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CRTC Rules Against Indie ISPs In Throttling Dispute
Say goodnight to independent ISP competition in Canada
by Karl Bode 09:23AM Thursday Nov 20 2008 Tipped by tmpchaos See Profile
Earlier this year, Bell Canada began throttling the traffic of wholesale competitors before delivering it to them, and without telling them. While Bell claimed the move was to handle congestion, follow up inquiries showed little to no congestion -- leading to the assumption that Bell simply didn't want any competitors offering DSL service that was superior to their own, throttled Sympatico service. As promised, Canadian regulators issued their ruling this morning on whether Bell Canada acted anti-competitively. As some independent Canadian ISPs had worried, the ruling suggests the CRTC is oblivious to their concerns.

"Based on the evidence before us, we found that the measures employed by Bell Canada to manage its network were not discriminatory -- Bell Canada applied the same traffic-shaping practices to wholesale customers as it did to its own retail customers," said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC.

Finckenstein appears to not understand either the definition of discriminatory, or how throttling wholesale ISPs (not just resellers) kills off Bell competition on multiple fronts. Bell's decision effectively eliminated the right of independent wholesale ISPs to offer an un-crippled connection if they're willing to pay for the bandwidth. It also gives Bell Canada's un-throttled video store an unfair advantage over Canada's more limited field of competing P2P Internet video services.

Finckernstein did suggest that Bell's behavior may be explored in more detail.

"CAIP’s application asked us to only consider the specific issue of wholesale traffic shaping within a specific context," he says. According to the CRTC, the broader issue of Internet traffic management "raises a number of questions that affect both end-users and service providers," so the CRTC will be holding a separate proceeding to examine wholesale and retail issues. "Its main purpose will be to address the extent to which Internet service providers can manage the traffic on their networks in accordance with the Telecommunications Act," says Finckenstein.

In other words, after delaying a request by concerned independent ISPs several times, they're ruling in favor of Bell Canada, and effectively offloading any additional discussion of the issue until summer. They're also supporting Bell Canada's argument that congestion made this move necessary, despite no real evidence by the Canadian incumbent. The move gives incumbent operators in Canada a blank check in their efforts to derail competition and limit consumer choice under the false specter of network congestion.

The general emotion in our forums is anger, as you might expect.

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