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Canadians Rally for Net Neutrality

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As a few hundred scruffy protesters gathered in Ottawa yesterday to support Net Neutrality, busloads of teenagers on school trips to visit Canada’s seat of government walked past them, blissfully unaware that the fight to keep Facebook free was happening right next to them.

Neutrality should be an easy sell: Nobody wants ISPs to be able to treat traffic differently, fearing it will lead to monthly “Google plans” or “Skype charges.”

But it quickly gets complicated. Rather than trying to win one battle, special interest groups bring in other fights: Tier-two ISPs want unfettered access to the last mile on wholesale links. Privacy advocates warn of prying eyes on the wires and at the borders. The specter of copyright enforcement looms large. And telcos complain that peer-to-peer is breaking their networks.

It shouldn’t be this way. Canada’s Net Neutrality debate has easy-to-spot villains: Bell and Rogers, who own most of the retail Internet, are both part of large media corporations. Bell has recently been caught red-handed shaping traffic, something second-tier ISPs like Teksavvy have long claimed.

Bell’s meddling recently became apparent when CBC Television released a new show, Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister, with BitTorrent. Because of traffic shaping, domestic downloads took five times as long as those in foreign countries. “There had been a lot of suspicion about traffic shaping, not just on Bell’s retail network but also on the wholesale network,” said Tom Copeland, chair of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers. “We were finding that rather than taking a couple of hours to download the show it was taking 10 or 12 hours.”

This time, it wasn’t just the nerds who were mad. Respectable citizens trying to get their programming from a national institution were furious. An unprecedented 1,200 consumers filed formal complaints with the country’s broadcasting and regulatory body, the CRTC.

It’s a golden opportunity for advocates to make Net Neutrality simple and relevant. Yesterday’s rally, organized by a coalition of technology and free speech groups, coincided with the introduction of a private member’s bill by member of parliament, Charlie Angus. But unless they stick to the mainstream, they risk being ignored by politicians and the general public once again and letting well-monied carriers have their way with the Internet.

10 Responses to “Canadians Rally for Net Neutrality”

  1. @Slim: The guy in the suit is Charlie Angus, the MP who put the private member’s bill into legislation. Trust me, he was nearly the only suited person. My point wasn’t to critique people’s dress; but rather to say that the movement tends to marginalize itself, and that the commotion around rate-shaping a respectable, legal torrent represented a unique opportunity to make this a bigger, more mainstream issue.

    I had plenty of other pictures of the busloads of kids walking by, none of whom was watching the rally, BTW.

    @H: This seems to be the only issue where libertarians want legislation in the form of forced liberty ;-)

    @Devil’s Advocate: I agree. As I said to one second tier ISP, it’s much easier to first say, “Networks should be neutral” and then later tack on “everywhere” to stop rate-shaping on last mile backhaul links. Win the big, obvious fight first. You can’t fight a war on many fronts. The carriers are saying, “these people are thieves.” That’s all they need to do. We need more Made To Stick marketing and less issues to win this one.

  2. Thankfully I’ve got a somewhat “open source” internet connection available to me here in Utah.

    The city where I live (Murray) co-speared a project with UTOPIA to provide a fiber optic infrastructure throughout the city. Several other cities jumped aboard, but several cities that had jumped on backed off at the last minute (due to our extremely bought out ex-mayor Rocky Anderson – he took a lot of kickbacks from Qwest and Comcast).

    Because of the open fiber optic infrastructure several businesses have come in and offered services over the network. They all compete. Their prices are low and their speeds are extremely high… and best of all, they don’t throttle my connection speed!

    We need these open infrastructures all over the nation to really kick net neutrality into high gear!

  3. Only if the net is neutral can innovation take place in the applications that use it.

    How can a developer predict how the server will interact with the client if there is a hidden interference layer in between?

    The philosophy of the Internet lies in the belief that ‘All packets are created equal’. This is also known as Net neutrality.

    In other words, the network is dumb and intelligence shifts to the edge of the network(i.e. to the nodes or the applications). This philosophy of ‘dumb pipes and smart nodes’ has fulfilled the vision of ‘Let a thousand flowers bloom’ and has led to the unprecedented innovation we have witnessed in the last decade. We take this innovation for granted .. at our peril.

  4. I have clearly noted a major unacceptable slowdown of my downloads every evening this week too..

    Amazing one of the most active complaint issues by the citizens on Canada’s interent and the major political parties in Canada still have no comment? Why?

    “The CRTC certainly shows no signs of protecting consumers, nor do the Conservatives and Liberals; they are much more likely to protect the interests of corporations when it comes to an issue such as this”..

    Net neutrality bill hits House of Commons – 14 hours ago
    By Peter Nowak CBC News NDP digital spokesman Charlie Angus doesn’t believe the CRTC has all the tools it needs to prevent interference in the internet by service providers.
    Net neutrality bill ‘about fairness to consumers’
    Federal NDP To Introduce Net Neutrality Bill
    Metro Canada – Ottawa – IT World Canada Blogs – GigaOm – mediacaster
    all 21 news articles »

    Interesting to note that this issue gets no attention from Canada’s MAJOR private media organizations. Why? They are clearly influenced by Bell? Compare this to ..

    Stand by your ex (or be hoist by your own Couillard) Globe and Mail – What was he doing in Julie Couillard’s house so long after they had broken up? Why did he leave sensitive documents there?
    all 1,393 news articles »

    “Net neutrality bill hits House of Commons
    The private member’s bill, C-552, is in reaction to moves by some of Canada’s largest internet service providers (ISPs), including Bell Canada Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., to limit their customers’ uses of the internet. Bell, Rogers and a few others say a small percentage of customers have been congesting their networks by using peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent, so they have slowed the internet down at peak times of the day.

    The ISPs’ actions have provoked outrage from internet users, with about 300 protesters taking to the steps of Parliament Hill on Tuesday. Critics have said the targeting of peer-to-peer applications is just the tip of the iceberg. If ISPs are allowed to decide which internet applications can and can’t be used, innovative new companies that were born from experimentation — such as Google, Amazon and eBay — may not happen in the future.

    “Net neutrality affects everybody, every person, every business, every hospital, every institution is involved in the exchange of information over the internet,” Angus told “This shouldn’t be about party lines.”

  5. I find what’s missing in the Net Neutrality mania is a failure to extend the Neutrality philosophy into other aspects of life.

    I want road neutrality. I’m completely pissed that my state/municipality is road traffic shaping. Limiting the roadway allocated to single occupancy vehicles to the point that they congest during peak periods. Sure it ensures that buses and multi-occupancy vehicles in the carpool lanes can flow at consistent speeds but who are they to make the traffic shaping rules. Roadways are public goods. In fact, my taxes have paid to build them. All citizens deserve unmanaged flow.

    And then there is priority boarding, and senior’s menus. Don’t get me started on senior’s menus.


  6. Devil's Advocate

    “Rather than trying to win one battle, special interest groups bring in other fights…”

    “But unless they stick to the mainstream, they risk being ignored by politicians and the general public…”

    I’m not sure what you mean here by “special interest groups”.

    It is because we haven’t got Net Neutrality that issues such as throttling, fair competition, and privacy have made it to the foreground as well. Net Neutrality is the missing PRINCIPLE while the issues are the SYMPTOMS or CONSEQUENCES.

    Trying to “isolate” net neutrality as one “issue”, on its own, is a little difficult under the circumstances. If anything, ALL of these battles have become simultaneously necessary, as a direct result of the actions of large backbone providers, like Bell, over the last while.

    All of these issues should serve as PRIME EXAMPLES of WHY Net Neutrality is needed.

  7. “A few hundred scruffy protesters…”

    Hey I looked at the photos in the article, one by one, and didn’t spot any particular scruffiness – even the guy in the suit (4th photo) has his tie on straight.

    “busloads of teenagers on school trips to visit Canada’s seat of government walked past them, blissfully unaware that the fight to keep Facebook free was happening right next to them.”

    Maybe some of them read the signs and asked questions. Most teenagers can read, speak and turn their heads. Maybe some remained unaware of what was going on, but “blissfully”? Sounds patronising.