Guest Blog: Canadian Gamers Fed Up With CRTC on Net Neutrality issues
By Jason Koblovsky of the Canadian Gamers Organization
A few months ago, a few Canadian gamers sent in a complaint to the CRTC that suspected Rogers’ throttling practices were affecting connectivity to the World of Warcraft (WoW) game. The CRTC has since looked into the case, and has indicated that Rogers was at fault, and ordered Rogers – under threat of a public inquiry – to fix the issues.
CRTC communications released to the public by one of the complainants seems to suggest that the CRTC has indicated it is now happy with Rogers’ response to fixing connectivity issues with WoW. This is the first case involving game connectivity in which the CRTC’s investigation has found that the ISP was in violation of the net neutrality policy the commission spelled out in 2009. Yet what remains unclear is how the CRTC will proceed from this point: can or will the Commission act on this violation by implementing a deterrent and penalty, and thereby set a precedent?
Over the past few months, I’ve been debating whether or not to start a gamer advocacy group. This desire is based on a number of quality control issues present with gaming developers (that seem to worsen with every new release), and the fact that both usage-based billing (UBB) and the use of technical Internet Traffic Management Practices (IMTP) are affecting games. With the CRTC’s current responses to WoW, I felt it’s time to gather gamers together and develop a stronger voice to the public, our regulators, and politicians on not just this issue, but the many other issues gamers face.
Also, as a consumer advocate, I feel that the CRTC is not demonstrating an understanding of consumer law, or an understanding of what other industries may be impacted by these policies, and it is not adequately deterring ISPs from violating net neutrality (Internet openness) policy; thus, I feel that their inaction and lack of understanding makes their presence in the net neutrality debate effectively irrelevant. I think we need to have a serious public discussion on the CRTC’s shortcomings, though this discussion has already started with the UBB issue (and the subsequent very public and unanimous overturning of the CRTC’s decision to implement UBB on smaller ISPs by our politicians).
This past week, the Canadian Gamers Organization was founded on facebook, and also via web forum, with the strong help and support of the gamers that are in current communication with the CRTC on the WoW investigation, and from Openmedia.ca I am a Systems Analyst by profession, and have put forth several communications (during the net neutrality hearings, and in February this year) to the CRTC that should have raised alarm bells. In my comments, I called on the CRTC to put forth better targeted policies regarding net neutrality and ISPs.
It’s quite obvious from the results of the CRTC net neutrality policies in 2009, and my February submission (which is currently unanswered), that the CRTC has so far ignored these calls.
Over the weekend, I did some preliminary testing on the PS3 version of Call of Duty: Black Ops and found that Rogers’ use of ITMPs on P2P applications have a significant impact on game connectivity. I’ve posted that information here. Further testing on our group’s behalf is needed to see exactly what’s going on – whether the entire Play Station Network (PSN) is affected, or just specific games – and we will start posting these results as they become available.
We are also asking that, if any gamers have connectivity problems, please contact our group rather than the CRTC. We feel this is important because the CRTC is consistently dropping consumer cases – left, right, and center – due to the lack of evidence, technical understanding, and testing needed on behalf of the consumer to launch a CRTC investigation (which we feel is wrong). The CRTC is also failing to notify gamers of other options they might have to resolve complaints (outside of the CRTC and the Rogers’ support desk, at no cost), if ITMP cannot be ruled out as the cause of connectivity problems.
I sent an email to the CRTC this past weekend asking it to intervene in one of the lead WoW complaints against Rogers to ensure that the new information on Black Ops was included with that complaint. I wanted to add the preliminary data from my test to the complaint in order to notify the CRTC that problems still remain and are probably widespread.
The CRTC responded and asked me to participate in a conference call, and at that point, I provided some background information on previous complaints I submitted. On Tuesday, I was called by a CRTC manager who explained that the subject of the conference call (contrary to what I thought) was not about my complaints or information I sent in, but instead about procedures or options I submitted on the Black Ops testing. Under this special circumstance, they allowed me to append the lead WoW case with the testing data on Black Ops, and suggested that any new information be sent in as a new complaint or appended to my unanswered complaint from February (yeah right!).
During this conversation, I stated several times that the CRTC needs to hold a public hearing (involving the public, and not just the usual Big Telecom lawyers) and further investigate the effects of ITMPs on the IT industry and software development. I also told them to expect a submission from the Canadian Gamers Organization in coming months.
We are currently calling on Canadian gamers to join our facebook group and our forums and to post any connectivity problems they may have with specific games on Rogers connections. In turn, technical members of our group can then investigate these problems to determine whether or not ITMPs are suspected. We would like to thank Openmedia.ca for the opportunity to promote our cause, and we are looking forward to connecting with gamers across Canada to discuss the current and future issues we face as consumers and Canadian gamers.
Canadian Gamers Organization
Click here to learn more about the Canadian Gamers Organization