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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Very interesting IIC session

Just back from a fascinating session at IIC, with a preview by the CRTC chair on their net neutrality ruling. A reminder, this is an incumbent and regulator get-together generally, so it was interesting to see three challengers to telecoms incumbents on the panel with Chris Boam (Verizon), the fairest-minded of network operators. They were Chris Libertelli of Skype, Michael Geist of UOttawa, and the CBC rep, who just spent 16 years with Sky in the UK and revealed his independence by praising the dread Ofcom (which Sky has trash-talked for 6 months!).

So, to highlights, and lets begin with the Canadian ruling in detail. CRTC has essentially challenged both wired and wireless operators to cause a consumer complaint on blocking apps. The wireless part is somewhat new. It will require a complaint to turn this general ruling into individual case-bound rules. Geist pointed out that we could get either too many complaints (every time your connection times out you complain, as when Videotron resets my connection at noon each day), or too few, as consumers are not sufficiently empowered to sort through evidence. I should have thought CIPPIC or another consumer friend will bring a case - perhaps against wireless - soon. Certainly the fixed ops' questions revealed their continued intransigence (Telus wierdly thinks its new 3.5G network will somehow be quicker than Japan's 4G e-mobile!). So expect fireworks this winter.

The panellists all seemed to agree that case-by-case decisions by regulators will outpace any legislative approach - and that co-regulation will be faster still (collated reporting and notice on new apps, so that regulators can issue 30-day cease-and-desist). Michael Geist asked whether the throttling practices revealed - Bell's 4.30pm-2am 'peaktime' for instance - could be maintained in the face of the notice.

When it came to praising solutions adopted, some bizarrely praised Ofcom, which is case so far unproven, and no-one chose to mention the Norwegian working solution. Ah well, c'est la vie - and net neutrality is only a part of fast broadband, after all.

An excellent panel, well worth a cycle ride through the fall colours!

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