Canadian Content Producers Take a Stand for Net Neutrality

Oh, Canada: Your health care is universal, your forests are green, and your creative industries are against BitTorrent throttling. The Canadian Film & Television Production Association (CFTPA) and two other trade groups representing filmmakers and TV producers testified in support of net neutrality in front of the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) this week. The CRTC has been conducting hearings to look into Bell, Rogers and other Canadian ISPs throttling their subscribers’ BitTorrent traffic.

Bell’s BitTorrent throttling is very similar to what Comcast (s CMCSA) tried in the U.S. until it got forced by the FCC to stop interfering with torrent transmissions. However, the reactions from entertainment industry representatives were very different on this side of the border. The MPAA and NBC Universal (s ge) came out in support of Comcast, making clear that they viewed BitTorrent throttling as the first step towards a world in which ISPs are proactively policing their networks against copyright infringement.

CFTPA Vice President John Barrack told the regulators yesterday that BitTorrent is one of the only ways for content producers to get their work out to the public without major broadcasters, according to a report by He got support for his position from the Independent Film and Television Alliance; the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists; as well as advocates for people with disabilities and an independent ISP.

Canadian cable ISP Rogers (s RCI) has been throttling BitTorrent since late 2005, but the country only started to debate net neutrality issues when Bell Sympatico admitted to throttling P2P traffic in the fall of 2007. The debate got especially heated when Bell started to interfere not only with its own DSL subsribers’ P2P transmissions, but to throttle traffic it was reselling to other ISPs renting the telecom giant’s lines.

Bell, Rogers and a few other Canadian ISPs that have admitted to BitTorrent throttling got a bit of a break when the CRTC decided late last year that the practice can continue until further notice. The commission also scheduled public consultations to investigate the issue further. These proceedings have been going on since February, and a decision is expected before the end of the year.

Proceedings advanced much quicker when the FCC investigated Comcast’s BitTorrent throttling last year, even though the ISP got some major backing from the entertainment industry. Both the MPAA and NBC filed a motion with the FCC in support of Comcast, with NBC arguing that BitTorrent was used mostly for illegal file-sharing and that more intrusive copyright filters could help to prevent legal content from being blocked.

Even major broadcasters seem to think different about these issues in Canada: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has in the past experimented with BitTorrent video distribution, only to see its downloads throttled by Bell and Rogers.