Bell ordered to publicly prove internet congestion

Bell Canada Inc. has been ordered to disclose information that details the level of congestion on its network in regard to a dispute over the company's internet speed-throttling practices.

Bell Canada Inc. has been ordered to publicly disclose information that details the level of congestion on its network in regard to a dispute over the company's internet speed-throttling practices.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Thursday told the company it has until June 23 to make public data that was marked confidential in a May 29 filing. Bell had said it needed to keep quiet the information, which details the level of internet traffic and possible congestion on its network, for competitive reasons.

In a letter sent to Bell, CRTC director general of competition, costing and tariffs Paul Godin said the need for public disclosure outweighed the company's competitive privacy concerns.

"Commission staff has determined, based on all the material before it, that no specific direct harm would likely result from disclosure, or that the public interest in disclosure outweighs any specific direct harm that might result from disclosure," he wrote.

The dispute centres on Bell's limiting of speeds of peer-to-peer internet applications such as BitTorrent. The company started throttling its own customers using these applications in November and expanded the practice to other internet service providers (ISPs) who rent portions of its network in March. The Canadian Association of Internet Providers, a group of 55 small ISPs affected by the move, filed a complaint in April with the CRTC charging that Bell's actions were anti-competitive.

The CRTC last month rejected CAIP's call for an immediate cease-and-desist order but launched a public probe of Bell's throttling.

Bell says it needs to limit speeds of peer-to-peer applications because they are overwhelming and congesting its network. CAIP says the company has failed to prove there is a congestion problem.

Mark Langton, a spokesman for Bell, said the company was in the process of examining the CRTC order.

"Our folks are still looking at it, but I see no issue with complying," he said.

In light of the order, the CRTC extended the deadline for public commentary on the throttling case, which has become the central issue in the debate over neutrality — or how much control ISPs have over the internet — in Canada. The regulator will now accept comments until July 3 and expects to make a ruling in late summer.

The throttling of internet applications by Bell, Rogers Communications Inc. and a few other ISPs has become a rallying point for net neutrality advocates, prompting a protest on Parliament Hill last month, a complaint with the privacy commissioner and a pair of private member's bills from MPs.


Peter Nowak


Peter Nowak is a Toronto-based technology reporter and author of Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of the Species.