The NDP unveiled its election platform today and it includes a commitment to reshaping telecommunications in Canada (posts on the Liberal positions here and here, Conservatives here and here). The party places particular emphasis on Internet access, with a commitment to using spectrum auction proceeds for broadband access, a requirement that ISPs support the creation of new networks, rescinding the market-oriented policy direction to the CRTC, enshrining net neutrality into law, and prohibiting all forms of usage based billing. The party also commits to retaining foreign investment restrictions in both the telecom and broadcast sectors.
The specific digital economy positions include:
- We will apply the proceeds from the advanced wireless spectrum auction to ensure all Canadians, no matter where they live, will have quality high-speed broadband internet access;
- We will expect the major internet carriers to contribute financially to this goal;
- We will rescind the 2006 Conservative industry-oriented directive to the CRTC and direct the regulator to stand up for the public interest, not just the major telecommunications companies;
- We will enshrine â€œnet neutralityâ€ in law, end price gouging and â€œnet throttling,â€ with clear rules for Internet Service Providers (ISPs), enforced by the CRTC;
- We will prohibit all forms of usage-based billing (UBB) by Internet Service Providers (ISPs);
- We will introduce a bill on copyright reform to ensure that Canada complies with its international treaty obligations, while balancing consumers’ and creators’ rights.
In addition, there is a cultural section that focuses on broadcaster licensing requirements, refocusing the CRTC mandate to promote and protect Canadian cultural industries, funding for various cultural programs, and the foreign investment restrictions.
The NDP position clearly envisions a greater regulatory role for telecommunications, responding to increasing frustration of the public with Canadian competition and Internet services. While it too leaves many questions unanswered – specifics on copyright reform, how to address competition concerns with Internet access, positions on wireless spectrum, privacy, lawful access – it provides a good sense of the party’s digital priorities and some specific measures that will allow for a contrast with the other parties.