Last week Simon Fodden caught all of us up on the issue of “throttling” of web access by Bell Canada that broke in the news in his post When It All Goes Peer Shaped. This issue has continued to be the talk of the tech industry all week with no indication of letting up.
The crux of the story is that Canadians are being denied access to certain aspects of the Internet with ISPs Bell and Rogers making the decisions as to which parts are denied, including access to peer-to-peer downloads of CBC TV episodes to which Canadian taxpayers are legally entitled. This story is quickly making us realize that Canada may not have the web infrastructure we thought we had, and this is one way these companies are trying to deal with it; however, it feels like there has been a lack of transparency in the way they are dealing with it and presenting it to the public.
What has helped me understand this better is a post by Toronto business technology expert Sandy Kemsley on her blog Column 2: Jason Laszlo gives Bell Canada a(nother) Black Eye. In the first half of the post, she takes us through how this became an issue in the first place, and sums it up by saying:
What this all comes down to is a violation of net neutrality: Bell and Rogers are deciding which traffic on the network gets higher priority. They’re doing it now because they’ve failed to make the necessary investments in infrastructure over the years that would allow them to actually deliver what they sell, and coincidentally they choose to throttle traffic that competes with their other business areas.
She then goes on to describe the related fiasco, news of which quickly spread through the Toronto tech world yesterday: comments made by Bell Canada spokesperson Jason Laszlo on his Facebook page which denigrated the journalists covering the original story, referring to them as “lemmings”. While his meaning is open to interpretation, observers agree he should not be personally discussing the situation in a semi-public forum such as Facebook. Kemsley observes:
he obviously was unaware of the impact of no privacy settings, since I was able to access his profile immediately after that even though we’re not directly connected and have no mutual friends.
His comments have further aggravated those in the Canadian tech industry. Kemsley goes on to summarize:
So what’s the lesson to be learned from this mess? The public is now aware and mobilized on the impact of traffic shaping on their daily lives, even if they haven’t yet heard the term net neutrality. To paraphrase Peter Finch’s character from Network, we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore.
Oh, yeah, lesson #2: don’t entrust media relations for a sensitive subject to an inexperienced junior who doesn’t know well enough not to post inappropriate comments to his publicly-viewable Facebook profile.
I encourage you to read her full post to learn more.
Watch for next: informal tech industry interest groups becoming more organized to give some formal perspective and responses to the media.