The CRTC has notified Rogers it has evidence the company is violating federal net neutrality rules by deliberately slowing down or "throttling" some of its internet traffic.
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.
Andrea Rosen, CRTC's chief compliance and enforcement officer, notified Rogers of the findings in a letter last Friday. Rogers has until noon on Feb. 3 to respond or face a hearing.
To avoid a hearing, Rogers must present a rebuttal of the evidence or provide the CRTC with a plan to come into compliance with the act. If Rogers fails to do so, the regulator may order the company to partially reimburse customers and to change its practices.
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 October after a complaint by the Canadian Gamers Organization, an advocacy group for people who play video games, that accused Rogers of hindering online games. Specifically, the group detailed slow internet speeds experienced while playing Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Jason Koblovsky, a Canadian Gamers Organization co-founder, called the CRTC findings "historic" and "a big win" not just for game developers but all Canadian internet users.
"There's a tremendous amount of throttling going on. Basically, any game that's running above 80 kilobits per second with peer-to-peer file sharing open is affected," he told CBC News in a phone interview.
"We hope that the evidence uncovered by the CRTC's investigations will also help game developers improve online environments. Their product is being hindered by Cisco's throttling equipment causing problems with connectivity and lag in a lot of gaming environments."
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 spokeswoman Patricia Trott said Wednesday the telecom company doesn't believe it has broken any rules.
"Our network engineers are looking at the test results form the CRTC," Trott said. "Our only goal in network management is to deliver a good experience for customers and we believe we are in compliance with CRTC regulations."
In March Rogers admitted its network systems were unintentionally slowing down, or throttling, internet traffic for the game World of Warcraft, and then said it had resolved the problem. Then in September, the company said other games and programs might be getting tripped up by its throttling.
Bell recently announced it will stop all throttling as of March 1.