The Federal Communications Commission [FCC] recently voted to scrap net neutrality laws and citizens are up in arms. Canada has vowed to strengthen protection of this valuable freedom, but the FCC’s decision may still have devastating effects to many Canadians.
What Is Net Neutrality?
In order to use the internet, you need to go through an Internet Service Provider [ISP], like Bell or Rogers. Net neutrality is the idea that internet is considered public utilities. That means that all traffic on the internet should be equally accessible. In other words, ISPs can only charge for the resource used, and not what it’s used for. Water is an example of a public utility; producers can charge for the sale of water but they cannot charge consumers more for using water to drink rather washing their clothes. Under net neutrality, internet access is distributed the same way.
Why Is It Important?
Without net neutrality, ISPs could slow down, or throttle, access to certain websites to the point of making them unusable. ISPs would then have the ability to influence what you see and how quickly you see it. This power can be used to censor criticism of corporate interests, suppress free speech, and manipulate public perception. Another concern is that rich companies can pay ISPs to make their websites more quickly accessible, leaving businesses with less money in the dust. This will not only result in the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer, but also will suppress the voices of regular citizens. Executive Internet Service Providers and large corporations are seemingly the only ones who stand to benefit from rolling back net neutrality.
The FCC and Net Neutrality in the US
On December 14, 2017, the FCC of the United States voted to kill net neutrality. Ajit Pai, the chairperson of the FCC claimed that rolling back net neutrality will help technological innovation, investments, and job creation by creating more flexibility for ISPs. The majority of experts and citizens disagree with this claim. Ironically the decision was made through the official text for the decision was labeled “Restoring Internet freedom” and is now in the U.S.’ Code of Federal Regulations.
How will this affect Canadians?
This decision to slash net neutrality in the United States will impact Canadian’s internet experience because a lot of Canada’s content is routed through the U.S. Without net neutrality in the United States, it will be more difficult for Canadians to access content and compete with larger corporations. Canada’s Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission [CRTC] and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated in April that it is strengthening its commitment to net neutrality and reaffirmed the value of equal internet access to Canadians. Canada’s laws regarding net neutrality are considered some of the strictest in the world but the current NAFTA negotiations are putting enormous pressure to roll back net neutrality in Canada.
What can Canadian citizens do?
If net neutrality is valuable to you, please contact your Member of Parliament and let them know that this is an election issue for you.