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Joined: 2008-05-27

Hey folks. This is Craig B, from the Toronto chapter in Canada. I know that net neutrality's a big issue with the ECA right now, and it's been a rather nasty issue up here. To be honest, Internet connectivity has been a problem in general: we have a duopoly in most markets, we pay some of the highest prices per megabyte anywhere, we have zero, count 'em, [i]zero[/i] consumer fiber connections, and even the DSL resellers are getting their traffic shaped by the Bell telephone monopoly that sells the bandwidth to them.

The big regulator on this, the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission, is having hearings on this issue right now. As [URL=http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2009/07/06/tech-090706-internet-traffic-management-crtc-hearings.html]the CBC points out[/URL], though, the signs aren't necessarily encouraging:

[QUOTE]Internet congestion is inevitable and net neutrality does not exist, Canada's internet regulator was told Monday at hearings on how internet providers control and manage internet traffic and speed.

Congestion is a natural occurrence on the internet, partly due to unexpected events such as Michael Jackson's death, said Don Bowman, chief technology officer for the network technology company Sandvine Inc., on the first day of hearings before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in Gatineau, Que.

"In times of congestion, an unmanaged network is not a neutral network," he said. "Inequalities in application design and user behaviour mean that an unmanaged network inherently favours certain applications and their users."

Sandvine sells technologies used for internet traffic management. On Monday, Bowman made the argument that congestion disproportionately hurts time-sensitive applications like online gaming and VoIP (voice-over-internet protocol, or voice service carried over the internet instead of by regular phone companies), which is an even bigger issue where emergency calls are involved. These need to be prioritized, he said, but in order to do that they need to be identified using technologies such as deep packet inspection.

In addition, he said, congestion affects some applications more than others because it tends to result in "packet loss," which makes sound or video choppy, but may not be noticeable for other applications such as email.

Scott Stevens, vice-president of technology for Juniper Networks, a company that also offers internet traffic management technology, said part of the problem is technologies such as streaming video are very different from applications the internet was originally designed for.

"They don't talk and be quiet. They hum constantly," he said, in contrast to older applications such as email that exchange data only intermittently.

That means new network tools are needed to manage traffic, and companies need the flexibility to be able to develop those tools, he said.

"We feel it's very important that innovation is able to occur at the network level."[/QUOTE]Of course, we all know what kind of "innovation" they're talking about. Canada's ISPs have been pretty notorious for overselling the pipes they have, confident that nobody will ever use it; now that people [i]are[/i] (and not just those darned kids and their napsters!) they're scrambling to try to find a way to fix it that doesn't involve spending any money.

(I'm sure that sounds familiar to a lot of Americans here.)

Fortunately there are people going to bat Net Neutrality:

[quote]However, not everyone agrees that technology that distinguishes between different applications, such as deep packet inspection (DPI), is a necessary or desirable way to manage congestion.

John Lawford, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which is representing three Canadian consumers groups, told the CRTC Monday that DPI could invade privacy by revealing things such as the type of application, how long it was used and the types of search strings entered by the user. It could also be misused for marketing or unfair pricing.

"There will be abuse," he said.

Lawford advocated setting strict guidelines for when DPI can be used. He agreed that distributing emergency information and controlling spam and malware were legitimate uses. Other potential applications should be similarly judged based on their necessity and likelihood to interfere with customers' rights to use the internet as they choose.

He added that there are many other ways to reduce congestion, such as usage-based billing and said users would likely shift their usage if ISPs were clear about when congestion was occurring.

He also suggested that the CRTC should ensure ISPs aren't using internet traffic management technologies to avoid expanding their network infrastructure.[/quote]...unfortunately it looks like the CRTC's mind is already made up:

[quote]Timothy Denton, national commissioner for the CRTC, said he didn't want to be involved in judging ISPs' investment decisions and did not want to downplay the serious problem of congestion.

Lawford reiterated that other methods could be used to deal with congestion and suggested all he wanted was some "shred of evidence" that Bell had a plan "not to rely on throttling for the rest of time."[/quote]From what I'm picking up on Twitter (hashtags #netneutrality and #CRTC ) it looks like it's an uphill fight. But it DOES matter, and we ARE in serious danger up here of having the Worst Internet In the Developed World get even worse.

One interesting bit for me was having online gaming cited as a reason [i]for[/i] traffic shaping. I'm wondering if that's a tactic to try to play content providers against each other. Sure, companies like Blizzard that use BitTorrent to distribute patches aren't going to want to see it throttled... but if they can be convinced that they'll end up with degraded performance without it, they might be brought onside.

As gamers, I believe we should stand squarely on the side of "Telcos should provide the service they promised, and need to make the necessary investments to do it." But, still, uphill fight.



President, Toronto ECA Chapter

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