Government has role to play in Internet

In a recent column in The Toronto Star, Dr. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and an expert on Internet and e-commerce law, suggested that the various levels of Canadian government should do more to promote the potential of user-generated content.

In particular he cited commitment to broadband growth and network neutrality legislation as steps government should take. While we live in a largely free market economy, it’s hard to argue against either measure.

Canada already has solid broadband penetration numbers. While the country’s worldwide broadband standing has slipped a bit, Canada as of 2006 could still boast that it led the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

That leadership is no reason for government to rest on its laurels though. Broadband connectivity is critically important to the long-term economic survival of communities. And the definition of broadband will change over the coming years. What’s considered broadband today may very well be considered archaic and slow in five years time. Faster technologies like VDSL (Very-high-data-rate DSL) and fibre to the home will be necessary to drive video content and IPTV to consumers. Currently neither technology is widely available in Canada.

Network neutrality is also important in order to guarantee that the Internet remains a repository of unique, interesting content and not some sanitized medium filled with corporate-sponsored content like broadcast television.

The Internet’s popularity is due in large part to the fact it allows like-minded people to reach out and interact with one another. If bandwidth is limited and reserved largely for traffic served up by deep-pocketed content providers, people will have a harder time sharing their own videos, photos and ideas with family, friends and colleagues.

The Internet and broadband connectivity will be significant economic growth engines over the next several years. Canadian governments need to play a role in the development of both to ensure all citizens are able to reap the

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