Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Net Neutrality: Last Chance to Weigh In

Most people reading this will already know all about Net Neutrality if you do and you already have an opinion on the matter then all I really have to tell you is that you have until February 16 to let the CRTC know what you think. If you don't already know what net neutrality is read on ...

Bell, Rogers and Shaw have a near monopoly on internet connections in this country. Most other internet providers buy their bandwidth from one of these larger companies. This monopoly position has been given to them by the government of Canada. Bell, Rogers and Shaw all use public airwaves or lines over public land (many of which were also paid for by you directly or by various governments with your tax dollars) to deliver this service to you. As things stand they generally overcharge for sub standard service. In a recent study Canada ranked 27th out of 42 countries for broadband penetration.

But a government subsidized monopoly and the right to overcharge customers is not enough for these companies. They'd also like to decide what you can and cannot see online. If net neutrality legislation is not implemented these companies will be able to charge web sites for visitors. That means that web sites that don't pay up will be harder to connect to and slower to load, or they just won't be available at all.

Imagine if the government gave a private company control of the freeways. Imagine if the government gave that company money to maintain the freeways and that company charged you a toll every time you wanted to use the freeway. Now imagine if that company went to Canadian cities and threatened to block, or slow down the off-ramps from that freeway unless they paid. So they might go to the city of Toronto and say if you give us 10 million a year things will continue as usual. If you give us 5 million a year we'll only close half of the offramps, if you don't do either there will be no offramps to Toronto. So they are not only forcing the cities and other destinations to pay, but they are deciding where you as a driver (who pays for the freeway through fees and taxes) can go on the freeway.

That, in a nutshell, is exactly what Bell, Rogers and Shaw would like to do. To make matters even worse, all of these companies have web properties of their own - cable stations, newspapers etc., so they will not have to pay but their competitors will. Going back to the freeway analogy, imagine if the Ontario or federal government gave the freeway monopoly to Toronto. So it would be up to Toronto whether or not you could go to Hamilton, or Guelph. It is shocking that the CRTC is even having hearings on this issue.

Every media revolution the world has experienced - from the printing press to the television has been controlled by the wealthy and powerful. If you wanted to have a printing press or a television station it cost vast sums of money to get started, even then there were government and/or religious constraints on what you could or could not say. We finally have a media that is open to all, where anyone anywhere can have their say, share their stories and points of view and weigh in on issues that concern them. Bell, Rogers and Shaw - heavily subsidized monopolies would now like to take it away and put power back in the hands of the rich and powerful exclusively. It is not unlike the system they have in China except in this case it wouldn't even be controlled by government but by a few large, powerful corporations.

Please take a moment to let the CRTC know what you think.

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