Net Neutrality Advocate Will Submit Petition For CRTC Review Tomorrow
Steve Anderson is going to Ottawa to fight for open Internet in Canada. His message: regulate for Net Neutrality, or risk becoming an Internet backwater. The founder of SaveOurNet.ca has tirelessly campaigned to turn this from a sleeper issue into one that many Canadians are beginning to care about.
Net Neutrality is the ability to access content on the web without unreasonable degradation of delivery based on the nature of the content. The Internet is a democratizing medium, with all content providers able to distribute their product with the same speed and quality, regardless of budget.
In Canada, where there is no existing national policy, the few large ISPs that dominate the market are pushing to continue throttling bandwidth based on certain content and applications. ISPs say that they need to be able shape traffic in order to be able to provide quality service because the strain on bandwidth, mainly from torrent downloads, is too large to handle.
The CRTC is already leaning away from regulation, as was indicated in their ruling last November that Bell’s traffic shaping was not discriminatory. The NDP have been the early adopters for regulation, with the introduction of Charlie Angus’ private members bill last May, and the Liberals have recently favoured regulation. The Tories have not yet taken a stance.
What is at stake?
Jacob Glick, Google’s Canada Policy Counsel, described the Internet as a platform for social, cultural, political and technological innovation. A fundamental part of human nature is the drive to innovate. Innovators include smaller news agencies like the award winning Tyee, small businesses startups and artists; entrepreneurs who can exist because the open Internet made it possible to use new models.
Obama has sponsored strong Net Neutrality regulation in the US. If Canada goes the other way, many businesses will migrate across the border, where it is more affordable to operate. A two-tiered system works against innovation by putting smaller content producers in the slow lane, where they cannot compete.
If the ISPs cannot handle a free flow of traffic, there are alternatives to throttling. Bandwidth could be treated as a public utility, not unlike electric power, where consumers could pay as they go, or more ISPs could be permitted to compete in Canada.