You might have heard, but the CRTC (the regulatory body for all things broadcast and telephony here in Canada, very roughly equivalent to the FCC in the US) is holding hearings on claims that ISPs in Canada regularly ‘shape’ (a codeword for ‘limit’ or ‘slow down’) traffic on their networks, specifically P2P traffic. And as TorrentFreak reports (and seemingly backed up by a summary of filings that’s been collected) it’s not just the much publicized Bell who engages in this practice, but apparently ALL major ISPs (and trust me, if you are in Canada, this effects you, because even your ‘Mom and Pop’ ISP buys their connectivity from these guys; indeed, that’s who started these hearings).
So why should you care, especially if you are an educator? I mean, it’s just P2P traffic, right? Kids illegally downloading albums and movies, right? Well, wrong, first of all – the shaping is indiscriminate, restricting the flow of perfectly legal uses of bittorrent as a ways to share files, along with everything else (and don’t believe the hype about new technologies being rolled out on campus to examine the content inside the packets and filtering accordingly, it’s a crock). But beyond that, this is the very start of the very slippery slope to undermining net neutrality; first ‘shaping’ a particular protocol, but how long before whole subnets disappear. Bittorrent traffic as Sudetenland, as it were. (I know, I think I just fell prey to Godwin’s Law.)
But again, why should you as an educator care? Well, if, like me, you see education and your place within it outside the limiting frames of your particular institution or role, you may, like me, have come to the conclusion that, even if we do nothing else, if we at least preserve the conditions for access, the possibility for connection, then knowledge and learning will flourish (are already flourishing, look around you.) This is Charter stuff here folks. This is man-the-barricade-stuff. I know, “hyperbole” you think, “a hundred better causes” you can think of. Well, this is one I know to be true, know is worth fighting for. (The worst part is that University campuses are some of the biggest offenders for this, can’t wait to see the comments from network admins, whose networks are indeed often truly besiged, that this post brings out.) – SWL