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ALBAS: On net neutrality and online censorship

Dan Albas, member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla.
Image Credit: Contributed
July 14, 2016 - 2:21 PM

OPINION


Editor,

Internet censorship and net neutrality are not subjects that tend be top of mind for most citizens in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, however that does not mean they are not important concerns deserving of attention. 

While most are familiar with the concept of internet censorship, the principle of net neutrality is one that some citizens are less familiar with. The concept of net neutrality is that government and internet service providers should make every reasonable effort to treat internet data and related content in an equal matter free from arbitrary discrimination. The reason I raise the subject of net neutrality is due to the fact that the Province of Quebec has passed a law earlier this year that raises serious concerns. Bill 74 allows the Quebec Government to force Canadian internet service providers to attempt to block online gaming websites outside of Quebec from Quebec residents.

The reason why I suggest the law attempts to block online gaming sites is due to technical concerns raised within the wireless industry that indicate in some cases it may not be technically possible to fully comply with this new legislation. In spite of these concerns the Province of Quebec has indicated they intend to proceed with these measures potentially in the near future.

Aside from increasing costs on the respective wireless and internet service industries there is also the concern over jurisdiction. Currently communication related policy is under federal jurisdiction as mandated through the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and if one Province can attempt to usurp this jurisdiction in an attempt to protect a provincial monopoly, in this case Lotto-Quebec, it is highly conceivable other Provinces could follow suit.

In fact, the Finance Minister for Quebec confirmed at the legislative committee studying Bill 74 that he believed that other provinces would follow the lead of Quebec. This would not only subject Canadians to a patchwork system of different rules but could compromise international agreements that Canada is a signatory to. Up until this point, the Federal Government has ensured any censorship of the internet has been justified for public safety reasons such as shutting down terrorist recruitment websites via the Criminal Code and not for financial reasons as is the case of Quebec.

To date I have been the only Member of Parliament to raise this particular concern in the House of Commons and the response from the Liberal Government was that the government supports net neutrality however it is unclear beyond that what efforts, if any, will be undertaken to protect the online rights of Canadians against these practices. 

My question for citizens today is what are your thoughts on net neutrality? Do you support net neutrality or do you think it is reasonable for a provincial government to create online restrictions in this area in an effort to continue to protect revenue sources.

If you have comments or concerns on this or any federal matter please do not hesitate to contact me via email at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca, or call toll free at 1 (800) 665-8711.


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