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07/08/2011

ISPs still secretly throttling traffic while CRTC looks on, says Geist.

Has your World of Warcraft gaming been a bit slow lately? What about your Internet telephony? Well, there may be a reason for that. Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa, has been doing some digging into handle customers' traffic–and what regulators do about it.

In 2009, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission published some rules about how ISPs should manage traffic. The rules said that if customers complained, ISPs should explain what they're doing with customers' Internet connections, particularly around throttling traffic for specific applications or websites.

Geist filed an access to information request to find out what kind of complaints have been made to the CRTC, what the ISPs have been saying about them, and what the outcomes were.

“Virtually all major Canadian ISPs have been the target of complaints, but there have been few, if any, consequences arising from the complaints process," Geist said. He adds that the CRTC often dismissed complaints or sided with ISPs.

Among the complaints made are allegations that Rogers throttled World of Warcraft traffic. This is a practice that the company at first denied, but later admitted to, in documents. Bell Canada also admitted to throttling downloads from Hotfile.com, and satellite Internet provider Barrett Xplore changed its approach to throttling Internet telephony traffic.

Other complaints filed by Internet users include a gripe against cable provider Cogeco for limiting peer-to-peer bandwidth. The CRTC demanded more evidence. 

Geist says that the CRTC should be at least publishing all public complaints and resolutions. He also says that instead of waiting for a customer complaint, the CRTC should be auditing them. Without that, Internet users are left vulnerable, he said. The CRTC has responded that it is trying to be more transparent, but that it is limited by legislation.

What do you think? Are customers protected enough? If not, what do you think should be done?

Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets

 

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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.

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