NDP Unveils Its Digital Economy Strategy: Reshaping Internet Access in Canada

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 “net neutrality” in law, end price gouging and “net throttling,” 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.  


  1. Ubiquitous access…great in theory
    Using funds from spectrum auctions to fund broadband for all is good but this will cost BILLIONS. Satellite access is the only option in many of these areas and while you can already purchase satellite access pretty much anywhere in Canada the cost is still high and they have very restrictive usage policies with low bandwidth caps and speeds. Satellite will always have the latency issue that may make some services not function well.

  2. @TRandall: I agree with you. The weird thing is, is that they know how remote some people are in Canada but haven’t any idea the cost to get access to northern communities and individuals. If the NDP stuck to practical and realistic policy then they might get some traction. And prohibiting UBB is not the answer, choice is. The copyright point is vague. Public interest and protection of cultural, and restricting foreign ownership amongst other things seem contradictory.

    Jack is probably the best for the foreign ownership issue. Ignatieff and his wife are basically foreigners anyhow, so they will likely support it, unless the buyers are Ukrainian.

    Elizabeth May was born in the US and moved here when she was 18 so she too will likely support it.

    Duceppe doesn’t want to be a part of Canada so he too probably wouldn’t care.

  3. @Sylvain
    Duceppe is easy to figure out… If Quebecor/Astral/[insert other major Quebec content maker here] is against it, Duceppe will be against it… because unfortunatly 90% or so of Quebecois does not know anything about the copyright “battle” and listen to whatever crap Quebecor tells them… since they control 80% or so of the news media in Quebec.

    As for Harper, it depends on what MPAA/RIAA tells him to do.

  4. This is the most consumer friendly platform so far, I am also pleased to see mention of support for cultural sectrors. It would be better to see focused assistance to establushing Canadian artist than a blanket levy that would benefit mostly foreign interests.

    On the topic of foreign interests the telcos should be aware if they do not want that kind of incursion into the market they should not breed an environment where the public is starting to demand it.

    As in everything else the devil is in the detail but I like the direction and have to say they have my vote.

  5. Richmond2000 says:

    I do not think we NEED more Govt control but more competition + clear rules for the wholesalers to fallow IE BELL and UBB to the retailers
    there is in Australia the NBN a network to attach ™ of there population to the net with High speed fibre optics
    [quote] (NBN) is a fibre to the premises (FTTP) network under construction in Australia. The Australian government established the government business enterprise, NBN Co Limited, to design, build and operate the A$35.7 billion Open Access Network providing up to one gigabit per second to 93% of Australian homes and businesses, with the remaining premises serviced by wireless and satellite technologies with a minimum speed of twelve megabits per second.[/quote]

  6. Richmond2000 says:

    the NDP RE foreign ownership

    5.3 Building Home-grown Film and TV Production

    * We will ensure Canadian TV and telecom networks remain Canadian-owned by maintaining effective regulations on foreign ownership;
    * We will re-focus the mandate of the CRTC to promote and protect Canadian cultural industries;
    * We will provide sustained funding for the Canada Media Fund and Telefilm Canada, enhance federal film incentives and develop a targeted strategy for the promotion of domestic films in Canada;
    * We will set license requirements for broadcasters based on clear, binding and enforced performance standards for broadcasters, including increased Canadian drama.

  7. @Richmond2000: “The Australian government established the government business enterprise, NBN Co Limited, ”

    A “crown corporation”?


  8. On second thought, the problem with the NDP is their track record. They have left each province they ever lead in ruins, including Bob Rae when he was NDP in Ontario. Tony Clement did the right thing with UBB. I think the reasonable vote on these issues are the Conservatives.

  9. Government Control
    @Richmond2000 : Frankly, based on what I am seeing, I think we (globally) are going to witness an unprecedented level of government involvement in the various economies we interact with, for at least a decade. My gut tells me there is no place in the “developed nations” for an open-market ethic in the near term; pursuit of a competitive environment is futile, increased use of the crown corporation for necessary economic components (like broadband for everyone) is the prudent course of action. As much as I prefer to see an open market solve its own problems, I think we need to back-build until the rest of the world is ready to employ un-manipulated markets, again.

  10. @Danux: “pursuit of a competitive environment is futile, increased use of the crown corporation for necessary economic components (like broadband for everyone) is the prudent course of action”

    I tend to agree. Now the problem is if the Canadian public agrees or not that broadband is a necessary economic component. And I mean agree like in agree to actually pay for it. Like in “hey Napalm this year we’ll have a supplementary one time tax of $1000 that we’ll use to deploy fiber to your home”. I’d say “Yes Sir!” (provided that there’s the obligation to reimburse me the $1000 + interest if they fancy to privatize that fiber later; I don’t want to see a new 407 deal). But that’s me. How many others will agree? And, you know, someone has to pay for all that fiber. And government debt ain’t the solution.


  11. I’d pay, about 10 other people immediatly that come to mind would not.

    Some people just don’t have the correct priorities 😉

  12. It sounds like the NDP party is the only one headed in the right direction

  13. Look at the Big Picture …
    @Sylvain “I think the reasonable vote on these issues are the Conservatives.”

    The UBB intervention by the conservatives, while positive, must be seen in the light of being a popular move just prior to an election call. The rest of their track record on digital issues and the direction they gave to the CRTC starting back in 2006 speaks [negatively] for itself.

  14. @Crockett: “I’d pay, about 10 other people immediatly that come to mind would not.”

    Then they fully deserve throttling, UBB and price gauging. Case closed.


  15. This looks like the most promising so far. I’ll need to read it myself to see if it’s something to vote for, but the summary has actually got me interested enough.

    As for the Conservatives, I wouldn’t trust them to do anything consumer friendly if it hurt their business partners. Liberals too to some extent.

  16. Jeremy Clarke says:

    What the heck?
    It seems insane to me that they would actually say out loud that they will ban UBB entirely. Did they actually think that policy through, or just decide that UBB is unpopular and take that priority to the extreme?

    The problem was with Bell forcing all the wholesale carriers to use the same business model that they do when the point was to diversify choice. While UBB is a sucky thing to have on your Internet it really isn’t something that should be illegal. It’s a valid model that some customers surely want because they know they don’t consume much bandwidth.

    I am usually an NDP supporter and I applaud their extremely user-focused policy direction on tech, but banning UBB entirely reeks of their tendency to make impossible promises because they know they couldn’t possibly be held to task for them.

    Please NDP, make reasonable promises so we can take you seriously!

  17. Michael, in a future blog could you do a rundown of the potential Ministers of Industry in each party? We know that Tony Clement did the right thing with UBB but who could be in there with the Liberals or NDP, and BLOC(in the case of coalition)?

  18. Insert Real Name says:

    I just wish we all would recognize that the “free market” isn’t providing the kind of telecoms choices & infrastructure we need in both business and private life.

    Something along the lines of Openreach in the UK (or maybe the Australian or French models) is required, to encourage competition among all the companies that offer value-added services on top of the common infrastructure, instead of the stupid quasi-monopolies we have now.

    But I’m not holding my breath: our belief in the sanctity and fairness of unrestrained free market economies ensure that nothing will get done–Canada’s economy will remain dominated by large-scale natural resources interests and the characteristic business culture with its rentier mentality of exploiting economic rents in the regulatory structure (Bhell, Robbers, etc.) and a complete absence of vision, innovation or investment beyond the quarterly horizon.

  19. Sandy Crawley says:

    @Internet Real Name
    Sad to say, you are probably right about the rentier mentality.

  20. >I just wish we all would recognize that the “free market” isn’t providing the kind of telecoms choices & infrastructure we need in both business and private life.

    Free Markets work just fine.

    Start a company/service
    Offer better service to raise above the competition
    Buy out the competition
    Profit and the win the right for a free market in raping your customers.

    Of course then there’s also the bonus of being able to bribe your way into having laws changed.

  21. @end user:

    You don’t need all the steps. These are just fine:

    Buy out a monopoly
    Jack up the prices

    Remember that Bell was for sale a couple years ago and they probably still are. Relaxing ownership law so AT&T could buy them would provide them with an exit.


  22. The NDP is not the only consumer friendly party out there. So are the Greens and with similar concrete statements in their platform. It would be interesting to hear from Dr. Geist of his take on their platform.

  23. themusicgod1 says:

    @TRandall: yeah, and how many fighter jets would we have to not buy to be able to wire all of rural canada?

    The thing about government projects is that they tend to be large in scale like this, it doesn’t take much of a chunk of the military-industrial complex to do wonderful things.