Vive Le Canada

Battle for 'Net neutrality' arrives in Canada and could forever alter Internet
Date: Sunday, November 05 2006

November 4, 2006

Battle for 'Net neutrality' arrives in Canada and could forever alter Internet

TORONTO (CP) - The battle in the United States by major telecom companies to control web content has arrived in Canada with little fanfare - and it's a fight that could forever change the Internet as we know it.

It's being waged over something called Net neutrality, dubbed the First Amendment of the Internet in the United States. Net neutrality aims to ensure the public can view the smallest blogs just as easily as the largest corporate websites.

"Right now, the Internet is almost a perfect, universal democracy," says Pippa Lawson, the executive director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Law Clinic. "The smallest bloggers can be accessed as easily and as quickly as the websites of major corporations."

But Lawson says that could change drastically if Canadian telecommunications companies like Bell, Telus and Rogers follow the lead of their American counterparts, including Verizon and AT&T. Canadian companies have already argued in various forums that Net neutrality legislation isn't necessary.

"Our position on network diversity/neutrality is that it should be determined by market forces, not regulation," Jacqueline Michelis, a spokeswoman for Bell Canada, said in a recent e-mail to The Canadian Press.

That viewpoint is making those who advocate for a free and open Internet nervous.

"Let's say you're Rogers and you're trying to sell Major League Baseball stuff so the Toronto Blue Jays content loads faster than anyone else's, or you're Bell Globemedia, so you ensure that CTV content loads far faster than the CBC's does," says Michael Geist, a professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in Internet law.

Rogers owns the Jays and Bell Globemedia owns CTV.

"There's clear incentive there for those who have the economic interests to discriminate. That's why it's necessary to ensure that there's a level playing field and you have to do that legislatively."

Lawson says Canadian companies want exactly what American companies want - to control the web and make a lot of money doing so.

"There's a big push in Canada right now to allow those sorts of discriminatory practices," Lawson says.

"The companies that own the pipes of the Internet - the telecom companies - haven't liked sitting back and watching big content providers like Google and Yahoo make billions of dollars. They want a piece of the pie, and they want to be able to favour their own content or the content of the corporations that would pay them big money."

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 6, 2006]

This article comes from Vive Le Canada

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