoming blatant with their disregard for net neutrality policy and privacy issues, it becomes one major issue over enforcement.  A broad overview in setting up a compliance regime is now needed.  There’s no getting around this.  The CRTC may be in fact recognizing the situation in suspending Klass’s application. PIAC’s recent privacy complaints around net neutrality policy may be a probe to see exactly where the CRTC is on this issue.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the CRTC come out over the next few weeks with a major consultation announcement on reviewing it’s net neutrality policy, thus closing the Klass part one application (or granting a broader review) and quite possibly the PIAC privacy complaint punted to the privacy commissioner for enforcement while these issues are brought up in more of a consultation setting.

In dealing with Rogers, I know that very little happens in the form of enforcement around net neutrality.  Rogers basically got a slap on the wrist for throttling everyone’s connection down for several years, and should have been ordered to pay back the customers effected (which included influencing communications between consumers and businesses), which the CRTC refused to do.  I’ve also publicly called on the CRTC in the media several times to set up an audit system, since users of the internet can not actively know whether their ISP is compliant with CRTC policy.  It’s extremely technical stuff.  That seemingly too was rejected by the CRTC.  To simply put it bluntly, you can’t have net neutrality regulations if you are not prepared to fully enforce compliance!  Both Bell and Rogers stated publicly they do not use DPI systems anymore after both were caught throttling against CRTC policy.  These systems should not be installed if they are causing this many compliance issues.  Going into these future consultations, the major ISPs have quite the deficit of credibility regarding compliance issues.  The CRTC and a government looking to bring in a big win for consumers in telecom, should be taking very keen note of all of this.

We’re at a point now where the business models are changing for ISPs.  The more and more a broad review of net neutrally is ignored or not taken head on by consumers, consumer groups, and public interest advocates, the more our current net neutrally policy becomes mute.  I have a gut feeling the CRTC sees this as well.  This is also why I’ve been so hard on consumer groups supported by the telecom industry. They need to get a grip, and distance themselves from that industry. My fear is we will not end up with consumer based policy if these groups continue to accept donations from that industry and continue to manipulate the process.  That string needs to be cut, and consumers need their own independent voice moving forward to any net neutrally consultations.  The CRTC should in my view be actively recruiting and advertising for individual comments from consumers when the time comes.  Canadians need to also be prepared to fight for net neutrality not just at the CRTC; it also has to become an election issue in 2015 if this ideology is to survive if my forecasts are correct.

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