Net neutrality hearing opens door to regulatory action

Geist-48X68.jpgPosted by Michael Geist
Regulatory hearings on Internet traffic management practises held in windowless rooms in Gatineau, Quebec in the middle of summer are not likely candidates to attract much attention. Yet, as my weekly technology column notes for seven days this month, hundreds of Canadians listened to webcasts of Internet service providers defend their previously secret practises while engaging in a robust debate on net neutrality. The interest in the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearing may have caught the regulator off-guard (the webcast traffic was, by a wide margin, its most ever for a hearing), but it was the testimony itself that was the greatest source of surprise.
The seven-day hearing was billed as a debate over whether rules are needed to govern ISP network management practises. While many Internet users remain unaware of the issue, behind the scenes ISPs employ a variety of mechanisms to control the flow of traffic on their networks, with some restricting or throttling the speeds for some applications.
Those practises have proved highly contentious, with creator interests, technology companies, privacy rights organizations, and consumer groups all expressing fears that they may curtail innovation, invade user privacy, stifle competition, and create an uneven playing field for content distribution. ISPs argue that such measures are essential to provide their subscribers with a good experience at an affordable price.
Days of testimony revealed the issue is far more complicated than the rhetoric might suggest. Click here to read the whole of Michael's post.

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