CRTC must ‘keep the road open’

Internet providers should stop playing favourites, say producers and actors, amid warnings of a chill on digital distribution.

Canada’s producers want the CRTC to ensure that the Internet remains an open-access platform, backing peer-to-peer (P2P) applications in particular.

As the CRTC’s hearings on net neutrality continued, creators stressed on Wednesday that downloading or streaming may become one of the only ways for independent producers to finance, produce and distribute content. Much is done through P2P applications such as BitTorrent.

‘What we are concerned about is the situation that the ISPs seem to be creating – that’s saying that there is congestion, and that the only solution is for ISPs to have unfettered rights over how they control it,’ says John Barrack, CFTPA national EVP and counsel. ‘That could range from doing nothing to selectively cherry-picking out P2P services and limiting consumers’ ability to use those services.’

On the opening day of the hearings, Don Bowman, CTO of the network services company Sandvine, said prioritizing data is necessary because of congestion. He also noted that some operators prioritize time-sensitive traffic, such as online gaming and interactive applications such as VoIP and web browsing, while P2P applications are bandwidth-intensive and not usually time sensitive.

Jutta Trevarinus, an expert who appeared on behalf of organizations representing Canadians with disabilities, noted Rogers and Bell throttle out P2P distribution, even when there doesn’t appear to be congestion. Trevarinus said P2P distribution is a good way to distribute content with closed captioning.

‘Prejudicial treatment, such as targeting and throttling P2P traffic also hurts creators of Canadian audio-visual content and consumers,’ ACTRA national executive director Stephen Waddell told the CRTC. He added that it ‘impedes creators’ access to cheap, efficient distribution and limits Canadians’ freedom to access legal content.’

The CFTPA contends that if an ISP is going to slow down some data, it should slow down it all equally.

‘Some things take up a lot of bandwidth because they’re popular,’ noted Barrack.

ISP throttling has put a ‘chill’ on the adoption of P2P by independent producers for the distribution of their content, added CFTPA associate counsel Reynolds Mastin.

Barrack advocated for proportional sharing of bandwidth, or allowing consumers to determine what their own priorities.

The CFTPA also told the CRTC to have clear criteria for what constitutes congestion, to ensure ISPs are engaging in transparent and reasonable network management practices to prohibit ISPs from favoring their own content and to prevent them from throttling specific applications.

ACTRA and the CFTPA, together with the Independent Film and Television Alliance, also advocated for upgrading ‘the pipes’ to deal with congestion.

‘Very simply, we want to keep the road open,’ concluded Barrack.

The hearings continue through next Monday.

From Playback Daily