The government’s Speech from the Throne was billed in advance as a “consumers-first” agenda with Industry Minister James Moore talking up initiatives such as tackling wireless roaming fees and the unbundling of cable television packages over the weekend. Yet it turns out the consumers-first agenda is pretty thin: the roaming fee issue may be limited to domestic roaming (an issue that is invisible to many wireless customers), the unbundling will be useful for some though not all television subscribers, and promising enhanced broadband in rural communities is a far cry from committing to universal broadband access for all Canadians by 2015 (other issues such as the anti-digital economy measure of banning extra fees for paper bills is hardly worth mentioning and an airline passenger bill of rights wasn’t mentioned).
Perhaps the real intended focus is a celebration-first agenda as the speech emphasizes that “Canada’s Confederation is worth celebrating.” The government therefore commits to marking the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences, to celebrating the 200th birthdays of Sir George-Ã‰tienne Cartier and Sir John A. Macdonald, the centennial of the first world war, and the 75th anniversary of the second world war.
Read more ›
Canadian Heritage James Moore appeared on CBC’s Power & Politics
yesterday to defend Bill C-32 and to speak out against the ACTRA proposal for extending the private copying levy (Industry Minister Tony Clement did the same in the Globe
). In doing so, he made the case for why the digital lock provisions in the bill are so problematic (at roughly 1:24:00). According to Moore:
When I buy a movie, I’ve paid for the movie. To ask me to pay for it a second time through another device – and to assume that I’m doing illegal copying, to assume that I’m being a pirate, to assume that I’m thieving from people because I happen to own an MP3 player or a BluRay player or a laptop, I think treats consumers unfairly.
While Moore was thinking of the prospect of additional payments through a levy, the words apply equally to the digital lock provisions that make it an infringement for consumers to circumvent locks in order to watch the movie they’ve purchased on a second device. In fact, in some instances – for example, DVDs with non-North American region codes – it involves infringement for merely trying to access the content for the first time.
Read more ›
The Canadian Consumer Initiative, which represents major consumer organizations from across Canada including the Consumers Council of Canada, Option consommateurs, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Union des consommateurs, has written to Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore to respond to his comment in the House of Commons asserting that the Chamber of Commerce acts in the best interests of consumers. The letter notes that the Chamber in no way represents consumer interests and that the CCI is united opposing the digital lock provisions found in C-32. Full text of the letter below:
Read more ›
In one of the strangest responses to C-32 yet, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore told the House of Commons yesterday that consumers are supportive of C-32 and cites as evidence the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber describes itself as Canada's largest and most influential business association and makes no pretense of representing consumer interests. The exchange:
Read more ›
The first day of the CRTC's network management hearing featured some interesting discussion from deep packet inspection providers Sandvine and Juniper as well as Canadian consumer groups. A summary of the day, thanks to University of Ottawa student Frances Munn, is posted below. There is additional coverage from the National Post liveblog, CBC.ca, and lots of posts on Twitter [update: CRTC transcript].
While the Sandvine comment that an unmanaged network is not a neutral network captured the headline, I thought the more important part of the DPI provider discussion was Juniper's focus on consumer-controlled prioritization. This is not currently available in Canada, but the notion that consumers should choose how to prioritize the bandwidth they pay for would address many concerns.
It was the consumer presentation that did the most to link network management to the law and it also highlighted reason for great concern. I think that the consumer groups rightly focused on who should bear the burden of demonstrating that DPI and other Internet traffic controls are consistent with current Canadian law. The groups argued that these are prima facie violations of Section 36 of the Telecommunications Act and that the onus therefore should fall on the carriers to show that there is a serious problem, the solution minimally impairs users' rights, and is proportional to the harm.
Unfortunately, the questions that followed suggest that the CRTC Commissioners start these hearings having accepted the carriers' claims that congestion is a problem and that inhibiting the use of deep packet inspection could result in increased consumer costs for Internet access. This suggests that there is a steep mountain to climb in these hearings, leading me to believe that the issue will ultimately be a political one with pressure on the Conservatives to join with the Liberals and NDP in supporting net neutrality.
Read more ›