A recent U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) proposal that could have a significant impact on net neutrality in Canada as well as the United States has both users and big business up in arms. The proposal, slated for voting later this month, would bolster access to any website willing to pay the price, while casting the rest into what has been described as an “internet slow lane.”
Critics see the proposal as an attack on net neutrality, the concept of equal treatment of online data regardless of content or payment. Announcement of the proposal was met with a camp-in protest outside of the FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C. and an open letter signed by over 100 tech-based companies, including Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Twitter. Open Media, the Vancouver-based organization responsible for the Stop the Meter campaign in 2011, has gathered over 100,000 digital signatures opposed to the proposal, as of May 15th.
While Canada’s internet is regulated by the CRTC, Canadian content creators will still have to pay American ISPs in order to secure a place in the fast lane south of the border. Tech journalist and former Globe and Mail editor, Peter Nowak, warns that any waves made in the US are likely to cross the border.
“Sure, we have net neutrality rules here in Canada, but if you don’t think our big ISPs are going to be emboldened now to circumvent them or try to re-open the conversation, well then you don’t know them very well,” Nowak told Motherboard.
On the other hand, University of Ottawa research chair and newspaper columnist, Michael Geist, remains confident that the CRTC would be unlikely to give in to demands by ISPs.
“Canadian ISPs might always try to test the CRTC with paid prioritization,” he writes in the Ottawa Citizen, “but with the commission’s adopting a consumer-oriented perspective, the government seemingly willing to wage war against the major telecom companies, and the Canadian pro-net neutrality legal framework, the U.S. controversy over net neutrality seems unlikely to move north for now.”
- Drew McLachlan