Net neutrality again before the House

By Paul Jay, CBC

New Democrat digital affairs critic Charlie Angus has tabled another bill designed to enshrine the principle of net neutrality, his second attempt to bring the issue to the House of Commons through a private member's bill.

Bill C-398 will “ensure the future development of the internet is not impeded by unfair throttling or interference by telecom giants” the NDP said in a release Friday.

Angus introduced an earlier private member's bill, C-552, last year (eerily, on almost exactly the same day) that didn't get past first reading before it and other bills (including the Conservative government's first crack at copyright reform) all fell by the wayside when the election was called for the fall.

But the timing of this bill is interesting, because it comes about a month before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is set to hold hearings on issues of net neutrality, such as the internet service provider practices of traffic shaping and throttling. And it also comes about a week after small ISPs appealed a CRTC ruling on Bell Canada's throttling.

As Angus said in a prepared statement: “"The telecom giants didn't invent the internet. They don't own the internet and they shouldn't be able to use their position as service providers to give priority to their own content."

Once we get a hold of the bill itself, we'll see how it differs from last year's bill and keep you in the loop about what, if anything, might come from this latest salvo.

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Brett Glass


The consequences of this bill would be catastrophic for small, independent, rural, and competitive ISPs. It would destroy these vital competitors, leaving virtually all locales with a monopoly or at best a duopoly. What's more, it's a "solution" to a problem which does not exist.

ISPs are not interested in discriminating against content, nor against particular application or content providers. But because a network is by definition a shared medium, they MUST be able to stop types of behavior which harm the network or hog resources. And they must do it BEFORE it develops into "extraordinary congestion" which cripples the network. They also must ensure that the network remains financially sustainable, which does mean that they must be able to prevent a user from consuming more costly resources than he or she is paying for. These resources include Internet backbone bandwidth, "last mile" bandwidth, and wireless spectrum.

For these reasons, this bill is a very bad idea. Instead of regulating ISPs and the Internet, government should encourage competition and prohibit anticompetitive practices. Then, if users don't like an ISP's network management practices, they can simply switch to one they like better.

Posted May 30, 2009 12:17 PM



It's about -expletive- time. As a songwriter and an avid contributor and watcher of internet "TV", I'm fed up with my ISP throttling my rights. I watch LEGAL shows, enjoy creating media with my friends, and have had enough of Telus, Shaw, Rogers, Bell...slowing my access to a trickle, all the while, they're advertising HUGE download speeds! I checked the facts, and there's absolutely NO reason they should route traffic. They're creating an ARTIFICIAL scarcity, so they force people to buy premium bandwidth.

Posted May 31, 2009 06:57 PM

James Ryan

Brett, please stop spreading misconceptions about this issue.

The fact is that net neutrality has *nothing* to do with preventing ISP's from controlling how much bandwidth they sell to their customers. It is about preventing ISP's from going BEYOND bandwidth allocation in order to charge different rates for different types of content or the source or origin of that content. As a consumer, if I pay for a 6Mbps ADSL connection, I should GET that without consideration for what the content I access using that bandwidth actually is. And as the owner of a web site, I refuse to pay an extra fee beyond the bandwidth that I use based on some arbitrary determination by a corporate opportunist that I should pay more for being too popular. Claiming I could "easily" switch ISP's is either naive or intentionally disingenuous because as anyone who runs a site knows, it costs time and effort to switch hosting providers. Ban net neutrality and that time and effort becomes a weapon ISP's can use to bludgeon their customers with if they fail to pay to "protect" the bandwidth they already paid for.

Simply: If an ISP cannot provide all their customers the bandwidth they sold them, no matter what the medium (ADSL, wireless, etc) then they should *NOT BE SELLING THEM THAT BANDWIDTH*. This is not a difficult concept to understand.

Posted June 4, 2009 01:08 PM



@Brett Glass
You could not be more wrong with what you said. I agree completely with James Ryan on this one.

Posted June 5, 2009 12:25 PM

Brett Glass


James says, "As a consumer, if I pay for a 6Mbps ADSL connection, I should GET that without consideration for what the content I access using that bandwidth actually is."

It's not a matter of content; no ISP has censored legal content or wants to.

What matters is the user's behavior on the network, which -- regardless of medium -- is a shared resource. You don't, I'm sure, want your service to be degraded or slowed to a crawl because the neighbor's kid is downloading illegal copies of music or movies via BitTorrent. That's why your ISP needs to rein in that software -- which exploits technical flaws in TCP/IP, the protocol that runs the Internet -- to keep your quality of service up to snuff. The so-called "network neutrality" regulations would force ISPs not to do this -- thus, ironically, making the network non-"neutral".

As for getting the bandwidth that one pays for if you look closely at the contract (or even the fine print in the advertising) of any cable or DSL provider, you'll see that you are not guaranteed any particular speed... or, in fact, any speed at all.

Unfortunately, "network neutrality" regulation would prevent ISPs from prioritizing traffic, blocking exploitation of the network by P2Pers who want to take it over, or engineering our network for the best performance. As a consumer, you wouldn't want it. Prices would be higher; quality of service would be worse (not better); many small ISPs would fold because they couldn't break even with the regulatory millstone around their necks (leaving you with no one to switch to if you don't like the cable or telephone company). Don't fall for the lobbyists' propaganda. Remember, they all work for corporations -- not for the consumer.

Posted October 4, 2009 10:32 PM

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