The deadline has been extended for submissions to the CRTC's hearings into the issue of "net neutrality" and the traffic management practices of internet service providers, according to groups active in the process.

Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic acting director David Fewer and Public Interest Advocacy Centre counsel John Lawford both told CBC News that the deadline for submissions has been moved to Feb. 23, following a request for an extension from CIPPIC, PIAC and internet advocacy group the Open Internet Coalition.

A Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission spokesperson, however, would not comment on whether the Feb. 16 midnight deadline had been extended.

The groups had told the CRTC they needed the extra time because the commission had yet to disclose figures from the internet service providers on the volume and nature of traffic on their networks. That information was not disclosed until Wednesday afternoon, giving them little time to reply in detail to those figures.

The CRTC had ordered Canada's ISPs, including Bell Canada Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. to provide information after an earlier request from the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) and consumer groups.

The CRTC said the ISPs could do so in confidence. While the numbers would be publicly available, the companies would be identified as Company A, Company B, etc.

Those numbers provide a window into the ISP argument that they need to manage the network in order to prevent congestion.

The survey, for example, asked 10 ISPs what percentage of total traffic could be attributed to the top five per cent heaviest users on a month-by-month basis. The responses ranged from 34 per cent for one ISP during one month to 63 per cent for another ISP in another month.

The figures from seven ISPs also reveal that annual growth in total traffic volume declined for two consecutive years from 2005-06 to 2007-08 for five of the seven ISPs, in one case dropping from 66 per cent growth in 2005-06 to 21 per cent growth in 2007-08.

The CRTC announced last November it would open a probe into the issue of internet traffic management, with hearings to be held on July 6 in Gatineau, Que.

The regulatory body ruled that month in favour of Bell in a dispute over whether the phone company was discriminating against smaller wholesale companies by slowing, or throttling, internet speeds to prevent network congestion.

The CRTC ruled that since Bell applied the same network management practices to both wholesale customers and its own retail customers, it was not acting in a discriminatory manner.

But it did not address the larger issue of whether throttling should be allowed or whether ISPs should avoid favouring some users or some applications over others, an issue referred to as net neutrality.

Steve Anderson, the co-ordinator for net neutrality advocacy group, said his group has helped more than 500 consumers make submissions to the CRTC regarding the issue.