Liberals support Net Neutrality. Now what?

By Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca. Last week Marc Garneau, the federal Liberal party critic for Industry, Science and Technology, spoke in Parliament and for the first time declared his party's support for the principle of net neutrality.

It was a surprise declaration for the Liberals, who previously had been silent on the issue. When I spoke with Garneau in November shortly after he took his post, he said he hadn't yet formed an opinion on the subject. Now his party "supports the principle of net neutrality and an open and competitive internet environment," as Garneau said Thursday.

The timing of the announcement is interesting, as it comes a few weeks after NDP MP Charlie Angus introduced a new version of his net neutrality bill, and a few weeks before the CRTC hearings into internet traffic management are to begin.

But what it amounts to isn't clear: does Garneau's support translate into support of Angus's bill, and if so, is it the rare private member's bill that might actually have legs?

And what impact will the CRTC hearings have on the bill itself? It's likely both parties will wait to see how it plays out in July before pursuing the subject any further, since in many ways the hearings will help in more clearly defining the practices of bandwidth throttling and traffic shaping and their implications.

But perhaps the real impact of Garneau's statement might not come about unless the Liberal party forms the government. Then many who advocate that ISPS need to prove their networks are congested before managing their traffic will come calling on the Liberals and demand more than just a sound bite.