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Canada: Smart Regulation, Not De-regulation

Dave Burstein

Canada's CRTC isn't as dumb as U.S. regulators who are considering ruling that the law doesn't apply where the telcos oppose it. (Title II deregulation) Canada just decided wireless needs to follow the rules. In turn, the CRTC intends to make sure the rules are reasonable. Rather than saying "never any rules," they instead try to write sensible ones.

They've required the carriers to clearly inform customers about throttling. That's under consideration in Britain and the U.S. as well, but probably in a meaningless fashion. The minimum disclosure should inform users about how many hours/month they are affected and how much users are slowed down, but the FCC is allowing telcos to say "sometimes we throttle" without the details needed to determine if it's negligible or abusive.

Comcast currently throttles far fewer than 1% of users and then only to a speed of 7 megabits faster than most DSL connections. They rarely do that for more than 15 minutes. If that were clearly disclosed, most of the criticism would disappear. But there is a problem if a carrier slows down, for example, Netflix streaming video. The current "complete information" doesn't let me distinguish. How often are users throttled? How much are they slowed down? Typical disclosure hides what we really need to know. Dale Hatfield, are you listening?

The minimal Comcast throttling is possible because they have essentially solved the p2p upstream congestion issue. Comcast top technical people have described how they've made inexpensive upgrades to 10-20 megabits from the 2 megabits of older systems. Explaining why they are moving slowly on DOCSIS 3.0 bonding, 4 CTO-level execs told Cable Show audiences they have essentially no upstream congestion these days. The speakers were in charge of several of the largest networks in the world. It's amazing how many in D.C., including just about all the cable lobbyists, don't seem to know the progress they've made.

By Dave Burstein, Editor, DSL Prime. Dave Burstein has edited DSL Prime and written about broadband and Internet TV for a decade.

Related topics: Access Providers, Broadband, P2P, Policy & Regulation, Telecom

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