This series has devoted the past several weeks to making the case that the Bell coalition website blocking plan is a disproportionate, ineffective response to piracy that is out-of-step with global standards, will raise consumer Internet costs, result in over-blocking legitimate content, and that is offside Canadian norms on net neutrality, privacy and human rights. Yet even if the CRTC were to still think this terrible idea is worth supporting, it would fall outside its stated rules on approving website blocking. The Commission has made it clear that it will only permit blocking in “exceptional circumstances” and only where doing so would further the objectives found in the Telecommunications Act.
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The Case Against the Bell Coalition’s Website Blocking Plan, Part 14: Failure To Further the Telecommunications Act Policy Objectives
The Case Against the Bell Coalition’s Website Blocking Plan, Part 12: Increasing Privacy Risks for Canadians
The Bell website blocking coalition cites privacy protection as a reason to support its plan, noting the privacy risks that can arise from unauthorized streaming sites. There are obviously far better ways of protecting user privacy from risks on the Internet than blocking access to sites that might create those risks, however. Further, with literally millions of sites that pose some privacy risk, few would argue that the solution lies in blocking all of them. In fact, the privacy argument is not only weak, it is exceptionally hypocritical. Bell is arguably the worst major Canadian telecom company on user privacy and its attempt to justify website blocking on the grounds that it wants to protect privacy is not credible.
The Case Against the Bell Coalition’s Website Blocking Plan: Canadians Take a Stand Against Site Blocking
The Bell playbook for its website blocking proposal has largely followed a familiar narrative. Much like the “Fair for Canada” campaign in 2013 that was designed to convince Canadians that keeping foreign competitors such as Verizon out of the country was in their best interest, the FairPlay Canada campaign similarly tries to make the case that a coalition of supporters want the CRTC to institute website blocking without court orders. The campaign clearly starts with Bell: they first raised the issue in September at a House of Commons committee hearing, obtained the legal opinion to support the application (it is addressed to Bell), and used a closely allied law firm to draft the application.
The Case Against the Bell Coalition’s Website Blocking Plan, Part 11: Higher Internet Access Costs for All
The Bell website blocking coalition includes several Internet providers, but there are no smaller, independent ISPs. The absence of smaller ISPs that are essential to the government’s aspiration for greater Internet access competition is unsurprising given the costs associated with site blocking that can run into the millions of dollars with significant investments in blocking technologies and services, employee time to implement blocking mandates, and associated service issues. A mandated blocking system applied to all ISPs in Canada would have an uneven impact: larger ISPs will face new costs but may find it easier to integrate into existing systems (some already block child pornography images), whereas hundreds of smaller ISPs would face significant new costs that would affect their marketplace competitiveness. In fact, larger ISPs might ultimately benefit from higher fees passed along to subscribers and reduced competition.
The Case Against the Bell Coalition’s Website Blocking Plan, Part 10: Why It May Violate Human Rights Norms
The Bell coalition website blocking plan may violate more than just Canadian net neutrality rules. As currently framed, it may also violate human rights norms. Website blocking or other measures to limit access to the Internet raises obvious freedom of expression concerns that has sparked commentary from many international governmental organizations. Frank LaRue, the former U.N. Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, was one of several experts on freedom of expression, including representatives from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of American States, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, who issued a joint declaration in 2011 on freedom of expression and the Internet. It states the following on blocking: