Net neutrality in Canada – 4 opponents and 5 proponents

One day after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality and eight months after Canada’s own Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled in its favour, we thought it would be a good time to run down a list of prominent Canadians and Canadian organizations who cheered (or probably cheered) or bemoaned the FCC’s recent decision. Click on.

With Apple CEO Tim Cook, from Trudeau’s Facebook page.

Proponent: Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Canada’s prime minister famously told Vice tech blog Motherboard that he was “concerned” by the American debate over net neutrality in November, though he wouldn’t comment on whether he would convey his opinion directly to the U.S. government.

“I am very concerned about the attacks on net neutrality,” Trudeau told Motherboard. “Net neutrality is something that is essential for small businesses, for consumers, and it is essential to keep the freedom associated with the internet alive.”

“We need to continue to defend net neutrality,” he added. “And I will.”

Opponent: Mark Goldberg, independent telecom analyst

Toronto-based telecommunications industry consultant Mark Goldberg, producer of the annual Canadian Telecom Summit, is one of Canada’s most reliable critics of net neutrality, recently noting in his blog that the regulations repealed this week had only been in force for two years.

“I wonder: in two years, will Canadians look at the state of the internet in the US and be happy with the CRTC’s internet regulatory framework, or seek the return of market-led development?” writes Goldberg, who has long favoured the latter.

Courtesy Wikipedia.

Proponent: Rogers Communications

The Canadian telecommunications giant – which, it should be noted, has been accused of violating Canada’s net neutrality laws in the past – has emerged since April’s CRTC ruling as a consistent defender of net neutrality.

Being a corporation, Rogers did not comment on this week’s FCC decision directly. But it did tell the Canadian Press that it supports Canada’s net neutrality framework, adding that it “[does] not believe that policy changes in the United States will have an impact on Canadians’ access to U.S.-based websites or services.”

Federal Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains speaks to attendees at Google Canada’s Go North Canadian startup conference on Oct. 28, 2016.

Proponent: Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains

In the same Canadian Press story Navdeep Bains, the federal minister in charge of telecommunications, said the Liberal government supports “an open internet where Canadians have the ability to access the content of their choice in accordance with Canadian laws,” and compared net neutrality to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

“We believe that an open and accessible internet is vital to the free flow of content and information, which, in turn, is vital to our democracy,” he said.

Courtesy Michael Geist’s homepage.

Proponent: Michael Geist, law professor

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist specializes in internet and e-commerce law and serves on multiple boards, including those of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, Internet Archive Canada, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. As a well-known expert who documents the Canadian battle to maintain net neutrality on his website, Geist has been cited as a pro-net neutrality expert by several media outlets, including Canadaland, the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and the site you’re reading now.

Opponent: Bell

In direct opposition to Rogers, Canada’s largest (and least liked) telecommunications company is leading a coalition that plans to ask the CRTC to create a third-party “Internet Piracy Review Agency” to manage a mandatory website blocking system in Canada, according to Canadaland.

Rogers is part of the coalition, though it told Canadaland “We’re currently reviewing the proposal.”

According to Michael Geist, Bell shared its plan with the Standing Committee on International Trade on NAFTA back in September:

“We would like to see measures put in place whereby all Internet service providers are required to block consumer access to pirated websites. In our view, that is the only way to stop it. So you would mandate all ISPs across the country to essentially block access to a black list of egregious piracy sites.”

In case you’re wondering, as we were, about Telus, Canada’s third major telecom giant does not appear to have weighed into the current net neutrality debate.

Proponent: OpenMedia executive director Laura Tribe

That the head of a Canadian non-profit specifically founded to advocate for a free and open internet would support net neutrality is far from a surprise, but Tribe and her organization have been quick to remind the public that Canada’s own net neutrality laws are shakier than many realize.

“I think one of the good things right now is that we do have net neutrality in Canada,” she told the Canadian Press, noting that net neutrality in this country is presently protected in multiple decisions by a federal regulator, rather than appearing in specific sections of the internet and communications services-governing Broadcast or Telecommunications acts.

“What OpenMedia is asking for is: for net neutrality to be enshrined in principle in the Telecommunications Act itself, to make sure this is no longer interpreted in multiple (CRTC) decisions… and really clearly spelled out,” she said.

Courtesy Students for Liberty.

Opponent: Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center

Ossowski, who was born in Quebec and currently lives in Vienna, Austria, told IT World Canada that repeal of the U.S.’s net neutrality laws will “increase competition and provide good incentives for internet service providers to offer the best products to their customers, not those necessarily planned and coordinated by the FCC.”

“In Canada, what is sorely needed is more competition in the broadband and mobile markets,” he added. “The current laws make it incredibly expensive for any smaller provider to compete against the current oligopoly.”

Opponent: Stuart Carlaw, chief research officer at ABI Research

Carlaw told IT World Canada that “If anything, this legislative move will likely provide the much-needed boost to timelines for more meaningful technological deployments that will enable companies to transform digitally and allow consumers to benefit from technology driven improvements in service from multiple industry segments based on best of breed communications.”

With files from Alex Coop.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former IT World Canada associate editor turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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