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Indie ISPs cry foul over Rogers’ speed boosts

13 Nov

Super high-speed internet? Maybe not if you’re with an indie ISP.

After a period of relative public calm, the internet access wars are ratcheting up once again with the CRTC being asked to intervene in a dispute between independent service providers and Rogers.

This time it’s the Canadian Network Operators Consortium, an affiliation of indie ISPs, accusing Rogers of trying to unfairly charge more for higher-speed services. CNOC says Rogers recently boosted download and upload speeds for its own retail customers without any price increases, a move that is supposed to automatically result in those same speeds being made available to independent ISPs who use parts of its network. CNOC says Rogers is offering its members those higher speeds, but only at an additional cost.

Marc Gaudrault, chief executive of TekSavvy – one of the larger CNOC members – announced on Thursday that the group had filed an application with the CRTC to enforce the so-called speed-matching rules. According to the regulator’s decision in 2006:

The Commission determines that should a cable carrier introduce a speed upgrade to one of its retail internet service offerings with no corresponding price change, it is to issue at the same time, revised [third-party ISP access] tariff pages that match these retail service speed changes with no corresponding price change.

CNOC wants the CRTC to order Rogers to raise the 18, 28 and 32 megabit-per-second service speeds offered to its members to 25, 35 and 45 Mbps, respectively, with no price increases.

The regulator has responded and is indeed expediting the application. Rogers has been ordered to reply by the end of this week, with a further rebuttal from CNOC due by the end of next week.

At the heart of the matter is something called aggregated points of interconnection, which – if I really got into it – would guarantee the loss of at least three-quarters of the readers who have made it this far, and possibly induce sleep in the rest. Suffice it to say, aggregated and non-aggregated POIs are different methods of moving internet traffic around and counting it.

Rogers wants indie ISPs to move onto the aggregated method, something it says the CRTC essentially ordered at the conclusion of the big usage-based billing fiasco a year ago. Here’s what a spokesperson told me:

We are not denying TPIAs access to our new speeds provided they have moved to a single point of connection, called an aggregated point of interconnection (POI). As part of the usage based billing rulings in November of last year, TPIAs were given two years to move from a disaggregated POI to an aggregated POI. The sooner this happens, the sooner we can provide those speeds to these third party ISPs.  Rogers will continue to provide access at existing speeds on the old network architecture until November 15, 2013.

The dispute, as usual, boils down to whether or not Rogers’ move can be considered anti-competitive. The small ISPs argue that it is, since Rogers’ own retail customers are getting the benefit of higher speeds without higher prices, yet the indie companies – and their own subscribers by extension – are being expected to pay more.

If it’s uneconomical for the indies to sell the faster speeds, they won’t, in which case the big network owners like Rogers will hold a distinct advantage since internet access is sold largely on speeds. Since they’ll simply perish if they can’t keep pace, the indie ISPs will ultimately have no choice but to accept the higher prices being pushed on them – and that effectively neutralizes the entire point of their existence, which is to provide a competitive check to the big guys.

Since last year’s UBB ruling, the indie ISPs have also been arguing against some of the wholesale traffic volume costs put forward by the likes of Bell and Rogers. Some, like TekSavvy, are waiting for the CRTC to rule on those before deciding on whether to offer higher speeds, such as 75 or 100 megabits.

Does the quick acceptance of CNOC’s application by the “new” consumer-friendly CRTC mean Rogers is heading for a wrist-slapping, with higher speeds for indie ISPs following soon thereafter? It’s certainly possible to read the tea leaves that way.

In the greater sense, it’s good to see Rogers raising speeds regardless, especially in uploads. The company is offering up to 250 megabit upload speeds on its Ultimate Fibre plan, although the more realistically priced plans include uploads between two and four megabits.

Canada holds a woeful position internationally when it comes to upload speeds, currently ranking 68th with an average speed of 2.38 megabits per second, according to Ookla’s Net Index. Not only is that half the world average of 4.76 Mbps, it’s also behind the likes of Uganda, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Rwanda.

While broadband has generally been sold to the mass market in terms of download speeds, uploads are becoming just as important as we move to cloud services and social media sharing. Posting a YouTube or Facebook video or backing up your files and documents through something like iCloud is terribly slow in Canada relative to the rest of the world.

Not only is that annoying, it’s also a pretty strong indicator that such services – and therefore businesses – are unlikely to emerge here. We need faster download speeds too, but not as much as better upload speeds.

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8 Comments

Posted by on November 13, 2012 in crtc, internet, rogers

 

8 responses to “Indie ISPs cry foul over Rogers’ speed boosts

  1. BillG

    November 13, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Roger’s is doing some weird stuff with their plans. The extreme plus plan (which I am still on but transitioning from) is 50 mbps down, 1 mbps up with 150GB cap. The Extreme plan is slower at 35 mbps but with 10 mbps up and 500GB cap. This makes no sense other than to strike at competition at the same speeds/download caps. In the meantime, they’ve upped the maximum charge for over usage from $50 to $100. As someone who regularly hit the cap and over, this was the final straw to make the move to Teksavvy. Even if your speeds remain slower in the interim, it’s still better than supporting Roger’s shady tactics.

     
    • BT

      November 13, 2012 at 10:17 am

      Extreme with 500GB usage is an Atlantic Canada offer. It’s 120GB in Ontario.

      Also, Extreme Plus was 32Mbps down, 1 Mbps up before these upgrades. It’s 45 down and 4 up now.

       
  2. BT

    November 13, 2012 at 10:14 am

    There’s one thing you kind of glazed over:

    The new speeds are only being offered at a higher price to Indie ISPs on the aggregated system. Indie ISPs on the non-aggregated system (which is most of them) are being told they can’t get them at all unless they switch to aggregated, despite the CRTC mandating that support for the non-aggregated system continue until next November. The ruling was that they were supposed to provide access to the existing tiers – including changes to those tiers – until then.

    Rogers is trying to pass these off as new tiers on the wholesale side, while advertising them as upgrades to existing tiers on the retail side. It should be open and shut at the CRTC for this.

     
  3. Joey

    November 13, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Also non-aggregate POI links (like Teksavvy has) are not tarrifed services and so the CRTC has no ability to impose anything.

     
    • Teresa

      November 13, 2012 at 11:58 am

      Even if the links are non-aggregated and not under tariff, Rogers still has to provide it to TPIA. They’ve provided 2 earlier upgrades to TPIA non-agg (1 of which was after the aggregated POI was ready to go I do believe), and yet its only with the increases to upload speeds that Rogers is suddenly saying its aggregated only.

       
    • BT

      November 13, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      That refers to the links between the POIs and the IISP.

      The tiers (packages, speed profiles, whatever) are a completely separate issue and are tariffed services.

       
 
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