Ottawa (14 May 2008) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is disappointed with today’s decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to allow Bell Canada to continue throttling Internet access speeds to its subscribers.
At the heart of the issue is a concern over Internet neutrality which is the principle that all Internet traffic be treated equally, regardless of origin, destination or the software used to create it. There has been growing demand for Internet neutrality in Canada coming from a number of organizations including NUPGE, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and the federal New Democratic Party.
The Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP), which represents 55 smaller ISPs that rent portions of Bell's network in order to provide internet services to their own customers, filed a complaint last month asking the CRTC for an urgent cease-and-desist order against Bell Canada. Today’s decision by the CRTC rejects the CAIP complaint and allows Bell Canada to continue throttling Internet traffic.
However, NUPGE is optimistic that the decision may only be a short-term victory for Bell Canada and that the issue is far from settled. The union is encouraged that the regulatory body will be launching a wider probe into the issue that will include public consultations.
In a letter to Industry Minister Jim Prentice last month, NUPGE national president James Clancy called on the federal government to hold open, public consultations on the need for legislation to protect the principle of Internet neutrality.
In the letter Clancy said that “concerns over Internet neutrality are rising and there has been a lack of action to date on the part of the government to protect consumers and producers from abusive practices such as traffic throttling … your government must act to ensure the Internet is open and accessible to all Canadians."
While the CRTC today ruled that CAIP did not meet the standard for interim relief it also recognized that Bell's throttling of internet speeds was a serious issue.
Internet law expert Michael Geist was not surprised by the decision but was also encouraged that the regulator is prepared to conduct a more substantive probe into the issue. "The standard for interim relief is very high and given the ability to provide monetary compensation at a later date, the CRTC took a pass on stopping the throttling practices based on a limited record of evidence ... however the CRTC has left the door open to addressing throttling and net neutrality in a serious way." NUPGE