Is Net Neutrality really under fire in Canada too?

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

07 December 2017

Net Neutrality advocates have always said that if Net Neutrality was lost in America, it would soon be lost in the rest of the world too.

If a new claim by Canadaland is to be believed, then it’s already under attack in Canada—before the Net Neutrality guidelines in the US have even been officially shot down.

Documents obtained by Canadaland purportedly show that Bell Media, one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies, has submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) a draft proposal that outlines a plan to destroy Net Neutrality in Canada.

Bell is apparently leading a coalition of companies intending to push the regulatory body to create a non-profit corporation to create and keep a list of websites found to be pushing pirated materials. All internet providers in the country would then, according to the proposal, be forced to block access to these websites. The corporation would be called the Internet Piracy Review Agency (IPRA).

Giving such a corporation the power to block websites sets a dangerous precedent. The CRTC does currently have this power, but it uses it rarely, and won’t even block a website if it is found to be breaking copyright laws.

This proposal would make site-blocking a more common occurrence—and would allow it to happen without any legal oversight. While the blocked sites would then be able to appeal against the block, the damage would already have been done.

Privacy expert Michael Geist had this to say about the proposal:

It’s enormously problematic, I think it’s legally questionable, and I think it’s terrible policy.

This is a dramatic shift. This is a prospect of significant internet regulation being done by the CRTC and without any court oversight. The only court oversight [would come] after a site has been blocked.

While this might not seem like an immediate challenge to Net Neutrality, it would in fact be the start of a very slippy slope. According to Geist:

If you make the argument that you’re in a position to block for these purposes, it seems pretty obvious that we’re going to see other groups say that you ought to be blocking for other purposes.

And from here, of course, we all know where this is likely to go.

The completed application is set to be finalized and filed to the CRTC on December 19th. We’ll be keeping our eyes on this situation, as should you.

As proud Canadians, it hurts to see this happening. Let’s stop it before it start.

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