Traffic Throttling: Bell, Rogers May Still Be Slowing File-Sharing Downloads, Data Shows

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Traffic throttling may be on its way out in Canada, but Internet users who are into file-sharing may have to put up with the controversial practice for some time yet. (Shutterstock photo)
Traffic throttling may be on its way out in Canada, but Internet users who are into file-sharing may have to put up with the controversial practice for some time yet. (Shutterstock photo)

Traffic throttling may be on its way out in Canada, but Internet users who are into file-sharing may have to put up with the controversial practice for some time yet.

According to data from an Internet lab, Canada’s largest Internet providers were still slowing down file-sharing traffic in the first quarter of this year, despite commitments to stop the controversial practice.

Tests run at the Google-backed Measurement Lab showed that Bell and Rogers continued to throttle the vast majority of traffic from customers running the popular bittorrent file-sharing application; Bell throttled 77 per cent of file-sharing traffic on its network, while Rogers throttled 80 per cent

Both companies had previously said they were planning to stop slowing down file-sharing traffic. Bell announced late last year that it would stop the practice as of March 1 of this year. Rogers followed suit, promising to stop throttling by the end of this year.

A spokesperson for Bell Canada told The Huffington Post the company stopped throttling traffic on schedule as of March 1 of this year. The Measurement Lab data -- which covers the period from January to the end of March of this year -- could still reflect the traffic throttling Bell engaged in prior to March 1.

However, the data shows a significant spike in the use of traffic throttling by Bell in the first quarter. In the first three months of 2011, Bell was found to be throttling only 56 per cent of its file-sharing traffic, compared to 77 per cent this year.

Rogers’ numbers were largely unchanged from the previous year. A spokesperson for the company said Rogers is in the process of phasing out its use of traffic throttling, and has already done so for 50 per cent of its customers.

Other Internet providers were also found to slow down file-sharing traffic, though far less frequently than Bell and Rogers. Indie provider TekSavvy was found to throttle 36 per cent of file-sharing traffic, while Distributel apparently slowed traffic down 38 per cent of the time.

Among the major ISPs, Telus did the least traffic throttling in the first quarter of this year, slowing down file-sharers only two per cent of the time, according to the data. Bell Aliant and Cogeco did no throttling at all.

The test results can be found at Syracuse University’s website.

Internet traffic throttling has become a major issue for consumer advocates in Canada, who point to evidence that slowing down certain kinds of Internet traffic is a particularly acute problem here.

Federal regulations allow internet service providers to throttle file-sharing traffic, but they are forbidden from slowing traffic on time-sensitive traffic such as web chats or multiplayer online games.

Earlier this year, the regulator found Rogers to be in violation of those rules, at least with respect to online video game traffic. But it later said it was confident Rogers had stopped slowing down video game traffic.

Here’s how traffic throttling among Canadian ISPs breaks down:

Internet Provider, and percentage of tests showing throttling
Rogers -- 80%
Bell Canada -- 77%
Distributel -- 38%
TekSavvy -- 36%
Shaw -- 22%
SaskTel -- 9%
EastLink -- 7%
Videotron -- 7%
Telus -- 2%
Bell Aliant -- 0%
Cogeco -- 0%

Source: Measurement Lab via Syracuse University School of Information Studies

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