The Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) last week denied a complaint by the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) against Bell Canada, a primary provider of top level Internet access to independent Internet service providers (ISPs).

The ISPs, Bell’s downstream bulk-access customers, charged that Bell, which also provides Internet access directly to the public through its Sympatico and Bell Mobility services, was unfairly hampering its independent competition by throttling down higher-level Internet access, causing performance issues for ISPs and their customers.

Bell claimed it was simply trying to preserver service for all users by reducing data transfer speeds for certain Internet applications — primarily peer-to-peer (file sharing) applications which are commonly used to transfer music and movies around the Net. Peer-to-peer activities allegedly account for a huge proportion of the overall Internet Data load and, themselves, can hog bandwitdth causing performance issues for other users.

As Internet Law watcher Michael Geist reports, in the Toronto Star, “While the CRTC’s decision to permit Bell’s throttling practices is disappointment to the association and advocates of net neutrality, the decision is not a total loss since the commission made a clear commitment to addressing the issue of net neutrality and network management in a formal proceeding in July 2009.”

“The CRTC decision is therefore not the final word on net neutrality in Canada, but rather the first word on it. Moreover, should the commission come to the conclusion that downgrading some applications is consistent with current Canadian law, there is the likelihood of growing calls from within Parliament to change the law (New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, the author of a private member’s bill on net neutrality, was quick to condemn the CRTC decision).”

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