For almost a year and a half now, some of Canada’s major ISPs, including Bell and Rogers, have defended their throttling practices by arguing that excessive BitTorrent traffic is crippling their networks. Open-internet proponents, like Michael Geist, SaveOurNet.ca, and even Google, have questioned the telecoms’ motives and asked the CRTC to step in and stop throttling. Geist further argues that throttling, high prices, and slow speeds, are reducing Canada’s competitiveness in the new digital economy. Today, a report released by the OECD on broadband growth and distribution, revealed that Canada’s broadband services are among the slowest and the most expensive in the developed world. In terms of price per megabyte, Canada ranks twenty-eighth overall, just ahead of Mexico and Poland. With the CRTC’s July traffic-management hearings fast approaching, net-neutrality advocates are working overtime to spread awareness of the issues and rally Canadians behind their cause.
Late last month, Canada’s small ISPs filed an application to contest a November 2008 ruling that allowed Bell to throttle their wholesalers’ customers. According to CAIP (the Canadian Association of Internet Providers), the CRTC didn’t understand the technology involved when it made its decision and its legal and factual mistakes would impair any future proceedings. “I think that the CRTC made a really bad decision last November with the CAIP hearings,” SaveOurNet.ca founder, Steve Anderson, told Torontoist. “I think they took a lot of flak for that.”
Then on Friday last week, the NDP’s Digital Affairs Critic, Charlie Angus, tabled Bill C-398 in an effort to move net neutrality onto Ottawa’s political agenda. The bill is unlikely to pass (a similar bill tabled in 2008 didn’t go anywhere). But the bill’s power resides in its ability to drum up attention, not its legislative chances. “It puts a little pressure on the other parties,” said Anderson. “I’m not sure what the Conservatives are thinking, but the Liberals are probably thinking, ‘what’s our next move here’…The CRTC should already be addressing this issue, and it’s because they’re not, that there’s movement now in the Ottawa legislative arena.”
Finally, on June 8, SaveOurNet.ca, in participation with Rabble.ca, is hosting an Open Internet Town Hall at the Gladstone Hotel. Speakers include Steve Anderson; Rocky Gaudrault, the founder of TekSavvy; Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation; and Derek Blackadder, a national representative with CUPE. The Toronto event is the first in a series of discussions that will take place across Canada throughout June, before the CRTC hearings. While Anderson knows that the hearings won’t grant all of the campaign’s wishes, he hopes that the CRTC will at least take into account Canadians’ opinions. “If they make an unpopular decision again, we’re not just going accept that; we’re going to come back at them,” explained Anderson. “That’s an important thing for them to realize.”