Telus backtracks, says small ISPs should also pay for throttling probe

Telus has reversed course in demanding that Bell Canada pay all the costs of the CRTC's investigation into that company's internet throttling practice, now saying that small service providers involved in the dispute should also have to chip in.

Telus Corp. has reversed course in demanding that Bell Canada Inc. pay all the costs of the CRTC's investigation into that company's internet throttling practice, now saying that small service providers involved in the dispute should also have to chip in.

The Vancouver-based company submitted a letter Sept. 16 stating that it agreed with consumer advocates and the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, a group of more than 50 small internet providers that rent portions of Bell's network. CAIP and the consumer groups, which included the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said Bell should be liable for 100 per cent of the probe's cost because it was the company's internet throttling that caused it.

"Telus agrees with PIAC that the apportionment for liability for costs be allocated solely to Bell Canada," wrote the company's vice-president of policy and regulatory affairs, Ted Woodhead, in a letter made public on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission's website Friday. "The application by CAIP [to the CRTC] was precipitated by Bell Canada’s actions."

But on Sept. 17, Woodhead wrote another letter to the CRTC reversing Telus's position and agreeing with Bell, which believes CAIP should pay some of the investigation's costs.

"The direct parties in this proceeding are both CAIP and Bell Canada," he wrote in a letter made public Monday. "As a result, Telus submits that any cost awards in relation to this proceeding should be allocated between those two parties, in such manner that the commission deems to be justified in the circumstances."

Woodhead also reiterated in his second letter that Telus did not believe itself to be a central party in the CRTC's probe, so it should not be on the hook for any costs.

First letter evoked surprise

Consumer groups and CAIP members were surprised by Telus's first letter, given that the company had come to Bell's defence during the CRTC investigation, which is looking into whether Bell has broken the Telecommunications Act by throttling its wholesale customers. Telus in July said it believed Bell was innocent.

Tom Copeland, president of CAIP, said Telus likely reversed its position after having a conversation with Bell.

"I imagine that a Bell VP was on the phone to a Telus VP 30 seconds after they received the letter of the 16th," he said.

A spokesman for Telus did not immediately return a request for comment.

Of the more than 20 companies and groups that submitted comments to the CRTC's probe, which began in May, Telus was the only one to side with Bell, although the company does not itself throttle its own internet customers. Craig McTaggart, Telus's director of broadband policy, said in July that Bell had not violated the Telecommunications Act by extending its throttling practice to its wholesale CAIP customers. 

"Telus endorses Bell Canada’s explanation of why the commission’s notification of network change requirements do not apply in this case," he wrote. "Customer relations matters that involve no network interface changes do not engage the network change notification requirements, and it would be inefficient and unwieldy to create new requirements in this regard."

Telecom equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., which also throttles peer-to-peer internet applications such as BitTorrent, also made submissions to the CRTC that supported the need for network-management practices, but both stopped short of commenting on whether or not Bell had broken the law. Neither company has commented on the costs issue.

The CRTC is expected to make a ruling on the case by the end of October.