As in the US, Canadian high-speed Internet access markets
are dominated by incumbent telecommunications and cable service
providers, whose combined share of residential Internet access
revenues reached 93% in 2006. Unlike in the US, network
neutrality had not until recently arisen in Canada as a
significant policy issue. That has now changed, following a
dispute between independent ISPs and incumbent telco Bell
Canada over traffic-shaping of wholesale Internet access.
Some discussion of network neutrality has taken place in the
past. In 2005, an incumbent telco exercised its own
notice-and-takedown procedures on an allegedly defamatory union
website during a labour dispute. Also in 2005, the Privacy
Commissioner denied a complaint alleging that an ISP's
blocking of third-party outbound e-mail servers amounted to
reading customers' e-mail. In 2006, a cableco selling
its own voice-over-Internet service also began selling a
"quality of service" add-on to optimize the use of
third-party voice-over-Internet services. Also in 2006, the
Telecom Policy Review Panel recommended that the
Telecommunications Act be amended to "confirm the
right of Canadian consumers to access publicly available
Internet applications and content of their choice by means of
all public telecommunications networks providing access to the
Notwithstanding these events, little policy guidance as to
network neutrality has been forthcoming. A dispute now before
the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
(CRTC) on the "throttling" of wholesale Internet
access may provide such guidance. Most large high-speed
Internet access providers in Canada cap their access plans,
such that per-bit pricing is in effect above a monthly
bandwidth threshold. Many have also implemented traffic
management tools that affect their retail customers'
use of peer-to-peer applications, which rely on large numbers
of simultaneous Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) traffic
sessions. In March 2008, Bell Canada, the country's
largest Internet access provider, began applying the same
traffic management tools to its Gateway Access Service
GAS is a CRTC-mandated wholesale service, subject to
CRTC-approved tariffs, used by ISPs to provide Internet access
to customers in areas where the ISP has no facilities. GAS
includes two elements: an access-segment data stream over ADSL,
from the end user's premises to the pertinent Bell wire
centre; and transit of that data stream from the
end-user-adjacent wire centre to a Bell wire centre in which
the ISP has a point-of-presence. A similar but more expensive
service that offers a dedicated, non-IP Permanent Virtual
Circuit (PVC) between the end user's premises and the
remote wire centre is not subject to the dispute.
The Canadian Association of Internet Provider's
(CAIP) complaint asked the CRTC to issue an interim and,
subsequently, final order to require Bell to cease and desist
from shaping, throttling, or choking its wholesale ADSL
services, and to find that Bell's traffic-shaping
infringes upon CRTC regulations and the Telecommunications
Act. In May, 2008, the CRTC denied CAIP's
application for interim relief, but initiated a public process
to consider the matter more fully. A decision in the CAIP/Bell
dispute is expected in the fall of 2008 — at which
time the CRTC's New Media hearing, which will address
network neutrality more broadly, will be underway.
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general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should
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