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Rogers acknowledged in a Sept. 2 letter that games and other applications could be unintentionally slowed down under some circumstances by equipment used to prioritize certain types of internet traffic over others. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

The CRTC has asked Rogers to "address and resolve" a problem that may result in online video games being unintentionally slowed down on its network.

Rogers should file a plan by Sept. 27 for resolving the problem, Canada's telecommunications regulator said in a letter sent by email Friday to Ken Thomson, Rogers's director and counsel for copyright and broadband law.

Following a complaint from the Canadian Gamers Organization, a group representing people who play video games online, Rogers acknowledged that equipment on its network used to slow down some kinds of internet traffic in order to prioritize time-sensitive applications such as internet voice calling and video streaming might affect other applications if:

  • Other peer-to-peer applications are running at the same time;
  • The game or application was misclassified by network traffic management systems, as in the case of World of Warcraft; and
  • All the applications classified as peer-to-peer traffic have a combined bandwidth of 80 kilobits per second or more – the threshold that trips the network traffic management system.

Internet traffic management

Internet traffic management refers to techniques used by network managers to slow down some types of traffic in favour of others. In particular, some internet service providers say they slow down applications that use large amounts of bandwidth, but don’t dramatically affect the user’s ability to use the application when they are slowed down, such as peer-to-peer file sharing.

They say that allows them to guarantee higher speeds and better quality of service for time-sensitive applications such as video streaming that don’t work properly when they are slowed down. However, problems can arise if the technology used to distinguish different types of applications mistakenly classifies time-sensitive traffic as peer-to-peer.

Based on that information, the CRTC said, it seems the equipment "could potentially continue to misclassify time-sensitive traffic such as other online games." It added that "Rogers should address and resolve this misclassification problem."

The CRTC letter, signed by John Traversey, executive director of communications, noted that the use of internet traffic management that causes "noticeable degradation" of time-sensitive internet traffic amounts to controlling the content, and therefore requires "prior Commission approval."

When asked to comment on the letter, Rogers said it had corrected an issue with the World of Warcraft game, which it admitted in March was being throttled, but said "it was not aware of any problems with any other online games."

"We have a process in place to ensure our internet traffic management works as it should," the company added. It said it tests games if it becomes aware of a problem and encourages customers to contact the company if they are having issues.  

"Gamers are some of our best customers," Rogers said. "We want them to be satisfied customers."

The Canadian Gamers Association sent an email to the CRTC Friday asking it to ensure that "any solutions presented here to fix the problem also be implemented on other ISPs as well."

Jason Koblovsky, the group's co-founder, said both Shaw and Bell internet customers may be experiencing similar slowdowns while playing games.

Rogers reported earlier this year that it had fixed the problem with World of Warcraft. However, in August, the Canadian Gamers Organization told the CRTC that the game Call of Duty: Black Ops also seemed to be slowed down on a Rogers connection. That prompted the CRTC to ask Rogers for more information and the revelation that other games could be affected.