In 2015 the US FCC took steps to prevent ISPs from discriminating against internet traffic. This is called Net Neutrality, which Wikipedia describes as “…the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”
The gist of the concept is that the owner of the pipes shouldn’t be able to favour the delivery of its own content over content provided by others.
At the risk of oversimplifying this, net neutrality is generally favoured by consumers and content providers, but not so much by ISPs.
In what is seen as a backwards steps for US consumers, the new chair of the FCC has made it clear that he is not a fan of the principle.
For more detail, read this New York Times article titled Trump’s F.C.C. Pick Quickly Targets Net Neutrality Rules and this CNET article titled Meet the man who’ll dismantle net neutrality ‘with a smile’
Cross-posted to Slaw
Michael has a post summarizing his thoughts on the hearings.
I follow this subject from a distance out of interest – but it strikes me that one of the reasons we get such varied views and suspicions is that the facts are not always clear. Of course, there will always be differences of opinion between those espousing the fundamental theoretical philosophies of the internet, and the commercial interests of those that actually make the investments and provide connectivity. But having an open, factual dialogue goes a long way to reach common ground. Hopefully the hearings gave the CRTC what they need to do that.
The network management hearings continue. And Michael’s coverage continues. One of the interesting fundamental issues that has emerged is whether network management is about congestion or competition. It seems that proponents talk about the need to deal with congestion, while opponents talk about the unfairness of using network management to provide a competitive advantage.
Distinctions are also being made about management at the wholesale vs retail levels. And whether the issue is that it happens at all, or whether its OK if it happens so long as the practices are disclosed. Which leads to the arguement that disclosing means nothing if all the suppliers do the same thing.
It sounds like the quality of the submissions is high – so hopefully that will lead to a well thought out decision in the end.
The CRTC’s network managemement hearings began yesterday. A CBC article summarizes the scope of the hearing as:
“The CRTC is trying to develop guidelines for internet service providers on acceptable ways of managing internet traffic and congestion, taking into account both the freedom individuals to use the internet as they wish and the interests of ISPs to manage their networks.
The commission is focusing mainly on the questions:
- What internet traffic management practices are acceptable and should any be considered as completely unacceptable?
- Should ISPs disclose their practices and, if so, in what form?
- Does the use of internet technologies for the purpose of internet traffic management raise privacy concerns?
- Is the application of certain internet traffic management practices to wholesale services appropriate?
- Is there a need for the commission to specify what practices are acceptable in relation to wireless service providers?
- What analytical framework should the CRTC adopt in relation to internet traffic management practices and section 36 of the Telecommunications Act?
It will avoid dealing with its November decision to allow Bell to continue to continue throttling the customers of smaller ISPs that buy network access from it, as the decision is under appeal.”
For ongoing analysis, follow Michael Geist, who summarizes the first day’s hearing here. If you want to follow this as it unfolds, Michael’s article has links to a liveblog and twitter feed.
For earlier information on this subject, search “crtc” and “network neutrality” on my blog.
That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.
It reads as follows:
Connie wrote a couple of days ago about the submission deadline for the upcoming CRTC network neutrality / network management / traffic shaping hearings. Since then, some submissions have been made public that illustrate how important this hearing will be, and how it will affect Canadian consumers and content providers.
The federal Privacy Commissioner has filed an well written submission that discusses the privacy aspects. The Commissioner’s blog post on the topic starts with:
What would you think if you wrote a letter and it could be opened up by a postal or a courier service before it reaches its destination? What would you think if that happened to your online communication? It’s not necessarily a hypothetical question.
Michael has a post that talks about the submission of the parent company of the Weather Network, quoting from their submission:
…the Commission should adopt a more expansive definition of net neutrality and traffic management that would encompass the commercial practices of both wire-line and wireless network operators. In our view, the Commission needs to take steps to ensure that, with respect to both wire-line and wireless network operators, traffic management practices are applied equitably and treat like-traffic in the same or comparable manner. Any management practices that treat certain types of content, particularly content produced or provided by the ISP or network operator, in a preferential or advantageous manner should not be permitted.
And they back that up with examples of actual wireless network neutrality violations they have encountered.
Michael comments that the real fight in these hearings will come down to 3 issues – the isp levy, the new media regulatory exemption, and net neutrality.
This will get interesting, as views range from complete hands off except to keep it neutral and open, to highly regulated Canadian content proposals. It is worth watching as the outcome may affect how Canadians use the internet.
Background detail is here and here.
The big news today is the CRTC decision that denied CAIP’s application complaining about Bell’s internet throttling. The CRTC has however made it clear that it is not through with teh net neutrality issue.
From the CRTC’s press release:
“CAIP’s application asked us to only consider the specific issue of wholesale traffic shaping within a specific context. The broader issue of Internet traffic management raises a number of questions that affect both end-users and service providers,” added Mr. von Finckenstein. “We have decided to hold a separate proceeding to consider both 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.”
The Commission has launched a proceeding to examine the current and potential traffic management practices of ISPs operating in Canada. This proceeding will include a public hearing starting on July 6, 2009, in Gatineau, Que. The CRTC has invited comments on a number of specific questions. Some of these questions are related to:
- changes in bandwidth consumption that may lead to network congestion
- Internet traffic management practices based on technical solutions or business models that are currently available or may be developed in the future, and
- the impact of such practices on end-users.
For more detail and commentary, take a look at Michael’s viewpoint, articles from the Globe and Mail, and Slaw, the CRTC press release, and the CRTC decision.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation just issued a press release announcing the release of “a software tool for customers to test the integrity of their Internet communications”.
The intent is to be able to see if ISP’s are modifying traffic in violation of network neutrality principles.
The press release states: “Until now, there hasn’t been a reliable way to tell if somebody — a hacker, an ISP, corporate firewall, or the Great Firewall of China — is modifying your Internet traffic en route,” said Peter Eckersley, EFF Staff Technologist and designer of Switzerland. “The few tests available have been for narrow and specific kinds of interference, or have required tremendous amounts of advanced forensic labor. Switzerland is designed to make general-purpose ISP testing faster and easier.”
Read the press release