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Bell’s VideoStore and Net Neutrality

Bell VideoStore

Over the past month or more, there’s been an uptick in Net neutrality issues in the Canadian ISP space.  Over the decades, Bell Canada has received untold millions in government subsidies to build out it’s infrastructure.  In return, it’s is mandated by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission) to lease wholesale to 3rd party companies to run their own services on Bell’s physical infranstruction.

Back in March of this year, Bell announced that it would start packet shaping, or throttling bit torrent transfers ‘during peak hours’, even on these wholesale lines.  In return the Canadian Association of Internet Providers filed an injunction with the CRTC to get Bell to stop.

At one point before the injunction was filed, it appeared that not only was Bell shaping torrent packets, but it was scaling back on all internet bandwidth for 3rd party customers, according to TekSavvy traffic reports.

Bell has argued that the wholesalers are basically just buying up Bell’s bandwidth, while making no real investment with infrastructure, and that it is such 3rd party suppliers (within Bell’s larger infrastructure) that are being affected.  This claim is demonstrably false, however, as the aforementioned TekSavvy has made it’s own infrastructure investments and offers it’s customers unlimited bandwidth over Cogent networks (with a minor latency increase), or 200GB per month of traffic through Peer1.

Bell’s throttling service appears to happen at the Gateway Access level, or before it even hits the 3rd party ISP at all.

Just last week, the CRTC decided against the CAIP’s interim relief request, though the final issue of whether Bell is violating the CRTC charter won’t be decided until sometime in June.  Bell itself has also asked the CRTC to drop the mandate to supply wholesale lines at all, which would make the existence of the CAIP a moot point.

Why now with the sudden desire to boot the competition and/or suck away their bandwidth?

Would I be too cynical if I were to suggest it was because Bell just yesterday launched it’s online Video Store, which allows you to rent and/or buy movies and TV shows from your computer?

Maybe, but just because it’s cynical doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

As a foot note, if you’re interesting in supporting net neutrality in Canada, there’s a rally being held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on May 27th 2008, from 11:30am to 1:30pm.

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