Net neutrality issue hits close to home

There is a brewing controversy over net neutrality: should all Internet traffic be treated the same, or should some traffic (specific web sites or protocols) be treated better than others?

The issue hit close to home today because my personal ISP, Teksavvy Solutions, has become the focal point of a net neutrality scandal. Teksavvy recently learned that Bell Canada, from whom it rents network access for DSL customers, has decided to throttle certain kinds of network traffic. Bell did this without informing Teksavvy or any of the other independent ISPs who must use Bell for DSL access. So, even though I am not a Bell customer (on purpose), I am being subjected to Bell’s policies regarding what Internet traffic can proceed unimpeded and what will be throttled.

The throttling being done today is on certain protocols used for peer-to-peer file sharing (Bittorrent, Limewire, etc.). Services that use these protocols do consume a lot of bandwidth and, instead of engineering the networks to handle it, Bell (and other providers) act to throttle the traffic. The ironic thing is that Bell is doing this at the same time that CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, is moving to make some of their programming available over Bittorrent. Why Bittorrent? Because it is very efficient and moving large amounts of data, which is what the customers need and Bell can’t seem to handle.

Bell to play traffic cop on Internet bandwidth

But last week, some of Mr. Gaudrault’s 21,000 high-speed Internet clients began to report that their connections were slowing down, and they wanted to know why. That’s when he discovered Bell was restricting the torrent and peer-to-peer traffic of Teksavvy customers.

One thought on “Net neutrality issue hits close to home

  1. Andrew

    Over at Michael Geist’s blog I found this informative posting that explains why Bell might find it necessary to throttle the bandwidth of independent ISPs:

    Written by Michael Richardson on 2008-03-26 08:58:57

    Bell has built the dumbest network ever.
    They backhaul EVERYTHING to Toronto. All the DSL from Ottawa, Kitchener, North Bay, etc. is all backhauled to Toronto for PPPoE termination. (And they don’t even peer with anyone in Canada it seems)

    That means that when you communicate with your *neighbour* you use those links twice: once to Toronto, and once back. Of course P2P hurts Bell, because they primary purpose is to sell you to US-based suppliers.

    If Bell had a clue, they would terminate the PPPoE *locally*, and that means that bandwidth to your neighbour would cost them much less.

    Not only would that solve their lack-of-clue-when-it-comes-to-infrastructure, but that would also make their network much more reliable in the face of back-hoe events, power blackouts, and prepare them to offer digital voice and video.

    This is a hole of their own digging.

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