On October 21, the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued its new policy
governing the ability of internet service providers (ISPs) to
manage or "shape" the internet traffic that is
transmitted across their networks.
In Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-657 Review of the
Internet traffic management practices of Internet service
providers, the CRTC ruled that ISPs will be allowed to
continue to manage traffic on their networks but the CRTC also
established the framework to which ISPs must adhere. ISPs will not
be required to seek prior approval from the CRTC of their traffic
management practices, but will be required to defend those
practices in response to specific complaints.
As part of its new policy, the CRTC is also requiring ISPs to be
much more transparent about the traffic management techniques that
they use by posting information on their websites detailing the
measures being taken and the impact that these measures will have
The CRTC undertook the review of ISP's traffic management
practices after smaller ISPs that use Bell Canada's network to
resell internet access services complained that Bell was slowing
down some of the internet traffic generated by their own customers.
The CRTC dismissed the complaint against Bell Canada, but initiated
a policy hearing to examine the traffic management practices of the
large ISPs including Bell, Rogers, and Shaw.
These ISPs took the position that dramatic growth in amounts of
internet traffic, and in particular the traffic associated with the
transmission of large video and audio files over peer-to-peer file
sharing networks, was causing congestion in their networks
resulting in reduced quality of service for all subscribers. The
ISPs said that it necessary in some circumstances to limit the
amount of capacity consumed by peer-to-peer applications to avoid
The CRTC's new policy framework on these traffic management
practices includes the following requirements:
ISPs must disclose to subscribers specific details regarding
the use of traffic management practices including the reason the
practice is being used; who will be affected by the traffic
management practices; when the traffic management will occur; what
type of traffic is subject to management; and how internet speeds
will be affected.
ISPs must provide 30 days notice to retail subscribers, and 60
days notice to wholesale customers, of any changes to the traffic
management practices being implemented.
Facilities-based ISPs are permitted to manage the traffic of
other ISPs that resell internet access service using the
facilities-based ISPs' networks, but the traffic management of
wholesale traffic cannot be any more restrictive than the traffic
management of the ISPs' own retail customers.
Facilities-based ISPs must include a description of their
traffic management practices in the CRTC-approved tariffs that
govern the use of network facilities by third-party ISPs.
ISPs must not use personal information collected for the
purpose of traffic management for any other purpose and must not
disclose that information.
In response to a complaint to the CRTC about a particular
ISP's traffic management practices, the ISP must describe the
traffic management measures being used, explain the need for, and
purpose of, the measures and demonstrate that any discrimination or
harm to a secondary ISP or end-user are minimal. The ISP must also
explain why investing in additional network capacity or
implementing economic measures (such as usage-based billing) would
not be sufficient to address any congestion issues.
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