Rogers has promised to stop "throttling" internet traffic on its network by the end of this year, in response to an investigation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
In a letter to the CRTC Friday, Rogers stated it would stop all traffic shaping including bandwidth throttling — limiting a user's upload or download speeds — through a phased-in approach that is to begin next month.
"New technologies and ongoing investments in network capacity will allow Rogers to begin phasing out that policy starting in March 2012," wrote Kenneth Engelhart, senior vice-president of regulatory affairs.
"These changes will be introduced to half of Rogers existing internet customers by June 2012 and to its remaining customers by December 2012."
The move follows a similar decision by Bell to cease throttling on its network starting March 1.
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.
"This is a huge step for internet openness in Canada, and [comes] after a long uphill battle with big telecom," said Steve Anderson of OpenMedia.ca, a grassroots advocacy group that has protested usage-based billing and is credited with preventing bills allowing electronic surveillance from being tied into the government's omnibus crime bill.
"Within months of one another Bell and Rogers have announced that they will stop throttling the internet and limiting online choice. This has been a long time coming — more and more Canadians are up in arms about threats to internet openness, and it's about time that big telecom bends to the public interest."
OpenMedia.ca pushed for and won Internet openness rules in 2009, but has since been pushing for enforcement of those rules, said Anderson.
"The consumer complaints process is the sole mechanism in place and Rogers’ response to the CRTC represents a potential first step in changing this broken system," he said.
However, Jason Koblovsky, founder of the Canadian Gamers Organization had some concerns about Rogers' intention to end throttling.
"Rogers failed to provide the CRTC with technical data as to which games and applications they have tested themselves. Without the technical data from their tests on online games, [we] worry that Rogers' response may be an attempt to mislead the CRTC and the public. We continue to call on Rogers to make these numbers public," Koblovsky said.
Last month, the CRTC notified Rogers it was violating federal net neutrality rules by deliberately slowing or throttling time-sensitive internet traffic, specifically online games.
The CRTC based its findings on the results of an investigation in collaboration with Cisco Systems, the hardware and software vendor that Rogers uses.
The probe was launched last year after a complaint by the Canadian Gamers Organization that accused Rogers of hindering online games, such as World of Warcraft and Call of Duty: Black Ops, in violation of the federal regulator’s guidelines.
The Telecommunications Act and CRTC regulations allow throttling of peer-to-peer file sharing programs like BitTorrent, but not of time-sensitive internet traffic like video chatting or gaming.
Rogers had until Friday to either rebut the evidence gathered by the probe or provide the CRTC with a plan to comply with the act — or face a hearing on the matter.
As part of its rebuttal, Rogers said it would cease all traffic shaping by the end of 2012.
The company successfully dealt with the issue of throttling last March, and the CRTC's "tests were of an issue that had nothing to do with gaming," Engelhart told CBC News in a phone interview Friday.
"We're pretty confident we solved those problems last year," he said.
However, "out of an abundance of caution we have toggled the equipment so it does not slow down unclassified traffic on peer-to-peer file sharing ports."