Canadian union decries ISP bandwidth issues


TORONTO -- A major Canadian media union on Monday urged the country's TV regulator to investigate online "traffic shaping" by Internet service providers after an attempt last week by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to upload a DRM-free TV program to online users via BitTorrent was severely hampered.

"On behalf of the National Union of Public and General Employees ... I am asking the CRTC to conduct an investigation into these practices and the implications for Canadian consumers," NUPGE president James Clancy said in a letter to CRTC chairman Konrad Von Finckenstein that was released to the public Monday.

The NUPGE cited high-speed Internet access provider Bell Sympatico for recent efforts to control its customers' use of peer-to-peer download and upload technology like BitTorrent.

The union said attempts by online users to upload the CBC TV show "Canada's Next Great Prime Minister" from BitTorrent were greatly slowed by ISPs, which limited the available bandwith for the file-sharing.

"This means that those Canadians, who are Bell or Rogers Internet service subscribers, wishing to download this show from their public broadcaster will be hampered in their efforts," NUPGE's Clancy told the CRTC.

The union head argued that BitTorrent represents legal technology for which "there are many legitimate uses."

The CBC became the first North American broadcaster to make a TV show available for free and without DMR restrictions for download via BitTorrent.

NUPGE pointed to an ongoing FCC investigation into online traffic shaping by U.S. cable giant Comcast, and urged the CRTC to do likewise with ISPs north of the border.

"Our neighbours to the south are taking this form of interference in Internet service very seriously," the Canadian media union said.