The Conservative government’s anticipated lawful Internet access
law could financially wipe out small Canadian Internet service providers, warns a lawyer for a group ISPs
Assuming it will be the same act introduced in the last Parliament, “this isn’t going to be sustainable,” Chris Tacit, who acts for the Canadian Network Operators Consortium (CNOC), said Wednesday during a regulatory panel discussion at a conference in Toronto for independent ISPs.
“If a smaller ISP has to make major network changes it could be game over.”
The government has to face the possible economic impact for ISPs of all sizes, he added, but “crucial” for small service providers.
Tacit was supported by others on the panel.
The act “dramatically changes the world you live in right now,” said University of Ottawa Internet law professor Michael Geist. “It turns you into highly regulated bodies, but regulated by law enforcement.”
Jonathan Daniels, vice-president of regulatory law at BCE Inc., which owns Bell Canada [TSX, NYSE: BCE], said the carrier wants to see the final act and the accompanying regulations, which might outline government compensation for complying with the act. Regulations weren’t published when the proposed act was introduced in the last parliament.
“We have big concerns about the capital requirements” for equipment, Daniels, said as well for possible high annual operating costs of maintaining a real-time data surveillance system across the country.
The Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act (numbered Bill C-52) was introduced in the last parliament but died when the May election was called.
The Harper government, which now has a majority, says its crime-related legislation will be re-introduced. It already started with an omnibus bill consolidating several pieces of legislation. Geist believes the lawful access act will be re-introduced into Parliament before the end of the year.
The law would give law enforcement agencies lawful access to certain subscriber information without a judicial warrant. Again, assuming the proposed act isn’t changed,
within six months of coming into effect service providers would have to report to police what their networks look like and their real-time data surveillance capabilities. Law enforcement agencies would have the power to test a provider’s surveillance capabilities.
ISPs may have to add deep packet inspection (DPI) appliances to their networks, Geist warned, to meet the data surveillance requirements. Government may give ISPs three years to buy necessary equipment, he added.