Traffic-Throttling Bell Canada Opens Video Store

by , May 23, 2008, 2:30 PM
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This news should convince even the most ardent opponents of government regulation that Internet service providers can't be trusted to protect net neutrality. Bell Canada, currently on the defensive for slowing down traffic to peer-to-peer sites, has just officially debuted its own video site that offers download sales and rentals of movies and TV shows.

The Canadian telecom has offered the service in beta for around one year. But, as points out, now was not the best time to launch the service.

Last month, several smaller Internet service providers filed a complaint with the Canadian authorities alleging that Bell Canada was wrongfully throttling traffic. Bell Canada serves as both a wholesaler and retailer, so some smaller Internet service providers that sell broadband connections to Web users purchase the lines from Bell Canada.

Yes, video sites can be bandwidth-hungry and potentially cause congestion. But when the same company that controls the pipes also sells online video, one has to wonder whose interests are really being served by throttling.

That same issue is playing out in the U.S. with Comcast, which offers online video and also throttles traffic to certain sites. Comcast said it sometimes slows visits to peer-to-peer sites to manage traffic on its network and also has vowed to develop "protocol-agnostic" techniques by the end of the year.

Meantime, however, it's increasingly clear that Internet service providers potentially gain anticompetitive advantages when they interfere with traffic. Lawmakers should step in and make clear that network providers can't discriminate, especially against their rivals, when managing traffic.

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