The Angus Net Neutrality Bill

NDP MP Charlie Angus introduced his private member's net neutrality bill in the House of Commons this afternoon.  The short bill seeks to add transparency, neutral network management, and open devices to the Canadian telecom law framework:

Network operators shall not engage in network management practices that favour, degrade or prioritize any content, application or service transmitted over a broadband network based on their source, ownership or destination.

The bill includes several notable exceptions to this general principle, including action to provide computer security, prioritize emergency communications, offer differentiated pricing or bit caps, anti-spam filters, handle breaches in terms of service, and to prevent violation of the law.

The bill also focuses on open devices and greater transparency.  It provides that "network operators shall not prevent or obstruct a user from attaching any device to their network, provided the device does not physically damage the network or unreasonably degrade the use of the network by other subscribers."  Further, it requires that "network operators shall provide and make available to each user information about the user’s access to the Internet, including the speed, nature, and limitations of the user's broadband service at any given time."  The bill is hardly the "regulate the Internet" approach anti-net neutrality advocates would suggest, but rather is a measured response that deserves broad support.


  1. Loophole?
    I hope I’m misunderstanding, but wouldn’t the exception to allow preventing violations of the law allow ISPs to continue to degrade torrents based on the possibility that the user could be breaking the law by downloading the content? Or will the ISP be required to prove that violation is occurring before degrading traffic? I have the same concern about encrypted content (a la Rogers), degrading based on the possibility that legal violations could be occurring inside the encrypted connection, but hopefully I’m just being a paranoid pessimist.

  2. Differentiated Pricing
    I’m rather concerned about the differentiated pricing or bit caps clause. Wouldn’t this lead to the sort of multi-tiered internet that we’re trying to avoid?

    Frankly, I’m not opposed to paying by the MB since that would force transparency upon the ISPs with regard to their pricing practices. I am opposed to data caps and steep penalties for exceeding them because these will probably interfere with and possibly even stymie creative use of the internet.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Differentiated Pricing
    “Wouldn’t this lead to the sort of multi-tiered internet that we’re trying to avoid?”

    You mean the one that is affordable by more people? It’s not a bad thing for there to be cheap, lower-bandwidth options so that more people can get at least *some* access. That’s becoming increasingly important to families with children in school. Second-hand computers and low-prices levels of internet access are crucial for families having a tough time making ends meet who don’t want their children’s schooling to fall behind today.

  4. Vishal Malik says:

    Differentiated Pricing
    Allowing differentiated pricing might encourage pricing structures commonly seen in the market for wireless data. For example, the cost of watching mobile TV and accessing the web on your cellphone is different.

    If the network providers cannot block or slow down certain kind of traffic, they can start charging more for it to discourage its access. Is this allowed under this proposed bill? I would appreciate if Michael or one of the readers could clarify this.


  5. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand how it applies to P2P throttling. Can’t managed based on source, destination or ownership. How does source, destination or ownership apply to P2P?

    I submitted this article to digg here. Get it some coverage!
    [ link ]

  6. Penalty?
    If an ISP performs traffic grooming, they should also loose their claim to common carrier as a (criminal?) liability shield against knowing what is passing through their network. In other word, they can groom but then they better know what every bit that passes through their network is legal or not down to a very detailed level, not just a protocol level.

    This should discourage them from traffic grooming. 🙂

  7. They SHOULD, but they won\t
    Just because losing their common carrier status seems logical, doesn\’t mean it will ever happen. I\’m concerned about the exceptions to this bill. They can easily degrade P2P under the pretence of \”preventing violations of the law\”, unless I\’m misunderstanding something here. I\’m also concerned about the \”offer differentiated pricing and bit caps\” exception. The lower bandwidth options won\’t get extremely cheap. They\’ll just raise the prices of the higher bandwidth options. Unless there is real competition forced into this marketplace, it will never happen.

  8. Only worthy of mockery
    “(2) Nothing in subsection (1) shall be construed as limiting or restricting the right of a network operator to:
    (a) Manage the flow of network traffic in a reasonable manner in order to relieve congestion;”

    Awesome! This precise argument has been used by the ISP’s to throttle BT traffic. Now ISP’s will have black letter law to back them up when they throttle different protocols on their networks. Thanks NDP!

  9. Alistair says:

    More gGeneral – or more specific?
    I’m glad someone’s trying to get attention around this issue with the legislature. But it’s not the best fit, IMHO. It’s a challenge — on the one hand, a general statement like “Carriers will treat all bytes the same” has teeth; but then all sorts of riders get tacked on. For one thing, in this statement, “source, ownership, or destination” is a bit naive.
    I’m going to assume source and destination are network nodes. But “ownership”? Nobody “owns” the data. It’d be more meaningful to keep it simple: You can’t treat bytes differently, except for cases of network management or national security.
    At the very least, there needs to be a concrete statement of protocol equality. Today’s furore is around the idea of a “Facebook premium” i.e. destination-based pricing. But it’s only a matter of time before the carriers miss their long distance revenues as VOIP catches on and they want to charge a “Skype tax.”
    That’s where most of the innovation is — realtime subscription protocols like COMET, gaming traffic, and so on.
    Paying more for more bytes per second is fine. Paying different amounts for different kinds of bytes is bad. That’s a pretty simple argument, no?

  10. Internet Commmunity responsiblity and In

    Internet Throttling has been in the news quite a bit lately, with Bell Canada being sued by Quebec’s consumer watchdog for the practise. Bell has been practising the voodoo art of Deep Packet Inspection, throttling peer to peer file sharing during peak hours. This heresy was enough to drag 300 pasty skin net citizens to surface and protest in the light of day on Parliament Hill. Bell for its part has said this was necessary to prevent speed slow down for about 700,000 customers. Now this might have been easier to stomach if they had been actually rolling adequate funds into infrastructure, being proactive rather than reactive, and the fact Bell had not just introduce a pay for movie down load service. On one hand Bell claims traffic congestion and on the other hand they roll out a movie down load service, something smells. But really what should have all internet users concerned is the use of Deep Packet Inspections (DPI). This refers to the ability to inspect the contents of the bit of information called packets that flow around the internet and drill into the packet to tell whether it is email from me or a video that originated at This technology is commonly used for traffic shaping, but can also be used to collect specific information and reassemble that information right down to individual email traffic. Now anyone that is surprised that internet traffic can be monitored and recovered should shake their heads. But what is discouraging is that it is creeping into every day business society and being used to boost profits rather than provide adequate services.This does not bode well for the consumer or net neutrality. My last point is for us the consumer, if we treated forests like we treat our internet resources, Green Peace would be ramming our laptops with their ships. With the explosion of bandwidth hungry applications we continued to eat up the capacity of the Internet, we have depleted our net resources quicker than we ever managed to do on terra firma. Video and file sharing, movie down loading continue to eat up bandwidth, content rich social media sites all make demands on the infrastructure of the internet. Youtube has 10 billion videos viewed monthly, social media sites and networking site have multi millions of members and we as consumers have to start asking how much of it is necessary and serves a positive purpose. Most of what we do on the web has no social or personal enriching component and is centred around voyeurism or semi-anonymous self expression. These fads far out way the positive use of the internet and consume much of the available internet resources. We as consumers may have to start controlling our appetites for online media, before big ISP’s start doing it for us, by hitting our wallet.