Those days now seem like a distance memory as Canada moves ever closer to becoming a second-tier online country that discourages innovation.
Case in point is network neutrality, a debate that has raged in the U.S. but has been ignored or shoved under the carpet by the federal government and regulators in Canada. Either no wants to discuss net neutrality or it’s ignored. Meanwhile, the two largest ISPs in Canada – Bell and Rogers – are openly throttling and shaping broadband traffic all in the name of “managing” their networks.
Canada’s Industry Minister, Jim Prentice, said recently he would prefer to see consumers deal with their complaints against Bell and Rogers as opposed to the federal government getting involved. That’s inspiring leadership given the Internet has not only become a quasi-public utility but a key pillar for innovation and economic development.
Meanwhile, Rogers, Bell, Telus and other broadband providers are racking up bigger profits while hiking prices and treating bandwidth as a scare resource by shaping/throttling traffic and introducing bandwidth caps. In other words, they’re creating artificial scarcity – something Mike Masnick could explain better than I.
What’s particularly sad and ironic about the federal government’s approach to Net Neutrality are two key developments:
1. In 2005, Rogers and Bell were allowed to purchase Inukshuk – a nation-wide wireless broadband network. By approving the deal, the federal government removed the possibility for consumers to have more competition and choice. Ironically, the federal government is currently trying to introduce competition and choice in the wireless market after letting the fourth national carrier, Microcell, be acquired by the leading carrier, Rogers, in 2004.
2. The CRTC, the federal telecom and media regulator, recently said it will start to explore the idea of regulating the Internet (Ha!) after deciding in 1999 that it was not going to regulate the Internet. If you want to encourage innovation, economic growth and productivity, regulating the Internet is a joke unless your goal is to create bureaucracy, policy and opportunities for lobbyists.
For all the talk about the federal government encouraging the technology sector, the sad truth is it isn’t doesn’t truly walk the walk when it comes to encouraging innovation.
More: The government and Mr. Prentice may have to acknowledge the Net Neutrality issue sooner rather than later in the wake of the NDP MP Charlie Angus (a former rock musician) introducing a private members bill, C-552, earlier this week that would:
“prohibit network operators from engaging in network management practices that favour, degrade or prioritize any content, application or service transmitted over a broadband network based on its source, ownership or destination, subject to certain exceptions.”