The last few days of testimony at the CRTC hearings have been quite revealing for Canadian internet users, with Rogers admitting to uniform throttling practices regardless of service plan, and Bell disclosing the extent to which they stifle internet speeds during peak hours.
Transcripts of the hearings are here for the curious, but look and you'll only find that these companies are not what they seem.
Take a look at this exchange between CRTC Commissioner Candice Molnar and Ken Engelhart, lawyer for Rogers:
COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So, when you are throttling peer-to-peer, do you throttle it equally for all service packages, or do you throttle it as a percentage of upstream band width, or how is it that you're throttling this peer-to-peer traffic?
MR. ENGELHART: It's the same for all packages, same band width allocation for all of the different packages.
COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. And I just want to understand what that means, band width allocation. So, are you saying --
MR. ENGELHART: Speed.
COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- the speed of peer-to-peer is reduced equally regardless of whether you've got a one meg upstream --
MR. ENGELHART: Yes.
COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- or not?
MR. ENGELHART: Yes.
According to the Rogers Website, the costliest "Extreme" package ($59.99/mo.) advertises "1 Mbps upload speeds." The "Express" package ($46.99/mo.) advertises the same download speed of 10 Mbps, but half (512 Kbps) upload speed. Reading this might lead one to think that the "Extreme" package allows faster upload speeds than the other and my phone conversation with a Rogers technical support representative this afternoon would confirm that. But Engelhart's testimony contradicts both claims, making this discrepancy between the two service plans irrelevant. Which prompts the question, why advertise it in the first place?
Bell, who testified earlier today, also raised some eyebrows when it admitted the extent to which it "shaped" its traffic. Appearing for Bell was Jonathan Daniels, VP for Regulatory Law, in front of CRTC's vice-chair of telecommunications Leonard Katz:
COMMISSIONER KATZ: Okay. But in your paragraph 11 of your statement this morning, under bandwidth management you say:
"The practices we implement our narrowly focused..."(As read)
And yet I believe, unless you can correct me, you are traffic managing from 4:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m., seven days a week, 52 [weeks] a year. So how is that narrowly focused?
MR. DANIELS: Well, I guess it's narrowly-focused in a couple of aspects. First of all, just to be specific, 4:30 to 6:00 we do a certain amount of traffic shaping. From 6:00 to -- 1:00?
6:00 to 1:00 we take it down. So from 4:30 to 6:00 P2P is restricted on an end-user two 512 kilobytes per second; from 6:00 to 1:00 it's down to 256; and then from 1:00 to 2:00 it goes back up to 512.
Of course, this information isn't on the website for the discerning consumer to consider:
COMMISSIONER KATZ: Is [this information] readily available to any consumer or customer of yours?
MR. DANIELS: We have put it in the submission and then we are going to be putting it on the website. So the details around it, but the actual speeds weren't on our website, but they will be on our website.
At the time of writing, the service plans listed on Bell's website advertise "up to" 6, 12, 16 Mbps, which, in light of Bell's statements, is just plain misleading.
What isn't available on the website is the information that these speeds are ultimately shaped to conform to Bell's, or any other major ISPs', current technical capacity.
Indeed, almost as laughable as Rogers' statement that their customers are "very happy" (see here) is their devotion to "innovation," which is stated in dollars, not deeds.
These companies have not kept pace, either with the technology or with their attendant management practices (Canada sits ninth in the world in terms of bandwidth penetration, behind Iceland, South Korea, and the Netherlands). Even U.S. telecommunication company Comcast have implemented totally reasonable traffic management protocols.
As the CRTC make their decision, I suggest they take a long, hard look the operations of our major telecommunication companies. Ditto for the consumer.[rssbreak]