The Hill Times covers the growing lobbying effort in Canada around the net neutrality issue with news that Amazon.com has regularly visited Ottawa to discuss the issue, Rogers claims it doesn't block packets (it might have noted that it limits bandwidth for applications though) and Bell Canada implausibly claims that […]
Net Neutrality And Creative Freedom (Tim Wu at re:publica 2010) by Anna Lena Schiller (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/7VfazT
My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) discusses the recent revelations that Industry Canada is highly skeptical about the need for net neutrality legislation. I argue that the need to prevent a two-tier Internet in Canada has never been greater. The Canadian competitive landscape is dominated by a handful of companies, with the top five providers controlling 84 percent of Canadian Internet connections. Indeed, Canadian consumers who have access to broadband networks (many communities are still without access) invariably face steady price increases and service limitations from the indistinguishable choice between cable and DSL.
Leveraging their dominant positions, Canadian telecommunications companies have been embroiled in a growing number of incidents involving content or application discrimination. Over the past two years, Telus blocked access to hundreds of websites during a dispute with its labour union, Shaw attempted to levy surcharges for Internet telephony services, Rogers quietly limited bandwidth for legitimate peer-to-peer software applications, and Videotron mused publicly about establishing a new Internet transmission tariff that would require content creators to pay millions for the privilege of transmitting their content.
The government documents uncovered last week confirm that Industry Minister Maxime Bernier is aware of the situation.
Appeared in the Toronto Star on February 12, 2007 as Bernier's Troubling Stand on Net Neutrality Since being named Minister of Industry last February, Maxime Bernier has set his sights on reforming Canada's telecommunications laws. In only twelve months, he has overruled the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on its […]
The Bloc picked up on the Bernier-net neutrality coverage, raising the issue with the Minister during question period. Adopting a method reminiscent of CRIA's mistaking polls for policy, Bernier responded by arguing that polling data suggests that the public supports its position on telecommunications deregulation.
The Canadian Press is out this evening with an important story that reveals the government's true view on net neutrality. Based on documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, they provide a clear picture of an Industry Minister and policy makers content to leave the issue alone, despite acknowledging that major telcos such as Bell and Telus are "determined to play a greater role in how Internet content is delivered" and that "they [Bell and Telus] believe they should be the gatekeepers of content, with the freedom to impose fees for their role."
The documents were prepared for the Minister in anticipation of questions that might arise after Videotron President Robert Depatie mused publicly about a new tariff or fee for carrying content. The departmental response as contained in a Question Period Card:
"The Internet is not regulated in Canada. There is no regulation of the relationship between Internet service providers and the providers of Internet content. There is currently considerable discussion in the industry about the implications of telecommunications companies who provide network and Interent service taking a greater role in determining how Internet content will be delivered and at what cost, if any. The Telecommunications Policy Review Panel reviewed this issue in its March 2006 report. My department is continuing to examine and assess the recommendations, including the issue of net neutrality, that were made in this report."
While that may be the official line, the documents reveal very different thinking behind the scenes.