Thursday, April 03, 2008

A primer on Net Neutrality in Canada....

Yesterday, NDP MP Charlie Angus rose in Question Period to ask the Minister of Industry about Net Neutrality, and the latest moves by Rogers and Bell to throttle the internet (thereby taking it upon themselves to determine what internet traffic gets priority, and what doesn't):

Of course, Minister Prentice's response is A) to be expected, and B) moronic.

The Minister is quite correct that the internet is not regulated in Canada. And that can be viewed as a good thing. However, if the government has decided that it would be wrong to interfere in the free and unbiased flow of information across the internet, why would they then let PRIVATE COMPANIES determine what information goes in the "fast lane" and what information goes in the "slow lane". If Rogers and Bell are allowed to continue throttling the internet, then it will no longer be true that we have "unregulated" internet in Canada. It'll be regulated all right, just not by the government. We're essentially allowing Rogers and Bell to restrict access to bandwidth in a way that we would NEVER allow our government to do. Is the Minister really saying that Rogers and Bell (who have a virtual monopoly over communications infrastructure in Canada) should be able to take on the role of shaping the nature of internet traffic in a way that they feel the SOVEREIGN GOVERNMENT OF CANADA could never jusitfy. If we wouldn't sanction GOVERNMENT control of the flow of information (and we don't... hello China) why should we be expected to put up with PRIVATE control of the flow of information? "The government can't infringe on your freedoms this way, but if a corporation wants to, that's just an issue between the consumer and the company"??? What's next? Private food companies that don't need to sell safe foods? Private police forces that don't need to respect your rights under the constitution?

Here's a good primer on Net Neutrality from the CBC (who found that people were having trouble downloading CBC videos from their website because the internet had bee throttled by their ISPs). And drop by to learn more about the issues surrounding net Neutrality in Canada. Hopefully Professor Michael Geist (who's on this, and was a big pusher behind stopping the Copyright fiasco from going to Parliament in December) will be able to similarly help rally support for true net neutrality in Canada.

If you're on Facebook, consider joining the Canadians for Net Neutrality group to show your support for Net Neutrality in Canada. Maybe if it gets 40,000 members like the Fair Copyright for Canada group did, then Mr. Prentice will decide that while having private groups regulating the flow of information on the internet may be different from having the government regulate the flow of information on the internet, that doesn't make it better.

Or remotely acceptable.

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Catelli said...

This doesn't bother me in the least. Bandwidth is a finite resource, that is oversubscribed.

At some point, ISPs have to regulate or manage the flow of data over their links to prevent the link from reaching saturation and crashing. Its a technical challenge, that is a growth industry right now in IT. Companies are exploding onto the scene with products to help companies and ISPs manage their data.

Cause in the end, the networks can't handle what the users are demanding of it.

300baud said...

I think the phrase "regulate the internet" is intended to be, and is, rather frightening. It sounds like something China or the Bush administration would do. We don't really want to regulate the Internet itself, just internet service.

Catelli, what Bell did a couple of weeks ago has nothing to do with managing bandwidth.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

It's also about HOW they "manage" the bandwidth (and as 300baud indicates, it's not really about "managing bandwidth" so much as "eliminating the one tiny advantage their tiny little competitors had").

These companies are saying, if you want to do X, Y or Z with your internet connection we're going to slow you down, but if you want to do A, B or C, go right ahead.

More ominously, they're saying "if you want to access content from provider X (i.e us) it'll be as fast as you please, but if you want to access content from provider Y (i.e. our content competition) be prepared to wait. Want to access a video from the Globe and Mail, CTV or the BCE site? Bell would be more than happy to expedite your access. Want to checkout a Youtube video, or a video from the CBC? You're a "bandwidth hog" and we're going to choke off your access and slow you down.

Same for Rogers.

And even if they weren't doing this (which I'm quite certain they are) the fact that they COULD do it, and that no one seems overly concerned about that is of HUGE concern to me!

It would be less of an issue if there was anywhere else to go. I could just say "Hey, you want to throttle my internet access and decide which things I can do, and which I can't? You want to decide unilaterally which content I can access fast, and which content takes me three hours to download? Fine, I'll switch to TechSavvy where the internet is un-throttled. Except, now Bell is ALSO throttling the bandwidth they rent to smaller ISPs like TechSavvy.

So, I'm left with two choices. Either use Bell, and allow them to determine what methods I can use to access content (and by extension what content I can access) or switch to Rogers, and allow ROGERS to determine how I'm allowed to access content, and by extension what content I can access. (I guess I get either TSN videos or Sportsnet videos, but not both, the Globe and Mail's videos on politics and history, but not the CBC's). Frankly, I don't see how any private company should be allowed to unilaterally determine that it's going to take me forever to download the video of CBC's Next Greatest Prime Minister series, but that those stupid Bell beaver ads will run like a banshee with its hair on fire).

What's worse, Bell is going well beyond stopping any competitors from offering un-throttled access, to trying to kill all their competitors all together. That's right. They're not content with controlling the nature of their competition's access to bandwidth. They want to cut off their competition entirely! After all, who need more than two ISPs. What are we, some kind of communists like Finland or Sweden?

Really, no offense, but I do think people who aren't that concerned about this couldn't possibly have thought it through enough.

300baud said...

Looks like the latest news is that Bell is agitating at the CRTC to free themselves of having to share their infrastructure at all. Very ominous after the wink Prentice gave in question period.

I sure hope the 3rd party ISPs are collaborating.