Technology & Science

CRTC launches online consultation on ISP traffic management

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Tuesday launched an online consultation on the traffic management practices of internet service providers, allowing Canadians until the end of April to voice their opinion on the issue of "net neutrality."

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Tuesday launched an online consultation on the traffic management practices of internet service providers, allowing Canadians until the end of April to voice their opinion on the issue of "net neutrality."

The consultation is part of a larger probe into the issue of internet traffic management, with public hearings expected to be held on July 6 in Gatineau, Que.

The hearings were set up following complaints from the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP).  The association said Bell Canada is selectively slowing down or "throttling" internet traffic generated by peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing applications such as BitTorrent or "shaping" traffic to favour other applications over P2P in an effort to reduce network congestion.

That policy affects both Bell customers and customers of small, independent ISPs that buy network access wholesale from Bell.

The CRTC, which has the power to impose conditions on the way retail internet services are offered, is looking into what types of traffic management practices are used by ISPs and whether they violate the Telecommunications Act.

The CRTC had put out a call for submissions and comments from interested parties last fall, and by the Feb. 23 deadline the commission had received 31 electronic submissions and 285 comments from interested parties, though those numbers did not take into account submissions that may have been submitted by fax or mail.

The new online consultation, hosted by Nanos Research, will allow submitters to post responses to questions about internet traffic management issues.

Among the topics for discussion are the impact of these practices on user experience and innovation, the role of the CRTC in regulating these practices and whether ISPs should disclose their practices.

The consultation will close at midnight ET on April 30, 2009, the CRTC said.