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All major parties except the Conservatives agreed with a recommendation to monitor internet service providers' internet congestion, speed, billing and practices that prioritize some types of internet applications over others. ((Canadian Press))

Big investments in Canadian internet access and changes to the way the internet is regulated have been promised by all major federal parties except the Conservatives, a survey by an internet lobby group says.

"The major parties — with the notable exception of the Conservatives — have responded to the desire for pro-internet commitments this election," said a statement Thursday by Vancouver-based Open Media, a group that lobbies for an "open an innovative communications system in Canada."

The Conservatives declined to respond to the group's survey, but provided a few comments. The survey was also sent to the NDP, Liberals, Green Party and Bloc Québécois and the Pirate Party, which is focused on reforming Canada's copyright, privacy, patent and telecommunications laws.

The survey asked each party to outline their vision for Canada's digital future and rate their agreement with Open Media's digital policy recommendations. It also contacted local candidates asking them to "sign up as pro-internet candidates" by committing to increase internet access, competition, transparency and choice if elected.

The participating parties all agreed with Open Media's policy recommendations to:

  • Expand high-speed internet.
  • Audit internet service providers to measure internet congestion, speed, billing and practices that prioritize some types of internet applications over others, so that consumers are well informed.
  • Change the mandate of Canada's telecommunications regulator to "ensure the creation of open, accessible and neutral networks and maximize user preference."

All agreed with reserving certain parts of the wireless spectrum for "Canadian innovation and local community services" and small carriers, except for the Green party, which said it had no policy on the matter.

Both the NDP and Liberals said they would force large telecommunications companies such as Bell to separate their wholesale and retail internet infrastructure.

That would be expected to remove some incentive for wholesale internet services to engage in behaviour — such as billing based on usage caps — that might benefit their retail services at the expense of competing internet service providers. Open Media has campaigned hard against usage cap billing.

The Bloc and Liberals would not say whether they think Parliament should take steps to minimize the ownership of media and telecommunications businesses by the same companies. However, NDP, Green party and Pirate party strongly agreed.

The NDP promised to spend the most money on expansion of high-speed internet — $2 billion over four years, contingent on matching funds from industry — to expand the service  to underserved communities. The Liberal party believes it can achieve "100 per cent high-speed internet access for all Canadian households" with just $500 million over three years.

In his few comments, Conservative candidate Tony Clement mentioned his party's 2009 commitment to spend $225 million over three years to expand high-speed internet access and said his party has looked into changing the mandate of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

He added that his party favours more choice and competition in the internet and telecommunications pricing and he has acted on that.