Playing Games – Big Telecom continues to throttle Canadian Internet connections
Canadian citizens are paying for Internet access, but Big Telecom isn't being completely open about the restrictions that they've been imposing. When Big Telecom was confronted about throttling Canadians' Internet connections last year, they made a promise to change their ways by this year's end.
Read on for an overview of what the Canadian Gamers Organization has found out and how your Internet connection could be affected. To make the switch from Big Telecom to an independent provider in your area, visit OpenMedia.ca/Switch
Blog authored by Teresa Murphy & Jason Koblovsky
In 2011, the Canadian Gamers Organization (CGO) submitted a complaint on Internet throttling stating that the CRTC was not taking consumer interests to heart. Since then, we’ve made it clear that consumer rights were not adequately being protected by the Commission concerning its policies on Internet Traffic Management Practices (ITMPs).
Last year, Bell announced plans to stop throttling effective March 2012. Rogers promised to stop throttling effective December 31, 2012, all while claiming innocence in causing additional problems with real-time traffic. The CRTC has not provided the Canadian public any assurances that this has or will happen, or what procedures are in place. We deserve to know if and when these Internet service providers (ISPs) turn their technical ITMPs on or off. As we’ve often repeated, the CRTC’s ITMP policies are not consumer friendly – they leave the Canadian public to believe that they have been misused by both Bell and Rogers.
When dealing with Rogers’ throttling last year, it became clear that the onus was (and still is) on consumers to prove that companies use hardware to slow down Internet connections. As of September 2011, the CRTC asked us to provide our testing results on games we noted were affected by throttling. These self-produced results would most likely be disputed by Rogers, since Rogers has suggested that we, as consumers, would find it impossible to confirm the cause of the issue. We believe our findings will not be validated by Rogers as examples of ITMPs, as Rogers has claimed they have proof from both MIT and CISCO to confirm the opposite.
The CRTC managed to do their own independent testing once our complaint hit the Enforcements Division, finding additional non-compliance. In our view, it is more difficult to dispute independent testing results coming from your regulator. This is especially true when compared to a consumer who doesn’t have a postgraduate degree from MIT, or lacks the hands-on experience with CISCO’s ITMP hardware.
This was all without a consumer being required to create an ITMP complaint first.
Both of CGO’s co-founders have a technical background, but most consumers do not. For the most part, it still is the consumer or user’s responsibility to prove that throttling is taking place. Aside from doing its own testing regarding complaints, the CRTC has not changed its policies with respect to ITMPs. The Commission still requires consumers to produce undeniable 'proof' of throttling, something that most Canadians are unable to do.
The CRTC should have become aware of this issue during the fall of 2011. This is when Rogers increased speeds for all customers, including Third-Party Internet Access customers, on the Express, Extreme, and Extreme-plus tiers. As a result, their entire network essentially overloaded due to extreme congestion; there was too much traffic, not enough capacity, or not enough equipment to handle it.
Presumably, this event resulted in several ITMP-related complaints based on the overwhelming number of emails that CGO co-founders and OpenMedia.ca founder, Steve Anderson, received asking for assistance. This is in addition to the various posts on technology and gaming sites. We made this point clear to the CRTC in several of our submissions regarding throttling. Again, it should not be the consumers’ job to do this testing on behalf of the CRTC, especially when most do not have the technical know-how. Likewise, even if consumers were able to conduct tests, it’s likely their results would be disputed by the major ISPs.
We feel that testing of this sort should be done at random intervals by the CRTC because they have the knowledge and capability to do so. They will see what consumers are seeing and will not be fooled by the carefully-worded statements put out by incumbents ISPs.
When Rogers submitted to the Commission in May 2011 that they had 'fixed' the problem with World of Warcraft throttling, it turned out that their 'fix' had really only been applied to ‘testing’ systems – leaving out the production systems through which consumer data flows. Users contacted CGO co-founders up until mid-July to state WoW was still being throttled in their area. Had the Commission done their own independent testing and checked immediately following Rogers' submission in May 2011, it is likely that the CRTC would have confirmed Rogers’ claims of ‘fixing’ were inaccurate.
After December 2012, we are asking consumers to report any service problems from their ISPs within 30 days of Big Telecom’s promised resolution date. If these throttling issues aren’t addressed, we want to raise them with the CRTC and the CCTS for further review. The CGO and OpenMedia.ca will continue to monitor the situation as well as the CRTC and CCTS response to complaints.
Teresa Murphy + Jason Koblovsky
Founding Members of The Canadian Gamers Organization