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Bell Canada faces possible legal action by independent Internet service providers who say the telecommunications company is slowing down peer-to-peer network traffic on bandwidth leased by the Canadian ISPs.
Bell Canada's activity came to light last week when ISP TekSavvy Solutions started hearing complaints from customers, who claimed downloads on file-trading P2P networks that use up large amounts of bandwidth had dropped during certain hours of the day to as low as 30 Kbps to 60 Kbps. TekSavvy, a Bell Canada customer, advertises download speeds up to 5 Mbps.
Bell Canada acknowledged that it was "managing" traffic on its network, and claimed it was within its rights. "This isn't a new policy," Bell Canada spokesman Jason Laszlo told the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. "Our agreements with wholesale ISP customers clearly include provisions regarding our rights to manage our networks appropriately to the benefit of all customers."
TekSavvy chief executive Rocky Gaudrault, however, angrily disagrees with Bell Canada's stand. In a forum posting on the site DSLReports.com, Gaudrault said Bell Canada "doesn't get it.
"TekSavvy and all third-party ISPs are paying for a 'slice' of this network, so no, it's not Bell's at that point," he said. "They're paid to make sure the infrastructure remains in good shape, but they're not paid to police it! The flaw in Bell's thought is in their not understanding that we've paid for the right to this space."
Gaudrault told The Globe and Mail that he has contacted other independent ISPs that deal with Bell to discuss their next move. In the meantime, at least one ISP said Wednesday it's ready to take legal action against Bell.
"We will take legal action either by ourselves or in conjunction with a few other independent ISP's," an official with Acanac said on the company's customer forum. "I will have more information in the next few days."
The emerging battle over Internet bandwidth is as much an issue in the United States as it is in its northern neighbor. Cable and telecommunication companies in the U.S. have complained that P2P network users moving large files, such as movie files, between connected PCs use an unfair amount of bandwidth. While P2P subscribers make up from 5% to 10% of all Internet users, they account for from 70% to 90% of traffic, according to some experts.
The problem has been exacerbated by the growing number of video sites on the Web, such as Google-owned YouTube, and the increasing use of Internet telephony.
Congress is considering so-called "network neutrality" legislation that would prevent service providers from giving preferential treatment to some Internet content. Proponents include many Internet companies and consumer advocacy organizations, while the list of opponents include cable and telecommunication companies.
Cable operator Comcast has been accused of violating federal regulations regarding "reasonable network management" by jamming users attempting to share files via P2P networks using the BitTorrent protocol. The company claims it has the right to manage network traffic.