Google adds fuel to Canada's BitTorrent throttling fracas

This week, Google jumped into the battle against Bell Canada's anti-BitTorrent practices, this time through the country's equivalent of the FCC, and on different legal grounds than privacy advocates.

In a submission this week to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC), Google urged that it take action against Bell Canada's P2P throttling activities on grounds that the ISP is violating Canada's telecommunications law.

As previously reported in BetaNews, in May, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Internet Clinic (CIPPIC) asked another agency, the Canadian Privacy Commission, to investigate whether Canadian privacy law is being broken in Bell's use of deep packet inspection (DPI) technology to find and limit the use of P2P applications.

Yet in its own move in Canada, Google is bringing its weight to bear on a complaint previously made to the CRTC by the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP), a band of 55 small ISPs that rent portions of Bell's network.

CAIP's position -- which essentially argues that P2P throttling violates fair competition -- has also garnered support from many consumer groups and end users, in addition to other technology firms, including Skype. Google submitted its comments as part of a current investigation by the CRTC stemming from CAIP's complaint.

"From consumer, competition and innovation perspectives, throttling applications that consumers choose is inconsistent with a content- and application-neutral Internet, and a violation of Canadian telecommunications law, which forbids unfair discrimination and undue or unreasonable preferences and requires that regulation be technologically and competitively neutral," Google wrote in its 15-page submission to the CRTC.

The Canadian Privacy Commission, on the other hand, has been looking into charges by the CIPPIC privacy group that Bell is violating the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The group contends that Bell has failed to support the defense that its network is overly congested, and that limiting network access by P2P applications is therefore necessary.

Somewhat ironically, perhaps, Google has been fending off complaints from US privacy groups around its own privacy policies, in a struggle that ended over the weekend when Google finally agreed to post a link to those policies directly from its home page.

For its part, Bell Canada first began to limit the download speeds of P2P applications such as BitTorrent among its own Sympatico Internet subscriber base last November. Then in March, Bell extended P2P throttling to wholesale customers such as the smaller ISPs belonging to CAIP.

Other large Canadian ISPs -- including Rogers Communications and Telus Corp. -- came to Bell's defense in the CRTC investigation last week.

Similarly, in the US, the Federal Communications Commission and New York State Attorney General's Office have been checking into BitTorrent blocking allegations against Comcast.

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