Net Neutrality Bill Hits Canada, Bell Sued for BitTorrent Throttling

New Democratic Party delivers on its promise to “prevent large ISPs from interfering with the free flow of information over the internet,” coinciding with word that Bell Canada faces class action lawsuit for BitTorrent throttling.

A network neutrality rally was held this past Tuesday to both garner support for the effort as well as to announce the New Democratic Party’s intention to submit a private member’s bill to ensure that ISPs don’t interfere with the “free flow of information over the internet.”

Some 300 protestors attended the rally and made clear their opposition to efforts by Bell Canada Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., Canada’s two largest ISPs, among others, to engage in “traffic shaping” or “throttling” of P2P and file-sharing applications like BitTorrent.

“When did Bell deign to say what’s good and what’s bad?” said Gatsby Wong, 32, of Toronto. “Who gave them that right?”

Others don’t buy the claims of network congestion, hinting that it may just be an effort to free up more bandwidth for sale.

“They say they have a congestion problem, but where’s the proof?” said Mark Farr, 49, from Welland, Ont. “They say I’m the problem, but they’re the problem.”

The issue for many was crystallized when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the country’s national public radio and TV broadcaster, decided to take a new approach to reaching the citizenry by using BitTorrent to distribute DRM-free digital copies of shows like Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister. In fact, they encouraged people to “download, share & burn to your heart’s desire.”

Delivering on its promise a network neutrality was subsequently introduced by the NDP to the House of Commons the very next day.

Here’s a summary of the bill, C-552:

This enactment amends the Telecommunications Act to prohibit network operators from engaging in network management practices that favour, degrade or prioritize any content, application or service transmitted over a broadband network based on its source, ownership or destination, subject to certain exceptions. This enactment also prohibits network operators from preventing a user from attaching any device to their network and requires network operators to make information about the user’s access to the Internet available to the user.

“Net neutrality affects everybody, every person, every business, every hospital, every institution is involved in the exchange of information over the internet,” said Charlie Angus, the NDP’s digital spokesman, to CBCnews. “This shouldn’t be about party lines.”

The story gets more interesting for yesterday it was announced that L’Union des Consommateurs and Myrna Raphael, a Quebec area subscriber, have filed a class action lawsuit against Bell Canada over its BitTorrent throttling practices.  The suit, which is seeking certification on behalf of all provincial subscribers, argues that the practice, begun last Fall, violated its claims of a “constant speed…even at peak times.” They also assert that Bell’s use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) violates the “right to privacy of consumers who use their Internet access services.”

Back in 2006 Raphael signed a 3-year contract for 3 years to “take advantage of the high speeds promised by Bell Canada.” She says that its BitTorrent throttling practices now mean that they no longer have the constant internet connection speeds they were initially promised and enjoyed.

They seek a refund of 80% of the monthly subscription price and $600 per subscriber to compensate for false advertising in regards to constant internet connection speeds, and $1500 for privacy rights violations.

Let’s hope they win.