Network neutrality has been a hot topic in the United States for a few years now. As the debate over telecommunications company rights versus a free and open internet rages on, other countries are being faced with the same type of issue. This time, Canada has been thrust into the debate after its telecommunications company, Bell Canada, was discovered to be throttling P2P user traffic.
In the United States, telecommunications companies such as Comcast have admitted to throttling bandwidth and acting against the best interests of the consumer. Comcast recently teamed up with BitTorrent to try and work out some of their bandwidth issues, implementing planned throttling in peak times and avoiding throttling for most users.
The throttling was particularly nefarious in Canada. Not restricted solely to P2P users, Bell Canada has been throttling users indiscriminately for some time. The throttling practices even affected legitimate sites like Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The CBC recently started streaming their videos online, and the throttled bandwidth is seriously affecting their site’s performance.
The Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) received a letter from the National Union of Public and General Employees complaining about the issue:
“These Internet Service Providers are, with little or no public accountability, implementing measures that will discriminate against the use of legal software for legitimate uses,” said the NUPGE letter. “This is unacceptable. The potential for violations of the privacy rights of users is clear. The continued silence on these matters by the CRTC and the Canadian government violates the trust the Canadian people have placed in you.”
The throttling is affecting users and businesses in all walks of life and preventing them from conducting their business and relaxing online. The throttling maneuver and Bell Canada’s bad attitude about it have sparked protests, letters and counter campaigns like Stop The Throttler. The current situation in Canada is a perfect example of how similar anti network neutrality decisions in the States could affect the way we do business and play online.
The largest problem for Canada is the way its government has decided to throw its users to the wolves. By refusing to weigh in on the issue at all, the government could be placing its citizens at the mercy of the telecommunication companies, a position no one wants to be in.