Blog Post

CBC Torrent Caught Up in ISPs’ BitTorrent Throttling

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently made a bold decision to release an episode of the show Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister through BitTorrent. The move was remarkable not only because the national broadcaster decided to go completely ad- and DRM-free, but because it openly embraced platforms that are usually known for pirated content, the Pirate Bay and

But the experience has taught CBC a valuable lesson: Play with the outlaws, and you’re going to be treated like one. Numerous users have reported being unable to access the show downloads due to ISP-based BitTorrent throttling. To make matters worse, telecom company Bell Canada has just begun to throttle P2P traffic for all of its wholesale customers, potentially affecting a huge number of customers of other ISPs that resell Bell’s DSL service.

Many Canada’s Next Prime Minister fans have shared their stories of ISP interference on the show’s blog. One user reported that the download was going to take him 12 hours, while others complained about download speeds capped at 40 kilobits per second and uploads with 5-10 kilobits per second.

Canadian ISPs like Rogers and Shaw have been interfering with P2P traffic for years without provoking a public uproar comparable to that of Comcast’s BitTorrent fiasco. Bell Canada started to implement similar “network management” technologies late last week, and it has now openly announced that it will throttle BitTorrent and other P2P transmissions on its entire network by April 7th, which will also affect any DSL ISP that has a line-sharing agreement with the former Telco monopolist.

Viewers, while applauding the broadcaster’s willingness to experiment with BitTorrent distribution, were clearly frustrated by the experience. Some even believe that the timing of the throttling just when a major broadcaster is starting to embrace P2P is no coincidence. One user wrote:

“Look at all the first time torrent users here. Many of them will be left thinking P2P is overhyped and underpowered. If they have to remove the choke in a couple of months, the harm is already done.”

Others seem to agree, noting that Bell and Rogers also maintain their own video services:

“And, gee, just at the time when P2P is emerging as a legitimate alternative to those two companies’ television distribution duopoly.”

It looks like Canada is having its very own Comcast moment. Net neutrality advocates would certainly have a strong ally in CBC if the broadcaster decided to pick up the issue and bring it to the attention of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission — a move that is getting support amongst fans of Canada’s Next Prime Minister.

Ottawa University Professor Michael Geist already sees the writing for Canada’s very own net neutrality regulations on the wall. As he notes: “It will become increasingly apparent that the regulators and politicians can no longer remain silent.”

16 Responses to “CBC Torrent Caught Up in ISPs’ BitTorrent Throttling”

  1. Thee Dude

    I am deeply concerned about Bell Canada’s recent announcement that it will make its practice of throttling official. I have felt the full effect of their throttling myself and I am not even one of their customers.

    Canada does not have strict enforceable net neutrality legislation and so there is very little structure in place to prevent the big ISPs from discriminating by speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.

    I am being throttled at 10kbps, sometimes I can hit 60kbps. I am on ADSL with Radioactif, a reseller, and I used to be able to hit 405kbps in best conditions. Bell did not provide No warning, No penalties, No abuse notice. And they are throttling me. It’s completely unacceptable. If it was in Europe, there would be Riots in the streets. Bell and all other major ISP are abusing their power and their customers that have no other alternative. It is an infringement of human rights.

    “Human rights are “basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.” “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and RIGHTS. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” -Article 1

    They abuse their power to profit themselves and only themselves. The fact that I am not even one of their customer and I am being controlled, monitored and denied full access to what I am paying every month and am entitled to. What make it right to allow a reseller to sell me a service that the Network owner block at 10kbps. I’m paying for high speed. No download limits and pay 30$ a month for a service that is 1/3 a 9.99$ 56kbps Dial-up Connection. So I am paying 3 times the price for 30% of what I should be rightfully getting. I am literally getting robbed.

    Bell is using it’s monopoly over DSL infrastructure to restrict competition in the industry. They also affect the broadcasting industry and the right to share free computer software. Freeware are open to everybody without discrimination. What purpose is it to have access to a Linux distribution when you cannot download it because it would take me Months to download a Free open source distribution when it could take me days, even hours at normal pace. Bell’s alliances and vertical integration with software and broadcasting interests are a direct conflict of interest.

    I am outraged that Canada does not have a policy to protect my ability to communicate and access information freely on the Internet and urge everyone to take action on this matter immediately before it is too late.

  2. CBC has had the foresight to see the future of television services today.. too bad Bell and Rogers clearly wrongfully too do

    .”Should ISPs Be Able to Slow Down Heavy ‘Net Users?” Recently, it has been brought to the media’s attention that several ISPs have been using back-end techniques in an effort to slow down heavy-bandwidth activities that people might perform on the Internet. This includes, most importantly, downloading and transmitting large files, like movies. Is it right of the ISPs to do this

    Next most of the related online Comments for a start rightfully do not Support BELL in this AT ALL…

    Anonymous said…
    What bothers me is the secrecy involved. Imagine this occurring in any other industry. Perhaps you buy a dozen donuts, but find only 6 in the box. When you complain, the vendor states that they had to reduce “a dozen” to 6 in order to keep the price the same, and that it’s perfectly legal for them to adjust terms of sale without your notice.

    When I’ve paid for something, I expect to receive it. If terms of sale change, I expect to be informed. Specifically, if ISPs sell me bandwidth, they should not be able to control what I do with it without my knowledge. And where is the line drawn? Would the situation really be any different if they were “shaping” HTTP traffic? I’m sure everyone’s speed would improve if people weren’t looking at so many damn web pages, so perhaps they should slow that down too.

    I can understand the major ISPs perspective, but if you can no longer sell what you are promising, secretly adjusting terms of sale is unacceptable. If this were an older, more established industry, the ISPs would already be in court over this. I am not normally one to suggest regulation, but as Internet access becomes an essential service, some regulation does appear to be required.

    Anonymous said…
    Totally illegal, Bell (or any other ISP) have no legal right of any kind of doing the RIAA/MPAA bidding. (how much ISP are paid to illegally censoring the net?)

    Randy said…
    This sounds like something bell might do and since rogers has been getting away with it since 2005 who is to stop them ? since most ISPS lease from bell or rogers

    Anonymous said…
    Bells traffic shaping is hardly to protect the 90 out of 100 who use their service for basic surfing.

    If users are eating up too much bandwidth, they’d most likely be affecting other heavy bandwidth users, before low bandwidth users even notice.

    There’s currently plenty of bandwidth to go around.

    This is more out of bandwidth greed, bell needs the bandwidth for something (IPTV?) and are throttling and throttling their third party distributors.

    It was no conincidence that Rogers traffic shaping started around the same time they launched their VOIP service, bell is playing their cards in turn.

    I don’t mind if they throttle their own customers, but it is completely illegal for them to throttle their third party distributors, with little notice, to forward their own business plan.

    Anonymous said…
    It isn’t what Bell is doing…
    it’s how they do it.

    They are well known for making up the rules as they go, completely disregarding the impact to others.

    I have had the unpleasant experience of being a Sympatico DSL client and will begin supporting TechSavvy by becoming their customer. If Bell punishes all users, I may as well pay the company who supports me in principle.

    Anonymous said…
    I would like to throttle my payment for the Bell services accordingly.

    Anonymous said…
    Bell’s false smokescreen justification for these immoral acts is a false camouflage for their own original misleading, false advertising of unlimited downloads, and is merely a cover-up for the fact their system cannot meet their originally promised capacities and they Bell should be seen now only as liars, Bell needs to be taken to Queen’s court for this too.

    Anonymous said… ISP’s like TekSavvy have their oven internet connections and peering arrangements for internet access, Bell is just providing the connectivity from the users phone line to in this example Teksavvy’s network. This is what Bell is choking down on them. Teksavvy and many other independents have their own internet access and provide better services than those available through Bell Sympatico or Rogers with their throttling and port blocking. This is not really about Bell’s internet bandwidth, but is in fact an anti-competitive act. Since Bell have been throttling their own customers they have been leaving in droves to the independent competition, well beyond the normal customer “churn”. This move by Bell effectively kills the competitor’s edge.

    “Bell is a a dual faced hypocrite itself, it does not want to be regulated and yet it regulates other.. so regulate Bell by it’s own acts, standards..

    “In Europe the present existing capacity and speed of the internet is significantly a lot higher over that now being supplied by Bell. It’s own past is catching up with Bell. They are also reaping the lies they have sowed. As it has been already detailed in many places on the net, just do a Google search of Bell Sympatico, and you can see that in reality Bell falsely has deceived, mislead it’s customers Canada wide on it’s existing capacity to deliver the promised unlimited internet download speeds, on top of that the very poor presidential manager of Bell had also failed to use it’s profits to adequately upgrade it’s capability next to do so. It now was also already known in the communication, technical industry. amongst IBM engineers too, that the Scrooge Bell is a Dinosaur, and that it is, was not only poorly managed but has been composed of very incompetent, unqualified, and underpaid personnel “..

    and that is just a few of the negative comments.

    “Customers in Canada are leaving Bell en drove for cable. as a result too.

    Bell’s false gambling with the disatissfied customers has become a great loss for Bell too..”