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October 27 , 2009

Mixed reaction to Net Neutrality framework
CRTC decision doesn't go far enough saome say

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has introduced a new framework to guide Internet service providers (ISPs) in their use of Internet traffic management practices. The Commission is also requiring ISPs to inform consumers of their practices, which will help them to make more informed decisions about the Internet services they purchase and use. But some groups feel that although the move is a step in the right direction, it doesn't go far enough to protect online innovation and consumer choice.

"Canada is the first country to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to Internet traffic management practices," said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. "The centrepiece of our approach is a framework of analysis that will be employed to determine whether economic and technical practices are acceptable."

He says that the Internet is serving as the backbone for communication, commerce, governance, health, education and entertainment and the CRTC framework will foster an environment where ISPs, application providers and users have the utmost freedom to innovate.

The SaveOurNet.ca coalition, a broad alliance of groups fighting for a free and open Internet, is calling today's CRTC decision on traffic management (Net Neutrality) a step in the right direction, but it doesn't go far enough to protect online innovation and consumer choice.

While the CRTC's ruling provides more transparency and sets out a framework for consumers to use in taking action against Internet service providers they feel are violating their rights, it does not go far enough in protecting consumer rights. In order to protect the Internet's level playing field, either the CRTC or parliament will need to take a more proactive approach.

The SaveOurNet.ca coalition hopes that leaders within the major political parties will take this opportunity to move the widely supported campaign for Net Neutrality forward by introducing legislation that would ensure Canadians have access to a free and open Internet.

"This ruling is a step in the right direction, but there is certainly more work to be done to ensure Canadians have open access to all the Internet has to offer," says SaveOurNet.ca National Co-odinator Steve Anderson.

The framework

The CRTC's ruling comes despite broad consensus that meaningful and enforceable rules are needed to protect the open Internet in Canada. Both the Liberal and New Democratic Parties have publicly advocated for Net Neutrality, as have leading businesses and consumers rights groups. Thousands of Canadians support Net Neutrality and many have voiced their opinions directly to their Members of Parliament and to the CRTC itself.

With this new framework, ISPs will be required to inform retail customers at least 30 days, and wholesale customers at least 60 days, before an Internet traffic management practice takes effect. At that time, ISPs will need to describe how the practice will affect their customers' service.

To meet the changing needs of Internet users, the Commission encourages ISPs to make investments to increase network capacity as much as possible. However, the Commission realizes that ISPs may need other measures to manage the traffic on their networks at certain times.

Whenever possible, ISPs should give preference to Internet traffic management practices based on economic measures. These practices are the most transparent as they are clearly identified on monthly bills. With this information, consumers can compare between different Internet services and match their bandwidth needs with the amount they are willing to pay. Technical means to manage traffic, such as traffic shaping, should only be employed as a last resort.

The Commission has also adopted special rules for ISPs that provide services on a wholesale basis to their competitors. These are necessary to ensure that ISPs do not use Internet traffic management practices to cause competitive harm to their wholesale customers.

For both the retail and wholesale markets, the Commission will use its new framework to review practices that raise concerns or generate complaints.

"The Internet should be a commons that prioritizes equitable access to information over commercialization," says Dylan Penner, Media Officer with the Council of Canadians. "Given the growing number of media outlets in crisis, net neutrality is an increasingly essential principle for ensuring public participation in what can and must be a much more democratic media system."

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