NUPGE asks CRTC to investigate Internet 'traffic shaping'

'Such an investigation should be public and open to input from Canadians.' - James Clancy

 

Ottawa (28 March 2008) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to investigate the impact of "traffic shaping" by Internet service providers (ISPs) on Canadian Internet users.

"The National Union has become increasingly concerned about the issue of network neutrality and Canada’s lack of action to protect consumers and producers of Internet material," NUPGE president James Clancy says in a letter to CRTC chairman Konrad W. von Finckenstein.

"Accompanying this letter is a copy of our recent report The Internet: accessibility and net neutrality," Clancy said.

"This past week it was reported that Bell Canada, without advance warning of its intention, will be “throttling” Internet access for Sympatico users who utilize file sharing software during peak hours. Bell’s reluctant admission of its plans follows Rogers' equally hesitant partial disclosure that it is traffic shaping." NUPGE

Konrad W. von FinckensteinChairmanCanadian Radio-television and Telecommunications CommissionOttawa, OntarioCanadaK1A 0N2

Dear Chairman von Finckenstein,

I am writing to you regarding recent revelations of Internet “traffic shaping” being conducted by Rogers Communications and Bell Canada. On behalf of the National Union of Public and General Employees, one of Canada’s largest trade unions, I am asking the CRTC to conduct an investigation into these practices and the implications for Canadian consumers.

The National Union has become increasingly concerned about the issue of network neutrality and Canada’s lack of action to protect consumers and producers of Internet material. Accompanying this letter is a copy of our recent report The Internet: accessibility and net neutrality.

This past week it was reported that Bell Canada, without advance warning of its intention, will be “throttling” Internet access for Sympatico users who utilize file sharing software during peak hours. Bell’s reluctant admission of its plans follows Rogers' equally hesitant partial disclosure that it is traffic shaping.

I would point out that the file sharing software, for example BitTorrent, is legal and there are many legitimate uses for it. Indeed, this past week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced it was making episodes of Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister, free and without restriction, for download using BitTorrent. This means that those Canadians, who are Bell or Rogers Internet service subscribers, wishing to download this show from their public broadcaster will be hampered in their efforts.

It is important to note that Bell and Rogers are not the first cases in Canada of an Internet service provider interfering with customer access to web content. Perhaps the most notorious example is that of Telus blocking access to the website of its striking workers (along with hundreds of other websites).

Our neighbours to the south are taking this form of interference in Internet service very seriously. The Federal Communications Commission in the United States is conducting an investigation into the blocking of legal peer-to-peer file sharing services by Comcast and other Internet service providers. This follows a complaint and petition filed by members of the SavetheInternet.com Coalition and a number of Internet law scholars from leading American universities.

The actions of the Coalition were in response to an article that appeared in the Associated Press about Comcast’s actions. After initial denials that they had engaged in blocking Internet traffic, they eventually admitted to having done so.

Comcast is acting in a manner that violates the reasonable right of Internet users to access the software and content of their choice. The company is blocking legal peer-to-peer file sharing networks, such as BitTorrent and Gnutella, and business applications such as Lotus Notes. This is even in violation of Comcast’s own “Internet Policy Statement.”

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. 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.

On behalf of the 340,000 members of the National Union I am asking the CRTC to conduct an investigation into those Internet Service Providers who are utilizing these discriminatory practices. Such an investigation should be public and open to input from Canadians.

The Internet promises a great deal of benefit to Canadians. Historically our government has made a considerable investment into developing and implementing communications technologies, including the Internet. The CRTC needs to act to ensure the intention of this public investment is realized – an Internet that is open and accessible to all Canadians.

I look forward to hearing your response to this matter.

Sincerely yours,

(original signed by)

James ClancyNational President

cc: National Executive Board Encl.

More information:

The Internet: accessibility and net neutralityNational Union and the Internet

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