My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on last week’s controversy involving Bell Sympatico and a change to its user agreement. The Bell clause, which took effect on June 15th, advised subscribers that the company retains the right to "monitor or investigate content or your use of your service provider’s networks and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy any laws, regulations or other governmental request."
A widely circulated Canadian Press story (which featured several of my comments), noted that the Conservative government is expected to reintroduce lawful access legislation this fall and speculated that the change might have been in anticipation of that statutory reform. Many online pundits also chimed in, pointing to the battle over network neutrality in the United States, expressing fears that the Bell change might be designed to pave the way for a two-tier Internet in Canada under which ISPs levy fees on websites to deliver their content.
For its part, Bell swiftly issued a statement emphatically denying that the amendments were linked to lawful access, maintaining that the company had a "a long and established history of protecting the privacy of its customers."
The gist of the column is that regardless of the motivations for the change – whether harmless drafting amendments, lawful access, or network neutrality – the public and media reaction demonstrates how increased Internet surveillance is a political and business minefield that invariably stirs up vociferous opposition.
Read more ›
My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) picks up on Toronto Hydro’s announcement last week of its plans to blanket the City of Toronto with wireless Internet access. I note that the announcement has sparked an important debate about the appropriate role for governments and public institutions in providing Internet connectivity, which comes on the heels of the CRTC’s recent decision to distribute $652 million to major telecommunications providers such as Bell and Telus to help defray the costs of implementing high-speed connectivity in rural Canadian communities.
These developments place the spotlight squarely on a critical question for new Conservative Industry Minister Maxime Bernier – what, if anything, should government do about Internet connectivity?
The starting position for a Conservative government might well be to argue that government has a very limited role to play here, concluding that this is strictly a marketplace issue and that the private sector has plenty of incentives to develop networks for consumer use.
Given the Web’s importance, I argue that government cannot adopt a hands-off approach, though it must recognize that its role differs in the urban and rural markets.
Read more ›
The Globe and Mail is reporting that the Telecom Policy Review panel may recommend creating a fourth wireless carrier in order to stimulate competition. Not surprisingly, the established players say it is completely unnecessary. Number portability would be another way to stimulate competition as would greater attention to the broadband […]
Read more ›