How to Vote for the Internet: Election Our Chance To Ask About Internet Policy

The federal election marks the end for at least five government bills focused on Internet and digital policy. Bills on privacy, copyright, and Internet surveillance died on the order paper and will have to start from scratch when a new government is elected in May. Moreover, the much-anticipated digital economy strategy, set for release this spring, has likely been delayed until the fall at the very earliest.

While the legislative process may be on hold, my weekly technology column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the election campaign offers Canadians the chance to raise the profile of Internet and digital issues even further by voting for the Internet. The Internet is obviously not a political party, but a vote for the Internet means asking candidates for their views on the country’s top digital issues:

1. Global surveys consistently give Canada a middling to poor rank for wireless and broadband Internet services. What would you do to enhance Canada’s Internet competitiveness?  How would you ensure that all Canadians have access to affordable broadband networks?

2. Where do you stand on usage based billing, the Internet metering policies employed by Canada’s large Internet providers that sparked a political firestorm last month when over 450,000 Canadians signed a petition protesting the practice? What are your views on a general principle of an open Internet, with support for network neutrality and open access rules that allow smaller Internet providers to compete?

3. Over the past year, Canada has witnessed increasing vertical integration among its large broadcasters and broadcast distributors, with the mergers of Shaw and Canwest Global as well as Bell and CTVglobemedia. Where do you stand on vertical integration and prospect for dominant players retaining exclusivity over valuable content to the detriment of other competitors?

4. Canada is scheduled to complete the digital television transition on August 31, 2011. What are you prepared to do to ensure that Canadians won’t lose their signals when broadcasters flip the digital switch?

5. The digital television transition will free up valuable spectrum that can be used for new wireless broadband services. Would you create a set-aside for new entrants in the spectrum auction to facilitate greater competition?  Would you remove foreign ownership restrictions to allow new bidders to enter the Canadian market? Would you commit to reallocating spectrum proceeds to Internet policy issues?

6. The government unveiled a new open government initiative days before the election that makes thousands of data sets freely available and mandates greater disclosures of completed access to information requests. It’s a good start, but Canada’s system still features more restrictive licensing than comparable initiatives in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. What would you do to further enhance open government?

7. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has spoken openly about the need for stronger enforcement tools, including order making power, penalties for privacy breaches, and naming names of privacy violators.  Do you support such reforms?

8. The lawful access initiative, which would allow for increased Internet surveillance, died on the order paper last week. Assuming the issue is revived, do you support implementing safeguards that mandate court oversight before Internet providers are required to disclose customer information to law enforcement?

9. Copyright legislation proved among the most controversial initiatives in the last Parliament.  If copyright reform returns to the legislative agenda, do you support changes to the digital lock provisions to allow Canadians to circumvent locks for non-infringing purposes such as changing formats of a DVD or making a backup copy of an e-book?

10. Canadian cultural groups have expressed concerns about their ability to adapt to the Internet environment. What policies or programs do you support to foster a robust Canadian culture online?  Do you support the CRTC’s new media decision that adopts a hands-off approach to broadcasting on the Internet?


  1. I don’t even have to ask. I’ve followed the C-32 debate and know the answer to this question:

    “Will you support the interest of US cartels against those of Canadian citizens?”

    Party 1: Yes. That’s why we exist.
    Party 2: -long, elaborate non-answer that’s open to any interpretation-
    Party 3: No.
    Party 4: Yes if there are handouts to Quebec province.

    My vote will go accordingly.


  2. The answer to some of these will ultimately decide who I vote for.

  3. I think we all know that the parties in question will simply spout out what we want to hear, and then flip-flop once they are elected. I have lost all faith in the political system.

  4. schultzter says:

    There word is as good as fool’s gold
    Yeah, they can say whatever they have to to get elected; and then blame someone else when they don’t deliver.

  5. Doom … DOOM!
    In my riding Party#3 has a good chance of being reelected, and it’s their technology critic that has garnered my vote. The prospect of a Tory majority could be a huge setback for our digital future, certainly if they mirror the attitudes of their right wing US counterparts. The only glimmer of hope is their response to the UBB issue, but then with such behavior running so close to an imminent election I do not give it much credence.

  6. CBC Vote Compass missing Digital Economy Options
    I just completed the Vote Compass at CBC and was dismayed not to see ANY questions pertaining to internet regulations or Canada’s digital economy. This implies the media does not view it as a big ticket election item, contrary to my understanding that a LOT (and a rapidly growing #) of Canadians are concerned about it.

    @Michael:I trust you will put pressure where you can to make sure these issues get as much coverage as they reasonably can throughout the lead-up to the upcoming election.

  7. CBC Vote Compass gets a lot wrong
    Yeah, well, I’m not surprised. – The vote compass gets a lot wrong. On the economic spectrum they put the Greens farther left than the NDP. Considering the Greens believe in balanced budgets and free market economics among other things, they are in may ways right of centre. They are certainly right of both the NDP and Libs.

  8. @David: Most of the media likes the internet as is. Limited, throttled and capped as not to pose a real threat to the traditional distribution methods.


  9. @Darryl: “The vote compass gets a lot wrong. ”

    Went there to see what it is. It says I’m closest to Somali Radical Extremist Pirate Party.

    Nap. 🙂

  10. Now seriously. I tried again varying the answers to see what gives. My suspicion is that they somehow place the Liberals in the middle of a scale so whenever you go “I don’t care” it counts as getting closer to them.

    CBC, please add “I don’t have enough information to decide” and “I don’t care about this issue” as possible answers and don’t make them count toward any party.


  11. Here comes the electoral b****:

    Say Stephen, how about simplifying the tax code to the point that anyone could fill in the return in 30 minutes using just a pencil and a basic calculator?


  12. Web Developer
    Prof. Geist: Thank you for elucidating the issues(as you are wont to do). Because, like the past Parliment it is indeed hard to do just that

  13. Roger’s Throttles WOW
    Michael Geist, you have to blog about this!

    Now we have ISP’s throttling legitimate internet usage, they deny that it is happening, and when they get caught, ops, sorry will take months to fix! On top of that, they want to charge UBB

  14. Re: UBB

    I have nothing against UBB, if an ISP wants to charge customers by the megabyte for internet access, then they loose all their incentive to throttle connections. I would much prefer to pay by the MB than to live in a walled garden of “approved low-bandwidth services”.

    The real reason that ISPs want to throttle your connection (aside from CRIA litigation potential), is because they have oversold their networks, and the infrastructure isn’t able to keep up with the number of customers. Flat pricing schemes don’t encourage them to invest in their networks; you get better return from throttling your customers instead of supporting their bandwidth.

  15. pat donovan says:

    privacey, property and freedom of info. Want to know who done what here?

    c-6 outlawed ‘natural’ foods. The us has JUST started making monopolies on them, driving costs from 10$ a month to 1500.

    the digital world is the same. anything than can be monetized will be.. especially by conservatives (who LIKE to eat their own young, biz + politics wise).

    kicking up xerox rates for students (no argument allowed, no complaints, no audits) is a typical example. Streaming vids is another.

    money beats votes every time.


  16. Anarchist Philanthropist says:

    Maybe I missed something but if the poll was run by the toronto newspaper and allowed everyone to vote on internet policies whats the point in that??! Since when do the masses know squat about the internet other than what the media tells them?? Yeah great stop the meter got 400K+ signatures great. When there are Canadian 33 odd million people in this country that number should have been HUGE.

    So lets put it this way. What really should be done when it comes to IT related matters of government and other matters dealing with the IT world, the government should be contacting us. The people who have university educations in the field. This no different than laws affecting the medical community or oil fields. The masses should not be allowed to vote on stuff they don’t know anything about.

  17. Anarchist Philanthropist says:

    This should be the same for governing officials. Just cause someone is in the gov’t don’t mean he actually knows anything on a specific topic. James moore has an education in economics and business administration and is the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. This does not mean he knows squat about the internet yet, harper asked him to writeup bill C-32. Am i the only one who see the BS that this is?

  18. Hindgrinder says:

    Piracy – it’s for the children…
    Personally…I’m going to vote Pirate Party.
    Not because I don’t believe in copyright…more because I don’t trust the Libs or Cons to get it right. They really are the only Party that was born and is anchored in internet issues.

  19. Trevor Heisler says:

    I’m voting for the Internet
    I’m voting for the Internet #elxn41 via @openmedia_ca

  20. Michael Nicula says:

    Founder, Online Party of Canada
    At we collect topics from various sources (domain experts, member or guest suggestions, twitter etc) and have them written up in the form of ‘Issues’. We post these issues on our website and ask our members, guests, experts, political representatives to vote and comment. We have a team of editors (political science students) writing these issues but we always welcome domain experts to contribute – they write better issues.

    OPC is a truly democratic party. Once we have a majority position on an issue, our leaders, candidates any party representative is obliged (we came up with a legal document to enforce this) to support publicly and cast vote in any legislative body they might get elected, according to the party members’ majority position, regardless of their own opinions. They can advocate, argue, debate, ask, or beg members to vote they way they think it’s better but can’t vote against the majority, outside our website.

    We have two issues currently posted under tag ‘Digital’:

    I find the issues described in this article very insightful and we will have them written up and posted within days. Is there anyone visiting this page interested to collaborate?