Several weeks ago while browsing a news site I come across an article that was talking about Bell Canada starting to throttle p2p connections. What was different about this was the fact they were doing this without notifying ISP’s that were downstream who were renting the Bell DSL lines.

When I seen this article about what Bell Canada was doing I contacted my local ISP that I use and sure enough the owner confirmed what I had read in the article.

My first thought I had on this was Bell Canada clearly hadn’t been paying attention to how unpopular Comcast was becoming over its p2p practices in the U.S.

The next move for me was to contact someone at Bell Canada and see if someone could answer my questions I had about what Bell plans on doing in regards to its throttling of p2p. With that I was put in touch with Pierre Leclerc who is the Director of Media Relations for Bell Canada.

Below is the interview that took place between me and Pierre over the course of two e-mails.

Before I start I would like to thank Pierre Leclerc for taking the time to answer my questions.

WolfManz611: First question I have for you is can you tell me exactly what it is that Bell plans on restricting in terms of bandwidth and how? Are you only going after Bit Torrent? Are you going to restrict all Bit Torrent traffic or only those people who consume large amounts of bandwidth?

Pierre: Increasing congestion is affecting the networks of Internet carriers across North America, including Bell. Like other carriers, we are seeking to better balance Internet traffic during peak usage periods so that all our customers receive optimum service. Much of this congestion is caused by P2P file sharing applications, and it affects a very small portion of users.

Our management efforts are purely to ensure the network functions at optimum efficiency for all our clients… this is good for our customers. As you know, we never target specific users or monitor content - it simply because of the nature of P2P applications that we need to balance the load on our network during peak hours.

Keep in mind that customers of all kinds can continue to use P2P services on managed networks such as Bell’s at any time. However, they will simply not work as fast during peak periods in order to ensure optimized service for all of our customers. Other data services are unaffected by such management.

WolfManz611: Also from what I understand of this Bell decided to do this bandwidth limiting and not notify any of the downstream ISP’s and I’m wondering why that decision was made?

Pierre: Our agreements with wholesale ISP customers include provisions regarding our right to manage our networks appropriately and for the benefit of all customers. Our wholesale ISP customers are well aware of these provisions, and of earlier network optimization initiatives with our Sympatico business (and similar efforts by our competitors and peers across North America). That said, we are also meeting with ISP customers to ensure they fully understand our approach and the reasons for it.

WolfManz611: Do you plan to implement this restricting of bandwidth all through Canada or are you only interested in certain places?

Pierre: The congestion issue and our bandwidth management solutions obviously apply to our entire network, including wholesale services; as mentioned, we seek to ensure fair and optimum use of Internet network resources for all of our customers.

WolfManz611: From what I gather your saying that you’re not targeting individual p2p users who are using lots of bandwidth, so then is it safe to assume everyone is going to suffer do to these few people in terms of bandwidth being throttled?

Also I’m curious as to why can’t Bell limit only the users that are using all the bandwidth up?

Pierre: As I said before, we don’t target specific users, monitor content or block a specific type of traffic - even P2P applications. We are simply restricting the amount of bandwidth that P2P applications consume during peak times. Anybody can still use these applications, they just won’t perform as fast during peak times.

Again, it’s important to note that we are speaking of a very small segment of users that will be impacted by our peak hour network management policy. The vast majority of our customers will benefit by being able to enjoy a continued high level experience on the Internet.

WolfManz611: Do you plan on changing the Sympatico web site page where people can get DSL access where it says “Super fast access speeds no frustrating slowdowns even during peak times”? I would think new customers of Sympatico would like to know if p2p is going to be throttled before they decide to purchase the multi-meg DSL lines.

Pierre: Our network management policy has been implemented to insure that speeds remain high for a majority of users. Beyond this, I can’t really comment on future marketing strategies at this time.

WolfManz611: The next question I have is what does Bell plan to do when things like Bittorent become common place and used by everyone? I know of several MMO games that have options to download either demos of the games or patches for the games and these rely on Bittorent to get the content out to a large audience.

I also know of a lot of other things such as Linux distributions, and you even have popular rock artists coming out and uploading free content to Bittorent. It would seem to me like Bell might be in for problems here when people really start to use p2p because you don’t have a way to keep up with demand is this correct?

Pierre: These are very forward looking questions that we won’t comment on at this time. Suffice to say, that we will always work hard to insure that our network remains fast and safe for our customers.

WolfManz611: At what times does Bell start throttle p2p traffic? I have seen some people claim that they are being throttled from like 4:00pm to 12:00 midnight and during that time they are getting like 30KB a sec on p2p file transfers is this correct?

Pierre: It happens in late afternoon and ends approx. around midnight

WolfManz611: Also what will you tell your Sympatico customers who are currently spending $100 a month on the 16 Meg DSL lines? I’m sure you know that most people who are putting out that kind of money for a DSL connection are doing some serious downloading.

Pierre: Our goal has always been to insure that a small segment of the user base don’t slow the network down for everybody else. Our contracts are very clear and include provisions insuring our right to manage our network so that it continues to function at optimum levels for as many customers as possible.

WolfManz611: In your last e-mail you said “Increasing congestion is affecting the networks of Internet carriers across North America, including Bell. Like other carriers, we are seeking to better balance Internet traffic during peak usage periods so that all our customers receive optimum service. Much of this congestion is caused by P2P file sharing applications, and it affects a very small portion of users.” Does that mean that you think there are very few users using p2p/Bittorent on Bell lines?

Pierre: Many analysts have reported that a minority of users consume a majority of bandwidth by using P2P applications. The nature of these applications is such that they demand us to manage our network accordingly.

So there you have it that’s the interview.

I see this argument from both sides of the fence I agree that bell does have to manage its network. However Bell is also bad for promoting its own services as unrestricted when clearly p2p is in fact restricted. The other factor that’s annoying about this is the fact that do to a few heavy p2p users EVERYONE gets shafted and stuck with crappy download speeds for large portions of the day and night.

My biggest problem with this whole thing though is, just as Bell is coming in to throttle the p2p speeds, loads of companies are starting to rely more and more on p2p. I think Bell can get away with this p2p throttling but what are they going to do when it’s the majority of users using p2p and not the minority. I know tons of people who are right into using things like Bittorent and if you keep tabs on its use it’s becoming more and more wide spread and new uses for it are coming up all the time.

One concern I have is where does this throttling stop. Today they are going after p2p but after that are the newsgroups up next and the IRC as well? Once Bell is successful at killing off p2p why stop there?

What Bell needs to do if it’s really concerned about bandwidth is knock off its TV commercials where they go on about being able to download movies and music. You can’t have a add campaign like that and then say to the user we are going to limit your p2p speed because your downloading movies and music.

Some of you maybe thinking the answer to this problem is switching from DSL to a Cable connection for Internet and that’s not an option either since the Cable companies are doing the same type of p2p throttling that the DSL providers are doing.

The other part of this I find puzzling, is that right now if you look at ISP’s like Sympatico you see they already tell you that you have a certain gigabyte cap in place. So if they have a 60 gigabyte cap already in place per user then why not enforce that? Make it so that if someone crosses that line you turn their internet connection off until the next month rolls around and then re-enable the connection.

One thing is for sure it will be interesting to see how all this plays out.