The CRTC released its long awaited decision last week on Network Neutrality in Canada and specifically set forth a framework for the continued use of Internet Traffic Management Practices (ITMPs), also known as throttling. While the decision does not go as far as many consumer advocates would like, I believe it does provide a means by which most throttles can be avoided.
In a keynote address, CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein explained that an ITMP should be implemented only if:
1. It addresses a justifiable purpose; for example, it is needed to prevent congestion, or disruption of time-sensitive programs.
2. It is as narrowly tailored as possible to achieve the desired result, using the least restrictive means.
3. It causes as little harm as possible to the retail customer, the application provider or the ISP that is the wholesale customer of a primary ISP.
4. And it is well advertised in advance. A full explanation must be given, describing the practice and how it will affect the user.
Fair enough, the thing has to do a particular job with a narrowly defined purpose and the ISPs must be transparent about this job. So what might they do, you ask? Specifically, the decision notes the “needs” currently cited by parties for the existing crop of ITMPs:
“Parties generally acknowledged that some traffic management is required to address congestion in order to ensure that all end-users receive acceptable Internet service. Parties also generally agreed that ISPs must employ ITMPs to protect the integrity of their networks from security threats.” (emphasis mine)
Address congestion and mitigate security threats.
We’ve talked at length about µTP and its design which specifically avoids causing congestion. So on a fundamental level, this decision is good news for µTP. There should be no need to throttle µTP in an effort to address congestion or mitigate a security threat. And the framework will not permit it otherwise, given its discriminatory nature.
So why is everyone so glum? First of all I think the complaint based approach the CRTC has taken is one that will tie up lots of resources (lawyers) on all sides with continued complaints. While the framework is an incremental and far from radical step in the right direction, we wonder if the ISPs will modify their practices accordingly. We remain ready to work with them towards this end, to help them understand µTP and its beneficial nature, as we’ve done with many ISPs here is the U.S. and elsewhere. But while that’s our view, others find it more likely that future complaints testing these points will now need to be adjudicated.