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CRTC finds evidence of throttling on Rogers Internet service

Canadian Gamers Organization has alleged that Rogers throttles, or slows, popular online games such as World of Warcraft, in violation of CRTC guidelines.

Canada's telecom regulator has informed Rogers Communications Inc. that preliminary results of an investigation into the company's Internet services suggests it engages in unauthorized throttling.

The case centres on a complaint from the Canadian Gamers Organization that Rogers allegedly throttles, or slows, popular online games such as World of Warcraft, in violation of Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission guidelines. The CRTC's enforcement division launched a probe of Rogers' Internet management policies last October.

The CRTC made its initial findings public late Friday. Underscoring the gravity of the correspondence, the CRTC also threatened to hold a hearing if Rogers fails to provide a rebuttal or compliance plan within two weeks.

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Throttling, known in industry parlance as technical Internet Traffic Management Practice (ITMP), generally targets peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing by slowing down speeds of the heaviest users during peak traffic periods.

"Based on the preliminary results of our ongoing investigation, Commission staff is of the belief that Rogers Communications Inc. ("Rogers") applies a technical ITMP to unidentified traffic using default peer-to-peer ("P2P") ports," wrote Andrea Rosen, chief compliance and enforcement officer, in the letter which also provides a summary of the evidence to date.

Rogers now has until noon on Feb. 3 to provide the CRTC with a rebuttal of its evidence or a plan to become compliant. "Failure to provide a meaningful rebuttal or an effective plan will result in my recommendation to Commissioners to hold a show-cause hearing," Ms. Rosen added.

"We're actually very surprised by this. We do our own testing constantly and this is not anything that our testing results have shown," said Rogers spokeswoman Patricia Trott. "We are just looking at the information now and we will get in touch with the CRTC. We'd like to see their detailed testing. It is a little unclear to us what this letter means."

Jason Koblovsky, founder the Canadian Gamers Organization, lauded the CRTC for enforcing its net neutrality policy, calling it a "big win" for consumers, gamers and game developers.

"Today's communication to Rogers is a message to the telecom industry that you can no longer get away with breaking net neutrality policy in Canada, or claim innocence while not in compliance with CRTC policy," Mr. Koblovsky wrote in an e-mailed statement. "It also proves that the technology used for throttling is flawed."

In 2009, the CRTC released a decision that said Internet service providers should only use throttling as a last resort to manage traffic on their networks, while also making it compulsory for companies to notify their customers if they engage in the practice.

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Instead of throttling, the CRTC's preference is for companies to manage traffic by investing in their networks and through economic measures, such as usage-based billing.

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