The day after the CBC announced its plans to release the finale of Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister through BitTorrent, Bell Canada has moved quietly to throttle its services—including peer-to-peer filesharing—outraging both its customers and wholesale clients.
Among the affected is TekSavvy, a family-run Internet Service Provider based in Chatham with service areas in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia. Describing its people-first approach as “revolutionary,” Broadband Reports profiled TekSavvy as the top North American service provider in August of last year, trumping competitors in customer satisfaction. Last week, users noticed that BitTorrent downloads had been capped at 30k. Openly wondering if TekSavvy was behind the suddenly restricted bandwidth, users checked everything from router and torrent configurations to their network connections, while representatives of TekSavvy repeatedly affirmed that throttling bandwidth is not among the small provider’s practices. “We are not throttling anything,” writes TSI Rick, a TekSavvy representative on the discussion forum at Broadband Reports. “As far as I am aware [we] will never throttle anyone. We don’t believe in it.” R0CKY, another TSI rep, was somewhat more succinct: “We do not throttle.”
Before long, users reasoned that Bell Canada, TekSavvy’s wholesale peer-to-peer provider, was responsible for the sluggish transfer rates. “I work for an ISP,” writes an anonymous user, “and I deal with Sympatico/Bell everyday.” Describing a chat with a representative from Bell Nexxia, the user writes, “I asked for confirmation, she placed me on hold, and came back saying [that] yes, this is true.” The anonymous informant describes speaking to another Nexxia rep, assumedly on the management end of things, and writes, “She wouldn’t come right out to say [that] yes this is all true, but is not denying it.” As further details were unavailable, the user was careful to keep undue speculation on the down-low. “I can’t confirm that any of this is true,” ISP_Worker writes.
Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, was quick to address the issue on Monday. “Apparently Bell did not inform their wholesale partners that new network management practices were on the way,” he writes, “leading to a meeting on Tuesday morning to address the issue.”
Referring to incendiary exchanges on Broadband Reports and other forums, Geist continues. “Some posters have reported that the throttling has undermined their ability to download the CBC episode of Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister,” he writes, “precisely the concern that many predicted when CBC announced its willingness to use BitTorrent for content distribution.” The timing, no doubt, is telling: with an anticipated spike in traffic following the episode’s broadcast, Bell’s furtive effort to dial down its clients’ bandwidth isn’t overly surprising.
While the monolithic telecom giant hasn’t publicly ‘fessed up regarding any past or present throttling, Bell Canada, following its meeting with TekSavvy, is “openly acknowledging that they are rolling out a full throttling process,” R0CKY writes. “They plan to have things fully throttled by April 7th.”
Just in time for Battlestar Galactica.
Photo by Yelnoc.