Online surveillance bill setup costs estimated at $80M

It's going to cost at least $80 million to implement the government's lawful access bill to force internet and telecommunications service providers to collect customer information in case police need it for an investigation, CBC News has learned.

Lawful access law's startup costs $20M a year for four years

A bill to force internet service providers to collect customer information, known as the lawful access or online surveillance bill, will cost $80 million to implement, CBC News has learned. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

It's going to cost at least $80 million to implement the government's lawful access bill to force internet and telecommunications service providers to collect customer information in case police need it for an investigation, CBC News has learned.

C-30, a bill to update Canadian law when it comes to crimes committed online, will cost $20 million a year for the first four years and $6.7 million a year after that, Public Safety Canada told the CBC's Hannah Thibedeau on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wouldn't provide any more information about the costs. It's not clear if those are the only costs associated with the legislation.


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The bill, also known as the online surveillance bill, would force internet and telecommunications service providers to install equipment to collect information on customers in case police obtain a judicial warrant to retrieve it.

A spokesman for Canada's telecommunications industry said whatever the costs, it's up to the government to compensate the companies.

"We want to make sure the government is fully aware of all the costs and that they fully compensate all the costs," said Bernard Lord, president of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

"We feel it's really [parliamentarians'] job to decide what should be in the bill and companies will comply. But we want to make sure that parliamentarians and government realize that if they adopt this bill, these costs are attached to it."

Lord says it's hard to know the full costs to the industry yet because service providers don't know what changes will be made to the bill and there are more details to work out through regulations if the bill becomes law.

But, "some of our members have told us this could be millions and tens of millions of dollars across the country to set up the equipment, [plus] the ongoing costs," he said. "So this is significant in terms of investments."

In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CBC Radio's The House, Toews said he didn't know what it would cost the ISPs and didn't want to try to estimate how much they'd have to spend on implementing the bill.

"No, I don't know, and I think it would be best coming from the internet service providers. I wouldn’t want to presume what it would cost a smaller internet service provider or a larger one. Simply, I don’t know.

"This is required of internet service providers in Europe, in the United States. This is done as a matter of course."

Telecom industry 'not arms of the government'

"This is a government decision. These providers are not arms of the government and should not become arms of the government but if the government passes legislation forcing someone to provide information then that compensation has to be in place," Lord said.

The bill also updates Canadian law to force those service providers to turn over specific customer information to police without needing a warrant and eliminates the legal barriers to providing other information requested by police.

It says the government can compensate ISPs for responding to requests for information.