Business Takes Sides in Net Neutrality Debate

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) looks at how the business community has begun to take sides in the net neutrality debate. Google led the charge with a submission to the CRTC in which it left little doubt about how it views the net neutrality issue.  The Internet search giant argued that "providers of broadband internet access services, including Bell, should be prohibited from throttling lawful applications.  The Internet is simply too important to allow them to act as such a gatekeeper; the Internet's myriad benefits can only be fully realized when Canadian carriers allow end users to choose the applications and content they prefer."

While Google's entry into the debate captured headlines, they were by no means alone. The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, Canada's largest high-tech association, warned that "the measures that Bell Canada is applying to manage the traffic of its Sympatico customers as well as its wholesale ISP customers is interfering with the ability of end-users to telecommute and/or work from their home offices and hindering our members from running their business and providing quick customer services." Bell's actions also attracted the attention of Skype, the popular Internet telephony service.  It cautioned that "for the Internet to remain innovative, and continue to deliver productivity gains for consumers and businesses, the CRTC must act – in this proceeding – to protect the interests of consumers."
These big names were joined by other Canadian businesses equally troubled by recent net neutrality developments.  Kaboose, a Toronto-based company that ranks as one of the top five family-oriented destinations online, stated that "the recent actions of Bell Canada set a dangerous precedent for targeted restriction of innovation." Redwire, an emerging online service for small business owners expressed the view that "to permit Bell Canada to continue these restrictive Internet practices would set a dangerous precedent and send a message to Canadian entrepreneurs that this nation is not prepared to support their innovation potential."

Bell obviously has its defenders.  Two of its leading competitors – Rogers and Telus – expressed support for its position, with Telus arguing that the CRTC should disregard the privacy concerns raised by several consumer groups.  Cisco, a leading seller of the equipment used to manage Internet traffic, warned that "broad net neutrality mandates would frustrate consumer interests," while the Information Technology Association of Canada, which is headed by a former Bell executive, suggested that the net neutrality debate has been "characterized by confused thinking."

The CRTC is unlikely to immediately solve the net neutrality issue nor leave all parties satisfied in the Bell throttling case.  However, the case has had a galvanizing effect on the Canadian business community, with many lining up with consumer groups and independent ISPs by pointing to the link between net neutrality and a robust innovation framework.


  1. Cisco is in conflict of interest. amirite or what?
    Rogers and Telus supporting Bell is what’s wrong with the telecommunications competitive status in Canada. They all have the mindset of nothing matters other then end profit. We’re only given the illusion of choice to these services.

  2. @ Above
    Could not have said it better myself.

  3. Hijacking terminology
    The second to last paragraph in the Star version of this story contains two classic samples of disinformation that need to be elaborated on. First, Cisco stands to gain far more business for new products to throttle and control data than they can ever hope to gain in an properly enforced neutral-net so naturally they will choose to avoid genuine neutrality at all costs. Second, the “confused thinking” has been strictly on the part of those who stand against a properly enforced neutral-net. This “confused thinking” is being used to try and hijack the term “net neutrality” and convince the less technically or politically inclined to believe that “net neutrality” means “net policing” when in fact, pretty much the opposite should be true.

    There is a critical need to inform the general public at all levels of what is really at stake here: perhaps it is asking too much that mainstream media like the Star would devote space to such an effort?

  4. When profits go up…
    Big companies don’t say “no”. Instead, they find ways to make even more money. That, and they get their “competitors” to agree with their causes because, in the end, it’ll mean more profits for the “competitors” as well. Is it any surprise that the three main telecom companies in Canada are standing side by side on this issue? They’ve oversold, and instead of investing their profits into maintaining or improving their networks, they complain that they can no longer do business as they have in the past.

    I’m sorry, but if you sell a 5 Mbit line, it should be 5 Mbit, not 0.25Mbit when you want it to be.

    Kudos to Google, Skype, et al that have joined the consumer side here. Let the net be neutral. It’s just too bad our government doesn’t listen to its citizens.

  5. Nathan S. says:

    @ Mark T
    Again I could not have said it better myself. With bill C-61 on the horizon, I believe a lot of these internet media companies are trying to further lock in their positions in order to reap huge rewards late that the bill will make possible for them. In fact a statement I remember reading would fit this situation perfectly: “beware he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he sees himself your master”

  6. Billy the 1/2 a Bee says:

    Waiting for Competition
    Boy I can’t wait until some new technology comes along that doesn’t require us to use the services of the telcos and cable companies. You will never see a faster migration of users in your life, no matter how fast they drop prices, reduce contract terms, and otherwise beg the users who hate them to stay.

    Don’t worry it will happen someday… the only unknown will be to see whether they can use their lobby money and pet politicians to legislate their new competition out of business before going bankrupt.

  7. Cisco
    Even more interesting is the number of Cisco-sourced graphs in Bell’s latest submission.

    Anyways, the graphs submitted by Bell _should_ make this an open-and-shut case for the CRTC, but we’ll see what happens.

  8. Bell, Rogers, et al
    Bell and Rogers are hardly just ISPs for the purposes of this discussion. They are also broadcasters, distributors, and creators of content. As such, they have a vested interest in throttling torrents, etc, even where the content being downloaded is not violating any IP, because it is a competitor to their own corporate content. As for Cisco’s statement “broad net neutrality mandates would frustrate consumer interests”. From their perspective, it is completely correct. However, what one must remember is that the “consumer” that Cisco is referring to is their own customers, that is Bell, Rogers, etc.

  9. Google has little choice
    Google really has no choice but to fight since it has to go with what the users want not the big corporate conglomerates want. Look at the whole VIAcom vs youtube and you see how abused this system of thinking is.

    Yet who benefits the most from youtube?
    Shows like the tonight show with Leno uses youtube videos more and more instead of making original content. Just like youtube attracts more people as content/creativity of all kinds are posted there.

    O ya not to mention google is the biggest torrent search engine there since their bots indexing everything. Far surpassing any other torrent site even mininova(which hosted the first mainstream networks torrented show). Asking them to filter every single site/page their bots index would be like asking them to edit the internet constantly. And no one nation can really tell them what to do since they have data centers across the world where they are not subject to any one nations abuses of power.

    As for the ISPs most of them have been abusing their duopoly instead of upgrading their networks because it is more profitable to BS a bandwidth shortage and throttle and enforce caps in the ever evolving digital age. With sites like hulu and bitgravity(tom greens channel/revision3/etc) ever increasing the streaming needs making more bandwidth necessary to a household that does not want to site around and wait for to watch their favorite shows with commercials.
    The Problem is the canadian duopoly(even the american doupolys) hinders our networks growth well other nations progress further and further. Tho verizon is doing very well to push the limits of what north american ISPs should being doing for their customers.

    Sadly free market fails to push innovation instead only tries to derture it as much as possible for profits. Just like democracy which seems to care more and more about maintaining profits to big company’s then helping society to progress in many ways.
    For example the EU/etc wants to extend copyrights further and and deny us any public domain rights in the future. If anything in the digital age content should go into public domain sooner rather then when we are all dead.
    Telus and Bell however seem to think they can control the content with Telus TV or bells digital crap content system start up that they can afford to spend bandwidth and investment money on but yet abuse third party options like teksavy by throttling their service.

    Telus and bell need to start taking notes from verizon if they want to compete in the content wars. Sadly our telecos seem more concerned about their profits then progress. Invest in upgrades not Bad PR throttle technology please. That means rogers and SHAW etc as well. Their is no reason in this day and age they can not have fiber to the node and supply the advertised speed you offer your customers if you are enforceing caps. If you want to cap me and 1mps(1/5th speed) during the day then at least give us limitless bandwith options or reasonable caps.

    Heck in japan they get 1 terabye of upload and limitless download(a month) with fiber and countless people have it and their network is not bogged down so much that they have to abuse lobby powers and spin fake propaganda about network congestion.

    The internet(total bandiwht growing by 40% a year) is the new number one source for content far surpassing TV since it now has the content of tv without all of the cons of TV. Keep up or get out of the way and let there be real competion again so we can get out of this stagnate growth period. Heck when i first got cable it was 5megs dl/1.5 meg upload. Then shaw bought my isp and it became 5meg dl and .5 upload. These days i am lucky if i get 1-2megs of DL speed.

    I am sorry but if you can not supply people with at least 300gigs a month when they cost about .005 cents to send a gig when people pay 50-70+ bucks a month for a line and service. Of course marking bandwidth up like 10000 times per gig of what should be as plentiful as water in this day and age is pure BULLSHIT!