Friday, April 18, 2008

Bell Won't Back Down, Says Traffic Shaping a Must

A few weeks ago, the issue arose of Bell Canada engaging in Internet traffic "shaping" practices. Bell admits to purposely slowing down the Internet connection for heavy users of P2P and similar sites that are doing things like downloading full-length movies, and thus gobbling up a lot of bandwidth. Since then, there has been a flurry of commentary about the topic. Should Bell be able to shape or "throttle" its traffic? Should the use of P2P and torrent sites be considered "abuse" of Bell's unlimited plans?

The Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP), which represents many small ISPs that use Bell's network to offer their services, sent a request to the CRTC for Bell to stop its shaping activities. The CAIP claims that Bell is "in breach of a number of regulated activites", and called the behaviour "anti-competitive interference in the activities of Internet users." Bell's response was a big fat "no". The telecommunications company feels that slowing down P2P and BitTorrent use is necessary in order to improve overall bandwidth performance for all users. Interestingly, when speaking to, Primus President Ted Chislett, who agrees with the CAIP, said that he doubts Bell has any congestion issues related to bandwidth at all.

Assuming issues of traffic congestion do exist as a result of heavy bandwidth usage, does Bell have the right to slow things down? After all, these customers pay the same monthly fees that everyone else does; they're just using the services more. The situation can be likened to an unlimited cell phone data plan: some users might send hundreds of e-mails per month, and chat on the phone for hundreds and hundreds of hours, while others might send a couple of e-mails here and there, and chat less frequently. They're both paying the same monthly fee, but what they get out of their packaged plan is up to them.

In fairness, trying to curb illegal activity is a good thing: if someone is using up gross amounts of bandwidth to acquire loads and loads of illegal content, then really, who are they to complain about slow speeds? But it looks as though P2P and BitTorrent sites can, and are, also used for legitimate activities. Take CBC's recent experimental move, for example, to offer the TV show Canada's Next Great Prime Minister as a free download through BitTorrent. The CAIP reports that it took "thousands of fans" on Bell's network upwards of 11 hours to download the program versus the minutes it should have taken. If more and more legitimate content like this CBC show becomes available via BitTorrent and P2P sites, will Bell stop its traffic shaping activity?

Either way, this issue has initiated a well-needed discussion about regulation and control of the Internet, and opened people's eyes to the rapidly growing nature of the Web world as a whole. We have so much bandwidth, and people will only continue to want to use more of it, not less. Should those who are making frequent use of faster speeds, and thus justifying continued progress in this area, be punished for doing so? Or, on the contrary, are heavy bandwidth users just abusing the capabilities of the service, and ruining the experience for everyone else?

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Anonymous said...

Why Bell offers their clients "unlimited" plans ?? People abuse the system because their usage is "unlimited" - it's that simple. Throttle its internet traffic is not a solution at all. It's like limit the speed of a Ferrari to 80 km/hr.


mkl said...

As an avid user of P2P to release my own, legal content, I find the notion that I am abusing my internet connection laughable. I pay a smaller ISP for an unlimmited unthrottled ADSL connection.. Bell has now stepped in and said that my ISP doesnt have the right to offer me that service, and my contract has now been violated by someone who isnt even my ISP. The ability of my clients to download the content they paid for has been crippled. Their download speeds dropping to an average of about 3 KB/s. My download speeds are about on par with that too. That is hardly the connection that I'm paying for. And im also using my connection well within my rights as indicated by my contract and the service aggreement held therein. Yet im told that between 4pm and 2 am, my P2P applications must be rendered useless. Essentially shutting down my ability to deliver the products to my clientbase.

I find that to be an unacceptable abuse of power on Bells part.

If P2P did actually equate to piracy, id say go ahead and shut it down. But this is the new, fast and efficient delivery method that should be supported and cultivated, not nipped in the bud... We shouldnt allow Bell to stiffle innovation in this field.

Spudwiser said...

I saw this train coming a year ago and left bell. The sad thing is, it is perfectly in the companie's right to do this, even if it breaches their own contract. Most ISPs have a section in their contract giving them the right to make changes as they see fit without notification to the customer. Bell has been using traffic shaping for almost 2 years now. The smaller, more rural ISPs have bought bandwidth from them for years and slowly they speeds have been capped.

It all comes down to this. In the smaller communities there is no other ISP than bell, so you are stuck with them, other places, you may be able to leave and go to another ISP. Comcast did this and it blew up in their face, the same will happen to bell. Internet shaping is going to be something we will be forced to live with more and more often. The days of "equal internet" are no more. If we refuse to have a national standard that ISPs have to fallow, we are going to have to learn how to live with it.

Anonymous said...

I think that the problem is not one of fairness to all internet users but, rather that Bell is not able to provide all of the bandwidth that they have sold.
Bell can't or won't make the necessary expenditure on infrastructure that is so obviously needed and are trying to buy time.
Bandwidth demands are only going to increase in the future.
Once again Bell has, in a high handed manner, stuck it to the consumer. The only way to get satisfaction is a class action suit against Bell for breach of contract and fraud. Each of us individually can't take on Ma BEll

Anonymous said...

Thats an interesting point, has bell oversold there own bandwidth? that is quite possible, and they should be made to account for all the promise of unlimited internet access. They have sold unlimited but then limited it, how can that be legal that is akin to a bait and switch. Sell the sucker one thing but deliver another, I always thought that was illegal.????

Invictus said...

I did send the following to the CRTC:
Dear Sir / Madam,
I have posted the following comment on the CBC website. As a former communications specialist I am appalled by the nonsensical approach of Bell Canada. Ultimately, this is not about the internet but the monopoly that both Bell Canada and Rogers Communications want to exercise in distributing contents. I further urge you to have specialists on your panel that are familiar with the rules and practices in other countries, especially countries in the EU, where traffic shaping of ANY sort is illegal and is being treated as anticompetitive and, in most countries, as an invasion of privacy, and therefore a criminal offense. Should Bell Canada be successful in maintaining traffic shaping, Canada, as far as I know would be the only country that legally allows this degrading of service. Under the threat of being re-regulated, Comcast in the US has abandoned the practice.
Canada has the third highest internet rates in the world, and measured by speed, is dead last in Broadcom services of any industrialized country……SHAMEFUL!!!!

I have rarely been that steaming mad, but enough is enough.
I not only worked for Bell, but have also lived in a number of countries. Every one of these countries has a superior internet service, and traffic shaping is AGAINST the law!
Year after year, Canadians have swallowed the nonsense dished out by Bell and Rogers. Why? BECAUSE WE ONLY LOOK AT NORTH AMERICA. WAKE UP PEOPLE! You don't have to believe me, just Google for ISP's in Europe, Japan, and Korea etc.
Here is my suggestion: abolish the CRTC. Get on the next plane to Berlin, Germany and pick up a copy of the European rules and regulations. Implement at once.
Here is what you will get:
Complete net neutrality.
Speeds of 16mb/s (NORMAL SPEED NOW, 19.95 Euros per month)
Speeds of 40mb/s will be implemented be the end of next year.
Combined Cable TV, VoIP incl. long distance, Internet 25mb/s, unlimited downloads, for 49.95 Euros (appr.75.00) per month.
The same can be had all over Asia, although the Asians decided to go wireless, and wireless speeds (satellite excepted) are not as high.

In all the above, countries found themselves in the same position as Canada is in now with Bell and Rogers. But here is the difference: Most of the people on the government side are communication professionals, not part time, dare I say it, politicians. In Europe, you must have your credentials, or you just don't get the job. As well, these government departments make an effort to be informed of the latest technology. No wonder Bell and Rogers are so successful with the CRTC.

Here is something else to consider: In most developed countries, the governments impose the standards as they realize that they cannot allow the county to be left behind in communications, just look how far ahead MANY countries are with their cell phone service. Heck, I can get 3G service in Thailand, and they already are working on 4G all government imposed. Despite all that, companies are profitable.
You cannot replace a copper cable in Europe with another copper must be fibre optics, as the copper cables do not meet the new standards.
Bell has no such standards imposed on it.

So take my advice, don't believe a thing you hear from these guys, they are lying through their teeth. You can confirm all the above on the net.

And just for the record, I was a tester with Bell. In the Toronto High Park area, they had central office switches build in 1918 running as late as 1975. Of course we were sworn to complete secrecy.........

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous. Why are Bell and Rogers selling faster than 5 Mbit connections if they claim that they can't handle that type of traffic?

Consumers want more bandwidth so that they can use that service they're paying for, or do they telecoms only want people checking their emails and browsing sites using these faster connections?

I don't have a problem paying for a Internet connection with a bandwidth cap; I can get a decent connection from Teksavvy that has a 200 GB cap per month. But as long as I stay within my limits I want to be able to use that connection to its full potential if or when I choose. Bell shouldn't be able to limit that service.

If they can't provide it then they should either upgrade their infrastructure, or stop advertising connections over 1 Mbit. Completely false advertising.

Anonymous said...

I have been looking to leave Bell for this exact reason, but don't know where to begin. What alternative is using lines that are not controlled by Bell? Telus? I read that Telus was the first company to get in hot water for "shaping" and has since abandoned the practive. Is this true?

Ray said...

This problem began in the U.K. about a year or more ago. You can read my
blog about it here:-


Anonymous said...

its time bell gave us a break. my bill package is higher everytime i turn around with add ons i dont understand. and now you have to give them a 30 day notice to get away from them, changes changes , everyone is out there to take whaT LITTLE YOU MAKE. SOON YOUR PAY CHECK WILL BE ALL GONE TO EVERYONE ELES AND NONE FOR YOURSELF. WHATS THIS WORLD COMING TO .

Increase Website Traffic said...

We've seen all sorts of arguments against ISPs who engage in traffic shaping, but now some are trying to make a privacy argument against traffic shaping as well. A few months ago, the news came out that Bell Canada was engaging in traffic shaping, even for its wholesale ISP partners who promised customers open internet access. As a couple folks have submitted today, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa is claiming that in addition to other questions raised about this, traffic shaping may be a privacy violation, in that it uses deep packet inspection to determine what type of packets are being sent to figure out what to traffic shape. Bell Canada responds that it is only determining what type of packet it is, rather than what's in it -- but even that information could potentially be a privacy violation. While it seems unlikely that this argument will stick, if traffic shaping starts being seen as a privacy issue, it could put even more pressure on ISPs to stop doing it (and may encourage more users to encrypt their traffic).