Phillip Smith

Canadians can't let this happen to the CRTC

Over lunch with Matt Thompson earlier this week, I was lamenting the U.S Court of Appeals had ruled that FCC "did not have the authority to order Comcast to stop slowing down BitTorrent traffic" and -- in effect -- doesn't have the authority to enforce net neutrality. This is an issue that Matt had worked on for years and one that is near-and-dear to his heart. 


Matt shared with me some of the battles that were fought while he was working on the Save The Internet campaign and -- interestingly -- how some of the organizations working in the "open Internet" space don't support the FCC, or -- more specifically -- the idea of any regulation of the Internet at all. Matt pointed out, correctly I think, that this lack of government regulation creates exactly the right kind of environment for the opposite of regulation -- Monopolization. And with monopolies -- like Bell and Rogers to date in Canada -- the average citizen gets an entirely different kind of regulation, and it's usually not the kind that favours Canadian culture, openness, or anything other than the interests of the monopoly. 


David Eaves had recently offered up thoughts for the Canadian Parliamentary committee on "the future of media in Canada" and that post echoed some of the sentiments that I've also heard from those that favour an open Internet, but seek less government regulation. In Canada's case, this is the CRTC, which is by no means a perfect organization. However, I fear the call to limit the CRTC's ability to regulate the Internet in Canada.


An article published yesterday on TechCrunch about the ruling that impacts the FCC has an insightful quote (the bold is mine):


“Yesterday’s decision may affect a significant number of important Plan recommendations.  Among them are recommendations aimed at accelerating broadband access and adoption in rural America; connecting low-income Americans, Native American communities, and Americans with disabilities; supporting robust use of broadband by small businesses to drive productivity, growth and ongoing innovation; lowering barriers that hinder broadband deployment; strengthening public safety communications; cybersecurity; consumer protection, including transparency and disclosure; and consumer privacy. The Commission must have a sound legal basis for implementing each of these recommendations. We are assessing the implications of yesterday’s decision for each one, to ensure that the Commission has adequate authority to execute the mission laid out in the Plan.”


Reading the implications of the U.S Court of Appeals ruling struck a cord with me; more so in light of a piece that I read in last week's Globe about "Canada's digital divide" that points out "As urban centres rush to build high-speed broadband networks to keep up with exploding demand, many rural regions are being left behind.


Canada's competitive future and cultural future both require an open, fast, and relatively unobstructed Internet. Canadian citizens -- and, thus, Canadian democracy -- require the same. The CRTC and its attempts to enforce Canadian content rules on the Internet may be misguided -- I am not arguing with that -- but I caution Canadians to not throw out the good with the bad.


Given a choice of a bureaucracy that reports to the people, or a monopoly that reports to the shareholders: I'll go with a bureaucracy every time.

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About

Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.

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