How did George Brown College President Anne Sado come to write a letter in support of the Bell coalition website blocking plan? Given the prior reports on Bell’s internal astroturfing campaign and the pressure on a Brock University executive (subsequently distanced by the University) it will come as little surprise to learn that the origins stem from direct Bell lobbying. According to documents obtained under provincial access to information laws, Mark Milliere, TSN’s Senior Vice President and General Manager (part of Bell Media) relied on the same playbook as with Brock University, citing its support for the college and urging it to write in support to the CRTC. The request included sample letters from Brock and Ryerson University (more on Ryerson in a forthcoming post).
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How Did George Brown College Come to Support the FairPlay Site Blocking Plan? Docs Show Bell Lobbied the School’s President
As the term of former CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais came to an end, I wrote a post arguing that he left behind an enviable record, commenting that “a new commissioner may bring a different perspective, but there is no reversing a more open, accessible CRTC.” Less than a year later, it is becoming increasingly clear that I was wrong. Apparently, reversing an open, more accessible CRTC was entirely possible.
Blais understood at least two things with respect to Canada’s communications laws and the CRTC. The first was that in the digital environment the commission should eschew protectionism in favour of a regulatory approach premised on competition. The second was that the CRTC would never gain the trust of the public unless it was seen to operate in the public interest in a transparent manner that offered everyone an equal opportunity to shape Canadian policy.
New CRTC chair Ian Scott has only been in the position since last September, but it feels as if both principles are under threat.
Judge For Yourself: Bell Says It Didn’t Meet CRTC to Review the FairPlay Application, But Here’s the Slide Presentation
The revelation that Bell met privately with the CRTC to present its site blocking proposal months before it became public garnered considerable attention yesterday. The internal documents, obtained and posted by the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications, indicate that the groundwork for the site blocking proposal was laid in the summer of 2017, well before public filings or press reports. As far back as July 2017, Bell executives pressed CRTC commissioner Christopher MacDonald for a meeting with all CRTC commissioners and senior staff to make its case for a commission-backed site blocking system.
The CRTC and Bell were asked about the report yesterday by Mobile Syrup. The CRTC responded that there “is nothing procedurally unusual in this case”, noting that stakeholders can raise any issues that are not formally before the commission. In other words, the commission takes the view that companies are free to lobby without limit until the moment of filing, thereby laying the groundwork for a proposal with commissioners and commission staff without having to respond to public commentary. In this case, the presentation led to the drafting an internal legal memo on the issue well before the public filing.
Fair Play for FairPlay?: Bell Presented Its Site Blocking Plan to the CRTC Months Before It Became Public
The Bell website blocking coalition responded to thousands of interventions on its proposal this week, reiterating many of the same claims it has been making since it launched the request with the CRTC. While the commission should provide details on what comes next shortly, according to internal commission documents released […]
The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics has released its net neutrality report, strongly endorsing net neutrality safeguards and calling on the government to reject the Bell coalition’s website blocking plan should the CRTC approve it. I was the first witness to appear before the committee on the study, where I emphasized the need for stronger net neutrality enforcement, the risks associated with changing U.S. policy, and the concerns associated the Bell website blocking proposal (which at the time had only been leaked). The committee picked up on all those issues, recommending enshrining net neutrality in the Telecommunications Act, calling on the government to seek assurances from the U.S. that its policies will not undermine Canadian traffic, and encouraging the CRTC to more proactively ensure that ISPs are compliant with Canadian law.
The committee report also waded into the site blocking issue, calling on the government to reject it should it be approved by the CRTC.