July 24, 2008

Net Neutrality, the Wireless Auction & The Future of Canada’s Internet

By liam

I’ve been toying with a couple of ideas related to net neutrality in Canada and I’ve developed a few that I’d like you to provide feedback on.

Basically, the background info is this:

  • Net neutrality will never exist in Canada because the ‘pipe’ is owned by Bell Canada, Rogers, Telus, etc
  • The recent wireless spectrum auction generated $4.25 billion for the people of Canada
  • The CBC is facing increased competition from companies that will have questionable Canadian ownership because of private equity deals and institutional owners

What I propose is that the official mandate of the CBC be expanded to include basic Internet services. We should be aggressive with this goal and go so far as to suggest that any Canadian should be able to get unfettered access to DSL services whenever they want without the expectation of being limited in the sites or locations that they can visit (obvious exclusions exist, including porn, gambling, etc).

The CBC has been very innovative with the delivery of some of its content, but its mandate of sharing this content with Canadians is repeatedly threatened by Canada’s telecom giants by throttling and other restrictions placed on services like BitTorrent and other P2P programs.

It’s this threat that necessitates an alternative.

The $4.25 billion generated from the wireless auction should be used to finance this pursuit. It would have two angles:

1. Develop of a ‘pipe’ to accommodate the CBC internet access.
2. Support of Canadian-made online media

With the first item, building a pipe on to the existing one (which is mostly owned and developed by Bell Canada and a number of other private ISPs) would be very impractical because you’d wind up paying more in access fees and ‘renting’ the existing infrastructure.

So … here’s a crazy idea: we contract with power utilities (most of which are publicly owned) and deliver DSL through them. Haven’t heard of Power Line Communications (PLC)? Here’s a little article with Wikipedia to whet your whistle:


Once the DSL problem is solved, any Canadian would be able to set up an account, access the Internet, without threat of speed reduction or other limitations.

Following that, the goal would be to foster and encourage Canadian content. This is easy: there are thousands of blogs, ezines and other sites out there that have never received funding but should. The only caveat: any publication, company or organization that has received Federal funding either from Heritage Canada or the CRTC for TV or print (or even online) is not eligible for new funding.

Obviously, such a program would never come to fruition if the Harper government is in charge, but maybe if we support someone that’s bold enough to pursue this initiative and spend money on Canada rather than tax breaks for non-Canadian companies, we’d all be much better off.

What are your thoughts?