Below is a copy of the complaint I sent in on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 to the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business services, along with the CRTC's Telecom Complaints Commission, on behalf of the Canadian Gamers Organization. This tests the current complaint system and throttling practises against consumer law, and notifies each of these jurisdictions of significant problems with enforcement and procedure within the CRTC on consumers complaints. Hopefully some change will come out of this.
You can view and download the original PDF file here.
Here's the web version of this complaint:
To Whom It May Concern,
an administrator of The Canadian Gamers Organization. We’ve recently
launched this organization to help advocate on behalf of consumers
rights as it relates to games and gaming products which includes the use
of Broadband Internet Services. I’d consider myself to be a consumer
advocate. I’m also a Systems Analyst by profession. I’m currently
writing to you on behalf of the Canadian Gamers Organization.
The reason for our correspondence to you is concern that we believe Rogers Communications may have violated the Ontario Consumer Protection Act, by not fully disclosing the use, limitations and affects of its use of Internet Traffic Management Programs (ITMP) on Rogers Internet Services. We also believe that the CRTCs current regulatory policy in ensuring full disclosure of the use of ITMPs does not conform to the Ontario Consumer Protection Act, nor is the Commission actively ensuring compliance with the act under these policies. We also believe that consumers are being treated unfairly by Rogers Communications and the CRTC, by actively requiring consumers to have a high level of technical expertise in order to test conditions of compliance of CRTC regulatory policy, and applicable laws.
This complaint has been sent to the Consumer Protection Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services, and the Telecom Complaints Commission for follow up according to their respected jurisdictions.
We believe Rogers Communications has violated the below sections of the Ontario Consumer Protection Act:
32. For the purpose of subsection 38 (1) of the Act, the information that the supplier shall disclose to the consumer before the consumer enters into an internet agreement is:
3. A fair and accurate description of the goods and services proposed to be supplied to the consumer, including the technical requirements, if any, related to the use of the goods or services.
35. (1) For the purpose of section 42 of the Act, a direct agreement shall be signed by the consumer and the supplier and shall set out the following information:
6. A fair and accurate description of the goods and services to be supplied to the consumer, including the technical requirements, if any, related to the use of the goods or services.
Rogers Communications employs the use of Internet Traffic Management Programs, to help curb network congestion. The specific type of program used is called deep packet inspection (DPI). The CRTC in 2009 has allowed this practise, but with minimal disclosure to Canadian Consumers on what is or is not affected by ITMP, along with an extremely high and technical evidentiary threshold placed on the consumer by the CRTC in order to launch regulatory complaint procedures on what is or is not affected by ITMP, and whether or not the ISPs are following through with regulatory policy. This situation has effectively turned the consumer into technical testers for ITMP bugs, and may be creating an environment where many problems with this technology are not being resolved, due to an expert level of technical expertise needed to report such problems to the CRTC and Rogers.
It’s important to note that Rogers started implementing the use of ITMP in 2007. The CRTC recommended under its policy CRTC 2009-657 that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) be transparent in the use of ITMP’s, however to date Rogers has only a small section on what ITMP is affecting on their service and only lists Peer 2 Peer (P2P) file sharing, without listing other limitations of the use that ITMP have presented, and are known to present. Several complaints on compliance regarding CRTC regulatory policy CRTC 2009-657 have been handed to the CRTC by consumers, in which the CRTC has refused to act on due to lack of evidence, or simply asking the ISP’s to update their disclosures on a case by case basis, rather than ensuring ISPs do the appropriate testing to ensure full disclosure of the limitations of ITMP and what specifically is or isn’t affected by the use of ITMP thereby ensuring compliance with Ontario Consumer Protection laws and CRTC regulatory policies. We feel the failure of the CRTC to order full disclosure on what ITMP may be affecting may not be fully in line with the Ontario Consumer Protections Act that ensures fair disclosure of services under consumer agreements, and contracts.
We are concerned that by not providing full disclosure of applications and systems affected by ITMP may also be inhibiting consumer choice, and leaving the consumer to deal with an extremely time consuming and frustrating effort to get Rogers service matters resolved, and/or for the consumer take other actions which include cancelling of the service or contract and moving to another Internet provider. Without full and complete disclosure and accurate testing of what applications and systems are or are not affected by ITMP by the Internet Provider, application and system developers have can have an extremely hard time troubleshooting application and system errors, thus non-disclosure of this information may in fact be affecting business to consumer services and communications outside of the Rogers technical support desk. Even when developer troubleshooting occurs with the consumer, and the developers’ only option to service their customers is to connect with the Internet Provider for further technical support, Rogers has displayed unwillingness or are unable to effectively troubleshoot ITMP related issues unless threatened by a regulatory public hearing on the matter.
It took several attempts by one of our members to get the CRTC to look into information she sent in regarding the possibility of ITMP affecting the World of Warcraft game. The CRTC complaint came after several months of Rogers refusing to look into the issue, and Rogers employees ignoring multiple attempts from employees working for Blizzard (creators of World of Warcraft) to contact Rogers to assist them in fixing the problem. On July 13th, 2011 Rogers submitted information in confidence to the CRTC that they actively tested and fixed the problems with the World of Warcraft game, on July 29th 2011. In the July 29th letter, the CRTC ordered that Rogers provide some testing information on public record by August 8th, 2011. On August 8th, Rogers responded to the commission’s request that the World of Warcraft testing data be publically released .
In Rogers’ conclusion to these tests, Rogers admitted that the software used for traffic management has a serious flaw, and “misclassified” the game as Peer to Peer Traffic. Rogers stated:
“Running P2P as the same time as the game has the potential to impact the game in any scenario, even if traffic management works perfectly, however Rogers acknowledges the misclassification is a bug with the technology”
We believe the affects of ITMP are a lot more widespread than with the PC version of World of Warcraft, and extend to other games, gaming systems, and non related gaming applications, and could impact internet services even when P2P applications are not running, due to the ITMP bug actively misclassifying non-P2P applications. The extent to which this bug is currently affecting Rogers’ services is unclear and unknown since Rogers failed to disclose this information to the public or its customers. It is also unclear whether Rogers has implemented wide spread testing on this software to see exactly how their offered services have been affected by this bug, and their use of ITMP.
Rogers’ solution to the misclassification of WoW (World of Warcraft) submitted to the CRTC:
“The fastest way to fix this problem was to use “whitelisting”. Using this method, traffic to the WoW servers is completely excluded from Rogers’ Traffic Management Program. The traffic completely bi-passes the classification mechanism and as such, no policy is applied. Rogers obtained a list of WoW servers from and has fully deployed “whitelisting” across the Rogers network, thereby fixing the problem”
It is our view that Rogers should also be providing to its customers a list of “whitelisted” applications in order to comply with the Ontario Consumer Protection act and CRTC Policy.
It is important to note that Rogers Communications enlisted the help of MIT and Cisco Systems in troubleshooting the World of Warcraft complaint. The consumer cannot be expected to know exactly what’s affected or not affected by the ITMP systems, when it’s clear the technical knowledge needed to do this far outweighs the troubleshooting skills of Rogers in house technical support, let alone any advanced knowledge of Rogers internal networking infrastructure the consumer doesn’t have. Both the CRTC and Rogers shouldn’t be dealing with this type of problem on a case by case basis. Active testing and monitoring of ITMP systems along with full disclosure of how the service is affected should be needed in order to ensure full compliance the Ontario Consumer Protection Act, and CRTC regulatory policy in our interpretation of both.
We believe that in order to provide compliance with Ontario Consumer Laws, that Rogers start actively testing their systems and disclose to its consumers exactly how service with Rogers Internet is affected by ITMP use and to ensure that consumers have the proper information to make the appropriate choices in services.
In 2008 I submitted comments on the limitations of the use of ITMP to a CRTC hearing that was looking at whether or not ITMP was needed on smaller internet providers that lease their lines from Bell. Those comments were later referenced in one of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers responses to this hearing echoing similar concerns (paragraphs 63 - 69). The Rogers World of Warcraft testing data released to the public now validates those concerns; thus we believe that by not disclosing the limitations of ITMP’s, Rogers has affectively been in violation of the Ontario Consumer Protection Act since 2007, when Rogers first implied ITMP on its networks.
I have also contacted the CRTC personally asking them to update their regulatory policy to ensure compliance by ISPs with several recommendations , and as of this date, that complaint remains unanswered.
We believe that the next step in ensuring fair and balanced resolution to a broken complaints system with respect to ITMP’s may lie in existing consumer, and contact laws in which the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services has legal jurisdiction and the authority to act on. We believe The Telecom Complaints Commission has jurisdiction under CRTC regulations, which should (and are not) conforming to Internet and Direct agreement disclosure laws In Ontario.
The overall goal of this complaint is:
1) To ensure Rogers compliance with existing Ontario Consumer laws and CRTC telecom regulations
2) To ensure that consumers are not abused unfairly by asking them to test and report on the highly technical use of ITMP systems or software, in order to ensure Rogers compliance with CRTC regulations or relative law.
3) To ensure complete disclosure of services offered to Canadian and Ontario Consumers by Rogers.
4) To ensure the CRTC is not acting in conflict of interest, and remains independent when drafting and upholding policy and regulations specific to CRTC 2009-657.
5) To restore consumer confidence
To reach these goals cooperation is needed on all fronts and all jurisdictions. We believe that this cooperation will be essential and directly linked to consumer confidence within the current regulatory and legislative regime. If cooperation is not offered on all fronts, it will greatly impact the volume of complaints needed to ensure compliance with applicable laws, and regulations thus making transparency, and accountability unenforceable under the current system on the issue of ITMPs, corporate disclosure practises, and issues discussed under regulatory policy CRTC 2009-657.
We hope that we can count on you to further investigate this complaint, ensure Rogers compliance with disclosure of its ITMP practises, and to ensure that consumers are not being treated unfairly.
(Canadian Gamers Organization)