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Watchdog casts an eye over ‘throttling’

Net neutrality a competition issue

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is taking an interest in the “net neutrality” debate in Australia, according to the Australian Financial Review.

The discussion was revived by the announcement that Telstra is trialling “traffic management” technologies. This prompted accusations that it was either already throttling P2P traffic, or intended to do so.

The carrier later protested that it was merely looking for ways to improve the customer experience, noting that it had told the ACCC:

“Telstra’s goal is to optimise the customer experience by managing congestion on its ADSL network through price, investment and technical means. Traffic on Telstra’s ADSL network has on average doubled every 12 months for the past four years, driven to a large extent by growth in demand for real time entertainment. Without continued congestion management further growth in traffic will result in more congestion at peak times, negatively impacting on the customer experience”.

However, if the ACCC’s remarks to the Australian Financial Review are anything to go by, the competition regulator isn’t convinced, with chairman Rod Sims saying:

“Clearly there is a vertical integration issue where internet service providers can control what comes down their pipe and obviously if, unrelated to the reports about Telstra, we see that ISPs were using that technology to influence their own content over other content then that would be of concern to us.”

The question would appear to be twofold. The first is that with ISPs stitching up deals with content providers, QoS enforcement that inhibited consumers’ access to content outside the walled garden would be viewed as anti-competitive.

While the ACCC didn’t mention advertising, it seems to The Register that services promoted on speed might by vulnerable to complaints about false advertising if particular traffic types are throttled. ®

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