Sean M.

Joudry

Net Neutrality
And Canada’s Role in Regulating the Internet
In a world where the internet is becoming as popular as other means of communication such as Television and Radio, many are asking the question as to whether or not the government should allow themselves, or the Internet Service Providers, or ISP’s to regulate what users can do on the World Wide Web. In order to maintain the freedom and self-expression that the internet provides, the people of Canada must fight against corporations and the government controlling the use of the internet, as this will defeat what the internet currently stands for, and will lead to mis-information and further corporate greed. In the world of the internet, the government must take a stand against interfering on its citizens, and must pass laws which prevent corporations from tampering with what their customers are allowed to see. The topic of ‘Net Neutrality’ was especially popular during the 2008 presidential election. Currently in Canada, the internet user has the choice to view whatever website they please, but without net neutrality, that could change. As of this moment, a customer of Bell’s internet service can open their web browser, and navigate to an assortment of websites. Net neutrality prevents Bell from blocking access to websites the user wishes to view. Without the net being treated neutrally, a Bell customers trying navigate to Facebook could find that the website loads incredibly slowly, or not at all. So instead, they go to MySpace, which loads perfectly fine. What customers don’t know is that MySpace paid Bell to block Facebook, thus Bell users flock to Myspace instead. (Acurtis) The Canadian government must ensure that ISPs do not regulate what their customers can do and see on the internet. By allowing the service providers control over ‘the pipes’ they will favor “their content over other content” as Al Gore said in a Digg.com interview from 2008. Gore said that he believes there is a “government role to say, ‘uh-uh you can’t take control over this internet Mr. Corporation’”(Digg Dialogg). Here Al Gore is referring to companies, like Bell, blocking out websites that would compete against websites which they have own or have investments in, like CTV.ca. By blocking out CBC.ca, many Canadians would go to CTV to get their Canadian news coverage. This sort of corporate corruption is not acceptable, and will only do a disservice to Canadians. A lack of net neutrality could lead to the termination of unique web services, like Skype. Using Bell as an example once again, the company could terminate the connection to Skype, as the company competes with Bell’s own phone services. Any other companies which pop up offering online phone services, Bell will also block, destroying the Web-phone industry. This is very dangerous as it allows corporations to close off markets to other companies. If Loblaws owned all of the roads in Toronto, and decided one day that, to help out their stores, they would tear up all of the roads leading to Sobeys supermarkets, would that seem fair? No, of course not,

Sean M. Joudry

and the system is not organized in a way which allows companies to control the flow of traffic, so they should also not be allowed to do so in an online highway. The ‘Writer’s Guild’ strike in 2007 caused a drop in TV viewership, with all major networks taking a hit. Now, with the rise of Internet TV shows and networks, such as Revision3.com, and a higher quality of free TV VIA an over the air digital signal, TV providers may begin losing large amounts of subscribers (Brand Republic). With no regulations on what they are not allowed to do, TV providers will begin blocking websites such as Revision3.com, and the video broadcaster Joost in an attempt to lure people back to their cable services. This level of corporate greed will continue unregulated, and could end up in ISPs blocking shopping sites like Amazon.com due to investments in retail stores. The CRTC was created to regulate the media being broadcasted in Canada. Unlike the internet, television and radio cannot expand infinitely because there are only so many frequencies and channels in which they can broadcast on. By allowing companies to use specific broadcast signals, they had to agree to follow certain regulations. The internet can continuously expand, meaning that these sorts of regulations are not necessary (Vancouver Sun). Countries such as China and Iran have both made decisions to regulate the flow of traffic on the internet. China has blocked out websites like Youtube and Twitter as they feel that the websites are dangerous to the security of the country (Wikipedia). On the 20th anniversary of the protests in Tiananmen Square, China ordered websites based in China to shutdown their servers for maintenance for a three day period (Telegraph). If countries like Canada were to begin blocking websites which it deems repugnant or a threat, websites such as LiveLeak.com, which shows violent acts of war in Middle-Eastern countries could be blocked because they are offensive. Giving the government such a vast amount of control over the internet could end in disaster. Bell Canada and Rogers both throttle their user’s internet connections to limit or disable their customers ability to download data over the Bittorrent protocol (ArsTechnica). Torrents can be considered maps to information. Upon downloading a torrent and opening it with a torrent program, such as uTorrent, the torrent will tell the program where to go to download the file. The torrent program then connects with other users around the world who have that file, and are sharing it. This means that thousands of users are sharing a single file, which results in a quick download speed. Bell and Rogers claim that they throttle traffic to make the network more enjoyable for everyone else. With hundreds of customers using Bittorrent, the companies lose money as bandwidth is constantly being transferred. Both ISPs advertise unlimited internet usage at a specific speed per month. By throttling torrent traffic, this is false advertising as users can only do certain things with their service. These companies simply do not want to pay the extra fees per month to keep up with the demand from their customers.

Sean M. Joudry

With the Canadian government standing by and doing nothing, and Canadians not protesting against this throttling of traffic, it is likely that the situation will only continue to grow direr. This is due to a lack of education about computers. Many believe that if anything related to their computer is not working properly, then it’s just normal wear-and-tear and that they’ll have to buy a new one soon. A computer is like a car, with hundreds of little parts and pieces, and when one thing breaks, the overall product will not work as well. Canadians need to make a statement that they will not stand for companies telling them what they can and cannot do on the internet. This is the essence of net neutrality; allowing users to do whatever they want on the internet with no restrictions. In May of 2009, NDP Charlie Angus proposed a private members bill in the House of Commons which would introduce a mild form of net neutrality. What makes it mild is the statement that ISPs can throttle traffic to “manage the flow of network traffic in a reasonable manner in order to relieve extraordinary congestion” (Parl.gc.ca). This is not the bill that most net neutrality activists were hoping for, but it is a definite step in the right direction. The exception quoted above allows ISPs to justify the throttling of torrent traffic, as well as mass downloading/uploading to keep the network flowing smoothly without the company upgrading servers and paying more to cover bandwidth. The Canadian government needs to step in and ensure that the ISPs of the country give all websites and content and equal playing field by putting net neutrality into law. This will show the world that Canada is a modern country which embraces new forms of technology, not cowers away from it. The internet cannot be treated like Television or Radio. Unlike those two forms of communication, there is little input from the masses. With the internet, citizens can make their opinions known on blogs, create and share their videos on Youtube, and let the world hear their music through Last.FM and Bittorrent. By attempting to regulate the internet, the Canadian government will only waste resources and lead down a road of censoring and commercialization of the traffic in ‘the tubes’.

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