After fielding complaints from the federal telecommunications regulator and the online gamers that it slows residential Internet customer traffic, Rogers Communications Inc. has decided to stop traffic management starting next month.
“New technologies and ongoing investments in network capacity will allow Rogers to begin phasing out that policy starting in March 2012,” Ken Englehart, the carrier’s senior vicc-president of regulatory affairs, wrote the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission on Friday.
“These changes will be introduced to half of Rogers existing Internet customers by June 2012 and to its remaining customers by December 2012. It will be rolled out in stages to make sure that customers continue to receive a reliable, consistent and fast high speed internet experience.”
With the move Rogers joins BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada, which announced in December it will stop traffic throttling.
The decision marks a big step back for Rogers, because it still believes traffic management is a legitimate strategy to fight residential subscribers who it says are slowing down its network sending data-heavy files like movies.
North American carriers have complained for some time that subscribers using peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent to share heavy files are eating up bandwidth and slowing overall traffic on their networks. Traffic shaping – slowing P2P traffic in favour of other traffic – is one of the tools some carriers use for ensuring more even speeds.
The CRTC allows traffic-shaping, but only if it doesn’t interfere with time-sensitive traffic, like voice calls.
But in an interview on Friday, Engelhart said the carrier might bring traffic management back if the need warrants.
There are “a lot of different reasons,” why for the time being traffic management is being put on the shelf, he said, “but the primary one is we are making big network investments this year so we’re going to have much more capacity, so we can.”
He maintained that only non-time sensitive peer-to-peer traffic was being slowed. “It was complying with the CRTC policy,” he added.
However, the CRTC allegated last month that the carrier is causing “a noticeable degredation” to time-sensitive traffic on peer-to-peer ports.
In his written reply to the commission, Engelhart said the network equipment it uses from Cisco Systems Inc. doesn’t interfere with time sensitive traffic.
“Nonetheless,” the letter added, “out of an abundance of caution and to allay any concerns which the commission’s investigation may have created, we have reconfigured the Cisco equipment so that the unclassified traffic on peer-to-peer ports is no longer traffic managed.”
Last year a group of Internet gamers complained that Rogers was slowing their traffic, which the carrier said wasn’t deliberate. Instead, it blamed “misclassifications” of data settings on its Cisco equipment.
“The CRTC letter identified what we considered to be a different problem,” he said, which is not a problem at all. It’s sort of a technical thing they read about in the Cisco manual.” Still, Rogers has reconfigured the equipment to be sure. In addition, it decided to stop traffic management altogether.
“We fixed the gamer problem, we fixed the thing they (the CRTC) wrote to us two weeks ago. Getting rid of the traffic shaping was not something we’re doing as a result of the CRTC. It’s something we decided to do even before the CRTC sent us that letter. But the CRTC’s activities probably accelerated our announcement a bit.”
“But just like any other carrier in the world, we’ll bring it back if we have to.”