CRTC allows telecoms to throttle web traffic

The federal regulator will continue to allow Canada’s big telecommunications firms to restrict traffic on their Internet networks, but under new and potentially strict rules.

OTTAWA — The federal regulator will continue to allow Canada’s big telecommunications firms to restrict traffic on their Internet networks, but under new and potentially strict rules.

The decision Wednesday by the CRTC is a partial win for both consumer advocates and independent broadband wholesalers who had complained the telecoms were using their power to throttle certain web usage and competition.

But it also left Canada’s Internet providers, such as Bell Canada (TSX:BC.PR.C), Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B), Shaw Communications (TSX:SJR.B), and Telus Corp. (TSX:T.A) free to use throttling and other measures to ”shape traffic” on their networks, as long as they abide by the new rules.

Shares of some of the providers immediately jumped on the news.

Some, though not all, of the providers say they need the power to ensure enough capacity for all users, arguing that rampant file sharing for broadband-gobbling videos could make the web experience a nightmare for other users.

If throttling had been banned, ”it could have been disappointing for customers,“ said Ken Engelhart, chief of regulator affairs for Toronto-based Rogers.

“If you wanted to talk to your friends around the world on your computer, you might find your call was being crowded out by other people engaging in peer-to-peer.”

Bell spokesman Mirko Bibic called the decision good for the industry and consumers.

The reaction was more mixed on the consumer side. Steve Anderson of SaveOurNet.ca called it a step forward though not perfect, while the Public Interest Advocacy Centre denounced the decision as a rubber stamp for the Internet service providers.

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