Examples of non-neutrality

What’s not neutral?

Examples of non-neutral practices in Canada:

  • The most famous example of non-neutrality occurred during the Telus labour dispute. Telus blocked access to a pro-union site by blocking the server on which it was hosted. Researchers at Harvard, Cambridge and the University of Toronto found that Telus’s actions resulted in an additional 766 unrelated sites also being blocked for subscribers.
  • In addition to blocking, another non-neutral activity is the ability to privilege content. Shaw, a cable Internet provider charges a 10$ Quality of Service (QoS) fee to customers who choose to use another company's VoIP service, rather than Shaw's own digital phone service. This QoS fee has been challenged by other companies providing VoIP services.
  • Blocking spam or filtering inappropriate content is another form of discrimination, but one that most customers approve of. These security measures operate in the same way as those methods above, but with explicit goals, and transparent methods.
  • HostonFiber, a small Edmonton-based ISP offering web hosting services, has admitted to interfering with internet content. In September 2006, HostonFiber evicted a client’s web site featuring an online Goth/Vampire subculture magazine called Some Lives Are Different(SLAD). HostonFiber removed the SLAD site from its servers despite the fact that it carried appropriate warnings and contained legal content.
  • Rogers is one of the few network providers to admit deploying traffic shaping technology, although the company has offered few details regarding what kind of traffic receives discriminatory or preferential treatment. Allegations have been made that Rogers’ traffic shaping practices degrade the performance of popular files-sharing applications like BitTorrent, and that the company systematically degrades traffic that uses encryption, despite the fact that both BitTorrent and encryption have many legitimate uses. While Rogers has denied allegations that it is purposely degrades encrypted traffic, the firm concedes that its equipment “ensures network capacity is reserved for such services as email and Web surfing,” and that “peer-to-peer traffic does not overwhelm the system”. Rogers is also on record as exploring new kinds of billing systems, including ‘metering’ systems which charge customers for downloading video and using other bandwidth-intensive applications.

Other Violations of Net Neutrality
Compiled by Graham Longford

  • America Online (AOL) In March 2006 AOL is alleged to have blocked subscribers’ access to all emails containing a link to a web site called DearAOL.com, the founders of which were protesting a company proposal to allow messages to bypass the company’s junk mail filters in exchange for a fee (Dyson, 2006; Karr, 2006). DearAOL.com was supported by over 600 organizations and had gathered over 350,000 signatures calling on the company to refrain from imposing such an “email tax”. Over 300 reports of problems sending email containing the DearAOL.com address were made. The problem disappeared shortly after being reported by DearAOL.com and its supporters. AOL subsequently claimed that the problem was due to a “software glitch” (Karr 2006; Olsen, 2006).
  • Bell Canada & Clearwire Communications Bell Canada has made very few public statements about the company’s network neutrality policies and practices. One Bell Canada spokesperson has been quoted by Canadian Press as saying “Our position on network diversity/neutrality is that it should be determined by market forces, not regulation” (Goodman, 2006). Little is known about what non-neutral practices have been adopted by the company here in Canada. Nonetheless, the company has been actively involved in initiatives and investments in companies and technologies that deviate from network neutrality. For example, in March 2005 Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) partnered with Clearwire Corporation, a private US-based wireless broadband provider, to become Clearwire’s preferred provider of VOIP and other services in its US and global markets (Bell Canada Enterprises, 2005). Clearwire has since been accused by rival VOIP providers like Vonage of blocking competitor services on its network (CBC News, 2006). Clearwire’s Terms of Service agreement also lists a variety bandwidth intensive services which it reserves the right to restrict or block, including VOIP, audio/video downloading and uploading, and web hosting. In addition to being Clearwire's partner for VoIP, Bell Canada invested $100 million (US) in Clearwire and Michael Sabia, Bell Canada’s CEO, was given a seat on Clearwire's board of directors (Bell Canada Enterprises, 2005).
    In addition to its investment in Clearwire, BCE has also invested in U.S.-based Ellacoya, a network control equipment provider, through its BCE Capital subsidiary. Ellacoya documents state that the explosion of broadband penetration and high bandwidth applications,
    “presents an opportunity for service providers to enhance revenue by offering these applications as premium services with preferred data transport. To accomplish this, the service provider needs to add intelligence to its network infrastructure coupled with the ability to prioritize applications that deliver the greatest value and create the best online experience for their subscribers.” According to Ellacoya its network control product “identifies subscribers and applications, reports granular usage detail, and classifies and controls applications on a per-subscriber basis” (Ellacoya, 2007).
    Bell Canada is also listed as a client of the Waterloo, Ontario-based network equipment maker, Sandvine, which specializes in network surveillance and traffic prioritization and control technologies. According to the firm’s web site: “Sandvine's award-winning solutions identify the types and behaviours of traffic on networks enabling service providers to improve customer satisfaction, reduce operational costs and
    increase profitability. Service providers can better understand subscriber behavior, recognize and address network threats like worms and spam Trojans, classify applications running on your network (for example, voice over IP, gaming, video streams), guarantee service levels and create profitable tiers for multiple broadband services.” (Sandvine, 2007)
  • Cisco Systems Inc. Cisco is one of the world’s largest providers of IP networking hardware, software and services. Among the many products and services the company offers is a network surveillance and traffic prioritization and control technology called Cisco Systems Service Control (CSSC), which it markets to network providers. According to Cisco, CSSC helps “service providers manage and control bandwidth-hungry applications and address the challenges posed by aggressive P2P applications” (Cisco, 2007). Cisco’s product is marketed as a “smart” solution that provides a granular view of network users and uses and the ability to impose a variety of restrictive traffic filtering and prioritization policies to limit the bandwidth resources consumed by P2P applications. Examples of CSSC’s capabilities include:

    • Deprioritizing P2P during congestion periods
    • Throttling upstream traffic (file upload) while not limiting downstream traffic (file downloads)
    • Limiting P2P access during certain periods of the day or week
    • Providing unrestricted subscription plans for an additional charge
    • Enforcing a P2P quota, which when depleted throttles back P2P traffic but does not affect other application traffic
    • Providing optional P2P “bandwidth on demand” for an additional charge

    Cisco markets this and many other networking management solutions to major Canadian broadband providers, including Bell Canada, Videotron, MTSAllstream and SaskTel.

  • Madison River Communications In 2005, a rural North Carolina telephone company, Madison River Communications, agreed to pay a $15,000 fine to the Federal Communications Commission after VOIP service provider, Vonage, complained to the FCC that it was being blocked from offering its service to the telephone company’s internet customers. Under the terms of its settlement with the FCC, Madison River agreed not to block VOIP traffic for 30 months. Critics have pointed out that the agreement does not prevent the company from blocking other content and services and is of limited duration (Bradner, 2005).
  • MCI Canada (Verizon) MCI Canada is an ISP owned by the large American ISP Verizon. MCI Canada has threatened to cut off a Canadian web-hosting service called Epifora.com, which hosts a number of sites it calls "self help message boards for minor-attracted adults". MCI Canada maintains that the sites are in breach of Verizon's Acceptable Use Policy. For its part, Epifora has not been charged with any criminal offence and its content has been found in compliance with Canadian law (Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, 2006).
  • Nokia Finland’s Nokia is a world leader in wireless handsets and mobile telephony service. In November 2006, Nokia launched a product designed to enable network operators to block user access to specific types of data services, namely P2P file sharing and VoIP calls. “With the explosion of affordable high-speed mobile data access, operators are now being challenged to make the best possible use of their networks, especially when peer-to-peer applications increase their traffic load and compete with their own services,” says Roberto Loiola, Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Networks, Nokia.

“The Nokia Peer-to-peer Traffic Control solution now gives operators the means to analyse and manage such traffic. It allows them to apply their business models by prioritizing the traffic of preferred services and partners, maximize their return on network investment, and avoid becoming only bit pipes for other content providers” (Nokia, 2006).

  • Project Cleanfeed Canada Project Cleanfeed is a joint initiative between Canadian ISPs and Cybertip.ca, a child exploitation tip-line aimed at blocking subscriber access to child pornography and exploitation web sites hosted outside of Canada. Participating ISPs include Bell Aliant, Bell Canada, MTS Allstream, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw Communications Inc., TELUS, and Videotron, who will install filtering software to block subscriber access to URLs from a blocking list compiled by Cybertip based on public complaints and information from law enforcement agencies.
  • T-Mobile T-Mobile’s UK wireless telephony plans block users from using VOIP and text messaging services on their internet-enabled handsets. As part of T-Mobile’s Fair Use Policy, the company does not permit “use of this service to provide modem access for a computer or for peer to peer file sharing, internet phone calls or instant messaging” (T-Mobile, 2007). Furthermore, according to the policy, “If use of either or both of these services is detected, T-Mobile may terminate all contracts with the customer and disconnect any SIM cards and/or Web ‘n’ Walk cards from the T-Mobile network" (Smith, 2007).
  • Verio Verio is a Japanese-owned ISP that operates in over two dozen major U.S. markets. Verio has recently evicted a site called Cryptome.org which it has hosted for several years. Cryptome.org is a web site that posts documents related to U.S. intelligence policy. According to Verio, Cryptome.org’s content violated the firm’s acceptable use policy, although the firm made no effort to prove that content on the site was unlawful (Gohring, 2007).
  • Vodaphone
    UK-based mobile phone company, Vodaphone, has recently been accused of blocking its customers from accessing certain web sites and applications such as VOIP via its web-enabled handsets (Judge, 2007). VOIP service provider, Truphone, has launched a lawsuit against Vodaphone, alleging that the latter is refusing to interconnect with its service and disabling VOIP capability on customer handsets, affecting other providers such as Skype as well. Vodaphone has acknowledged disabling VOIP, on grounds that it is protecting consumers. A Vodaphone statement claims that "VOIP-over-mobile is not yet a mature service proposition as it does not have guaranteed quality of service, and would fall short of the customer experience demanded of any service we launch" (Judge, 2007). Vodaphone has 191 million subscribers in 26 markets worldwide.
  • Sources:
    Bell Canada Enterprises (2005) “Bell Canada and Clearwire Corporation Form Alliance: Bell Canada to be Exclusive VoIP Partner for Clearwire's US Wireless Broadband Network,” March 8, 2005, Link to Article.

    Bradner, Scott (2005) “The Internet: Unblocking pipes,” Network World, March 14, Link to Articl
    Cisco Systems Inc (2007) Managing Peer-to-Peer Traffic With Cisco Service Control Technology, White Paper,
    Download PDF

    Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (2006) “ISP threatens to unplug web hoster for offensive content,” October 25, 2006, Link to CIPPIC

    Dyson, Esther (2006) “You've Got Goodmail,” The New York Times, March 17, Link to Article

    Ellacoya (2007) “About us,” http://www.ellacoya.com/about/

    Gohring, Nancy (2007) “Verio Shuts Off Controversial Web Site, Verio responds to privacy advocates' concerns that the move points to growing control of the Web by big business and governments,” PCWorld, May 1, Link to Article

    Judge, Peter (2007) “Vodafone to be Sued for VoIP Blocking? Mobile operator Vodafone faces legal action over its efforts to cripple VoIP on mobile phones,” PCWorld, May 1 Link to Article.

    Karr, Timothy (2006) “AOL Admits Defeat in War on Spam,” Mediacitizen,
    February 28, Link to Article

    Nokia (2006) “Nokia launches a solution to fight the "bit pipe" challenge,” Press Release, November 23, 2006, Link to Article.

    Olsen, Stefanie (2006) “AOL charged with blocking opponents' e-mail: Company accused of bouncing messages opposed to its adoption of a program requiring marketers to pay,” CNETNews.com, April 13, Link to Article

    Sandvine (2007) “About Sandvine: Intelligent Broadband Networks,” http://www.sandvine.com/about_us/default.asp

    Smith, Tony (2006) “T-Mobile UK says ‘no’ to VOIP,” The Register, May 9, Link to Article