Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Canada Sets Rules for Internet Traffic Management

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) set new traffic management rules for Internet Service Providers. Under the framework, ISPs should give preference to Internet traffic management practices based on economic measures whenever possible. This could mean charging more for bandwidth usuage over a certain threshold or offer discounts for big downloads during off-peak hours. The practices must be transparent and clearly identified on monthly bills. Technical means to manage traffic, such as traffic shaping, should only be employed as a last resort. Traffic shaping is defined to include slowing down or prioritizing certain types of Web traffic, as well as limiting the bandwidth of heavy users.

According to the Telecommunications Act, a telecommunications company must obtain the Commission's prior approval to "control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications" carried over its network. The Commission does not consider such disruptive actions to be proper Internet traffic management practices, and they will always require prior approval.

The Commission is 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. Specifically, 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.

"The centrepiece of our approach is a framework of analysis that will be employed to determine whether economic and technical practices are acceptable," stated Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC.

The Commission said it intends to review, at a future date, the regulatory measures that apply to wireless service providers and their use of Internet traffic management practices. In recent years, mobile wireless services have been the fastest growing component of the telecommunications industry.