The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

'Throttling' Net Traffic

Who does it. Why free speechers are fighting it.

By Tom Barrett 9 Apr 2008 |

Tom Barrett is a contributing editor to The Tyee.

image atom
Squeezing, and slowing, small net users?

Sometimes all it takes to create a political issue is a whole bunch of little things happening at once.

Take net neutrality, the idea that all content on the Internet should be treated equally. It sounds kind of geeky, but activists argue that the issue is about nothing less than free speech.

More than a year ago, The Tyee noted that, while net neutrality is a hot topic in the States, "public debate on the issue in Canada has been a non-starter."

Well, it looks like the debate's finally starting.

The issue's been raised in Parliament. The mainstream media have picked up on it. And now it appears that the CRTC may hold hearings on it.

CRTC invited to step in

Steve Anderson, national coordinator of the Campaign For Democratic Media told The Tyee that he expects an upcoming CRTC report on new media to refer in general terms to the net neutrality debate. That could in turn lead to the topic's inclusion in hearings on new media, he said.

The CRTC has also been asked to step into a dispute involving the practice of shaping, or "throttling," Internet traffic. It's this controversy over throttling that's helped make net neutrality an overnight political issue.

The Canadian Association of Internet Providers is a group of small independent Internet service providers who buy "wholesale" broadband from big ISPs and resell it to individual customers. Last month, the group discovered that some of its customers were experiencing extremely slow Internet service. Bell Canada had begun throttling, or cutting the speed of, the wholesale ISPs' service.

The wholesale throttling is just one part of what University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist has called a "perfect storm" of events that has put net neutrality on the public agenda.

Meet the throttlers

Bell and Rogers Communications have been throttling traffic on their own networks for some time. They do it, they say, because practices like BitTorrent's peer-to-peer file sharing protocol clog their networks, reducing speed for other customers. To keep most traffic flowing at reasonable speeds, the companies say, they need to be able to slow down traffic using BitTorrent.

The practice got a lot of publicity when the CBC decided to use BitTorrent to distribute an episode of Canada's Next Great Prime Minister. Many people found that the show took hours to download.

(The CBC's stake in the net neutrality issue was anticipated in February by the federal standing committee on Canadian heritage, which urged the government to ensure that the public broadcaster is not hurt by the policies of ISPs belonging to private media corporations.)

The Next Great Prime Minister debacle highlighted the fact that BitTorrent, which had been associated with illegal file sharing, is increasingly being used to share legitimate content.

At around the same time, Rogers announced a new pricing schedule with caps on usage and fees for going over the limits.

Info 'monkeywrenching' alleged

"A lot of little things kind of came together," the Campaign For Democratic Media's Anderson said.

As they came together, the National Union of Public and General Employees demanded the federal government protect net neutrality.

New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus asked during question period what the government planned to do to "ensure that consumers who paid for access are not going to be ripped off, that badly needed competition will not be squeezed off, and send a message to the telecom giants that they have no business monkey-wrenching with the free flow of information."

As well, the Campaign For Democratic Media has launched a "stop the throttler" campaign, complete with Facebook group.

Anderson said the group plans to continue to pressure Industry Minister Jim Prentice, who to date has described the issue as a matter between consumers and their ISPs. Prentice has said the government is monitoring the situation.

Bill expected

Anderson said he also expects to see a private member's bill on net neutrality come before Parliament soon.

As well, he says, there's that CRTC new media report, which the Campaign For Democratic Media was consulted on. He said he expects it to contain language recognizing that net neutrality is an issue, without taking a position.

The report, expected in late May, could lead to new media hearings that would address net neutrality, he said.

"It's a slow burning issue," said Anderson. "It just takes something for people to say, 'OK, this is really happening now.' It's like a spark. I think that people at a visceral level find these issues important."

Related Tyee stories:


Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll