OTTAWA - Most Canadians support the idea of Internet traffic management as long as all users are treated fairly, a new poll suggests.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll found only about one in five of those surveyed had heard of Internet traffic management or "traffic shaping," a contentious issue now before the federal regulator.

Internet service providers employ the practice, which slows down service to heavy users, to manage and prioritize online traffic during high-volume periods.

Telecom companies are appearing before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission this week over the question of guidelines for Internet traffic management.

Critics of the practice are pressing for so-called "net neutrality" so that the big service providers are prevented from penalizing some customers over others.

Sixty per cent of survey respondents said they found the practice reasonable as long as customers are treated fairly, while 22 per cent said Internet management is unreasonable regardless.

"Canadians like high-speed Internet access, and the speed of service provided by their Internet service providers is seen as satisfying their needs," said the survey.

Eighty per cent of households have Internet access at home, 73 per cent of them high-speed, the survey suggests. Eighty-five per cent of survey respondents said the speed of their home service is adequate.

Most - 54 per cent - said they did not know whether traffic management affects them personally. Just 15 per cent said they are affected by the practice.

"As long as all customers are treated fairly in the way they are affected, most believe that traffic shaping is a reasonable approach for ISPs (Internet service providers) to take," said the survey.

Telecom companies identify person-to-person file-sharing - such as uploading and downloading of movies - as the main problem they're trying to solve through traffic management.

Rogers, for one, uses complex technology to analyze what kinds of communications users are engaged in - sharing a Hollywood movie versus sending email, for example - and then "throttles" or slows down certain activities so the rest of its network moves faster.

The company compares person-to-person file-sharing to a car that parks in one lane of a busy highway at all times of the day or night, clogging the roadways for everyone unless someone takes action.

The survey of 1,000 Canadians was conducted July 9-12 and is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

Latest From ...