The Open Internet is at Risk
The Internet at Risk
Broadband is a human right, the nervous system of the 21st century. It is far too important to be left up to the whims of monopolists building atop public infrastructure without any commitment to the public interest.
— Cory Doctorow — Activist, Author, and Journalist
Thats a Lot of Data
From the dawn of civilization until 2003, humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now we produce five exabytes every two days…and the pace is accelerating.
— Eric Schmidt
The Guardian reports that
- 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
- 500 million tweets are sent every day.
- 30 billion WhatsApp messages are sent every day.
- 40 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every day.
Both government and corporations cry foul when you try to block these attempts.
Save Net Neutrality in Canada
Remember when big media controlled everything you read and watched?
They'd like that control back.
Undemocratic forces are working to destroy the Internet we know and love — a magical place of dank memes and video streams, the essential backbone we use to communicate with our loved ones, our families, and our government.
If they get their way, many of our favorite websites and services will be slowed to a crawl, and we'll end up with an “Internet” that looks more like cable TV — a boring, money-making machine for telecom giants.
Canadians Pay Too Much
Canada's media companies want to change the status of net neutrality in Canada.
[H]ealthy competition in the broadband sector is key to ensuring that all Canadians can benefit from all that the internet brings to our lives.
— Competition Bureau
Netflix Threatens Profitability
Netflix threatens their TV subscriber base because their service frequently lacks viewable content unless you're a news or sports junkie.
Rather than change to suit the current technology, telecoms are calling on the government to regulate the Internet just like cable TV.
Canada's big three telecoms want to force the same control onto the Internet as exists on cable TV — and the government is going along with it.
The federal government has repeatedly stated its commitment to Net Neutrality, but Canada's Telecommunications Act is currently under review.
And we know lobbyists — and now the CRTC — are pushing for looser regulations, following the U.S.' Net Neutrality repeal as an example.
The federal government must reject any effort by the CRTC to weaken Canada's Net Neutrality framework.
The fight over net neutrality is starting to heat up — and the big difference between this time and 2015 is that big ISPs seem incredibly emboldened to say whatever they want without any regard for the truth.
— The Verge
Bill C-11: Online Streaming Act
The government told Canadians that it wanted to grab control back from big foreign Internet companies.
Instead, Bill C-11 provides control over what you watch to the CRTC — a direct conflict of interest because Canada's big media controls the CRTC.
As for the role of public participation in general, it's true the CRTC holds hearings and invites public comment. The reality, unfortunately, is the general public's involvement often seems relatively minor, given little weight in the decisions that are finally issued.
— Monica Auer
Bill C-10 Resurrected
The very flawed Bill C-10 died when Trudeau called the early election. It has been replaced with the current Bill C-11 (not to be confused with the lapsed privacy bill with the same designation).
Like the defunct Bill C-10, this legislation primarily benefits Canada's big three telecoms (Bell, Rogers and Telus).
Under Bill C-11, streaming companies like Netflix will also be forced to pay to produce CanCon — but will be ineligible to receive funding from the Canadian Media Fund, even when producing Canadian content.
Result? A direct money transfer from streaming platforms Canadians like, to legacy broadcast services we increasingly don't. What a deal!
Government documentation mentions the streaming services supported by Canadian cable companies so your current streaming options may be affected even there.
Bill C-11 gives the CRTC even MORE power to decide that even more content should fall under their regulation, while excluding small creators from CanCon financial support.
The Link Tax Issue
One concerning aspect of Bill C-11 is the issue around the link tax. Bill C-11 doesn't specify the conditions for which such a tax would be valid, but implementation could result in a reduction in your sources for information if sites like this one are expected to pay for each link.
Imagine if you told a friend to watch a program on TV only to receive a bill for that referral (which would benefit that TV station more than the person recommending the program).
The economics may result in a condition where only the big Internet companies could afford to meet the conditions, thereby reducing competition (like with the cost of Canadian Internet access) and making it unlikely that any alternative could emerge.
Don't Put the CRTC in Charge
The approval of the Rogers-Shaw deal clearly demonstrates an out-of-control industry-run CRTC that needs to be reigned in.
Don't put the CRTC in charge of regulating the whole Internet. We should be deciding what we watch and listen to online, not our government.
Tell Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez:
Stop treating the Internet like television!
Michael Geist on Bill C-11
Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa, has continuing coverage on the foundational faults of Bill C-11:
- The nearly unlimited global reach of CRTC jurisdiction over Internet audio-visual services.
- The regulate-it-all approach of treating all audio-visual content as a “program.”
- Why the discoverability rules are a flawed solution in search of a problem.
- Why the discoverability rules will harm Canadian creators and risk millions in revenues.
- How is “Gotta Love Trump” CanCon but Amazon's Toronto Maple Leafs series isn't?.
Bill C-11 trades prioritizing Canadian content for a market of 38 million people for de-prioritizing that same content for a global market that runs into the billions of viewers.
CanCon Imposed on the Internet
The only beneficiaries are the big Canadian media companies and their overpriced cable packages.
The CRTC still can ask platforms for an end result, meaning it will still be in the business of picking winners who get promoted and losers whose content is downranked and hidden on online feeds. Unless and until CanCon definitions are thoroughly revised, this will mean upvoting the narrow range of legacy media content to the top of our feeds over other content we actually like.
Bill C-11 Ignores the Nature of the Internet
Bill C-11 ignores the fact that everyone could simultaneously watch different content on an open Internet.
Instead, it chose to censor the Internet.
The Internet is Not Cable TV
Fixed timetables cannot compete with choice in your viewing time combined with program selection nor allow bing-watching of a series.
When cable TV emerged, there were only so many channels and so many hours in the day available for scheduled programming.
Canadian content rules were put in place to ensure that Canadian TV wasn't overwhelmed with cheaper U.S. productions.
Unfortunately program quality was never part of the criteria. Schitt's Creek is one of the few exceptions.
Instead, CanCon rules recognized documentaries on the American Civil War and Ghandi, but not a program based upon Canadian Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale (successfully running on Hulu).
Netflix Already Provides Canadian Content
There is more Canadian content available on Netflix than cable operators would have you (or the government) believe. All you have to do is enter “Canadian” into the search feature.
Despite the absence of regulatory requirements, Netflix has emerged as one of the leading backers of Canadian content, reporting that it commissioned hundreds of millions of dollars in original programming in Canada…. In fact, Netflix says that Canada now ranks as one of its top three locations worldwide for original productions. Given that the company spends billions each year on content, the activity in Canada is likely larger than all but a handful of regulated sources.
— Michael Geist
CanCon Not Generating International Audiences
It isn't CanCon that is creating massive international online audiences — it is those individuals that have used the power of blogs and podcasts to generate massive audiences, some that dwarf even sports team fan bases.
This is what irks traditional media, leading to demands to place those successful individuals under the umbrella of the CRTC where they will fund the big Canadian media giants (while being ineligible themselves).
YouTube fears the proposals in the Online Streaming bill could skew the algorithm it uses to match content with viewers' personal preferences.
The platform says proposed legislation obliging platforms to promote Canadian content risks downgrading the popularity of that content abroad — and the foreign earnings many Canadian YouTubers rely on.
— The Canadian Press
Bill C-11 is giving the CRTC the power to control what ordinary Canadians are posting without any oversight.
The CRTC is an unsuitable body for such authority, more so since it listens only to big media.
One of the most troubling aspects of Bill C-11 is the virtually limitless reach of the CRTC's jurisdictional power of audio-visual services.
Bill C-11 does not contain specific thresholds or guidance. In other words, the entire audio-visual world is fair game and it will be up to the CRTC to decide whether to exempt some services from regulation.
— Michael Geist
CRTC Approved the Rogers-Shaw Deal
A very strong indicator of the CRTC's unsuitability is the approval of the purchase of Shaw by Rogers, a deal that will limit competition and increase the cost of Internet and cellular for Canadians.
This is a tone-deaf decision from a CRTC that has completely lost touch with ordinary people in Canada.
Ordinary people know very well what this deal will mean; less competition, fewer jobs, and higher prices for telecom customers. And yet not one of the institutions we've charged with assessing the deal has had the courage to say it.
Fixing the CRTC would probably require legislation banning these big media companies from being involved in the decisions made by the CRTC.
Don't put the CRTC in charge of regulating the whole Internet. We should be deciding what we watch and listen to online, not our government.
Tell Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez:
Stop treating the Internet like television!
Big Media Wants to Control What You See and Watch
Big media wants to make the Internet a two-tiered system with emphasis on their products. Third-party sites they don't control will be slower. It's already happening:
- Regulators in Europe are working to tax the Internet.
- The Canadian Liberal government has threatened regulation since 2016.
The purpose of taxes and regulation is to protect and fund media companies that currently provide little in the way of original content other than sports and news.
If people were getting what they want on cable TV, Netflix wouldn't be a threat.
Instead, Canada's big three would rather tax your choice of Netflix, slow down your connection or simply not provide access at all.
Canadians already pay some of the highest rates in the world for Internet access both at home and for their cellular phones.
A 2020 report from Finland-based telecom research firm Rewheel found that Telus, Bell, and Rogers ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd most expensive amongst 168 wireless carriers operating in 48 countries around the world.
Prior to the pandemic, Canadian internet and wireless prices were routinely found to be high by international standards — in some cases, among the highest in the world. This has only worsened during the current crisis, as many Canadians have been hit by price increases while having to conduct virtually every aspect of daily life online.
— Day of Action for Affordable Internet
Check out new wireless plans that offer more for less. You may have to change carriers to get those deals — most are not advertised.
One-in-five Canadians cannot afford Internet or TV services.
The big three telecoms have the ear of the CRTC which should be there to protect Canadians, not enrich these companies which are already protected from foreign competition and enjoy 45% profit margins.
5 Times the Rate of Inflation
A CRTC look at cost and accessibility noted that Internet fees in Canada have increased at five times the rate of inflation.
The Internet was designed as a neutral platform for open, unrestricted access to the data we wanted to obtain.
We need the Internet to be fast, cheap, neutral, and accessible everywhere.
— Larry Lessig
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality means that all data is treated equally — all sites and services on the Internet have an equal footing.
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers providing consumer connection to the Internet should treat all data on the internet the same, not giving specific advantages or penalties in access by user, content, website, platform, or application.
It allows us to choose what we watch and when we watch it.
Just Like Electricity
The plug in the wall doesn't ask what you're using it for. It simply serves electricity.
That is how we need our electronic data to be served: neutrally — just like electricity.
Imagine plugging in your new electric kettle only to find that it wouldn't work because it wasn't the “approved” brand? What if it worked, but you were charged extra?
Delivering Content Without Interference
Net Neutrality delivers the site(s) you request without any extra fees or censorship.
No site is artificially slowed or sped up. There is no fast lane for privileged services such as free access to a particular music or movie service ONLY if you're using that ISP's services.
Net neutrality is a simple concept that ends up being very politically complicated. It's the idea that your internet service provider (ISP) — whether that's Comcast, Verizon, or someone else — shouldn't have the ability to pick and choose which service or content you can see, or make sites pay to have their content load quickly.
— Mozilla Blog
Why You Should Care
The loss of net neutrality affects much more than corporate profitability.
Removing net neutrality sees some services promoted; others slowed down or banned altogether.
Neutrality deals with whether companies will be allowed to build more toll booths on the road. Net Neutrality is the best way to insure that no one is in control of the flow of information.
— David Mengert
You should care because net neutrality is about way more than packets of data — it affects competition, innovation, speech online, and user choice.
Losing net neutrality would ultimately mean you have fewer choices for content, applications, and services online, in ways we can't possibly imagine today.
Government's Failure to Represent Constituents
Government seems to have the ear of the huge mega-corporations, not the people they are supposed to represent.
Without net neutrality, Facebook, Netflix and Twitter could never have become the mega corporations they are today.
Current restrictions on net neutrality will never allow any realistic future competition.
Compromised Personal Data and Fake News
Tim Berners-Lee, known as the inventor of the Internet, describes the problem:
Over the past 12 months, I've become increasingly worried about three new trends, which I believe we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity.
He cited compromised personal data; fake news that he says has “spread like wildfire;” and the lack of regulation in political advertising, which he says threatens democracy.
U.S. Already Seeing the Results
To understand the dangers of a net neutrality-free Internet, one has only to look to our neighbours to the south.
The US voted to kill off net neutrality on December 14th 2017 in spite of overwhelming support for net neutrality by U.S. citizens.
The ISPs in the US are taking full advantage of the repeal of Net Neutrality.
A new research study proved that video streaming has been throttled across the board since the repeal.
You Need to Take Action
Since governments are listening only to big media, you need to step up and take an active part if you want to see net neutrality remain.
- Net Neutrality is under attack in Canada — here's how we save it.
- OpenMedia leads the fight to get your voice heard. See current campaigns.
- Take the Google pledge to support a free and open Internet.
Change Your Browser
If your browser is the one your operating system set as default with its default landing page, why not choose a safer browser that loads by default something that is important to you?
If Microsoft's News & Interests feed isn't serving your interests, remove the distraction by right-clicking the task bar and choosing to turn it off in the related menu item.
Signing into your Google Chrome may preserve settings, but also provides a lot of information used to profile you.
Choose Safer Content
The Firefox Browser has built in tracking protection. That makes it harder for politicians, advertisers, and disinformation disseminators to find you. And with the free Facebook container extension, you can isolate your Facebook session from everything else you do online. More privacy means more democracy.
— IRL: Democracy and the Internet
A Lot is At Stake
There are more serious issues than familiarity when choosing a browser.
Google controls about 62% of mobile browsers, 69% of desktop browsers, and the operating systems on 71% of mobile devices in the world.
92% of internet searches go through Google and 73% of American adults use YouTube.
Google runs code on approximately 85% of sites on the Web and inside as many as 94% of apps in the Play store.
It collects data about users' every click, tap, query, and movement from all of those sources and more.
This Google monopoly now threatens the future of the open Web.
An Open Internet Promotes Innovation
Most of today's big Internet companies wouldn't exist today without a free and open Internet. Startups are in no position to compete with established Fortune 500 companies for limited bandwidth.
Fund Those Working for an Open Internet
Consider funding the organizations working to support a free and open Internet.
- OpenMedia works directly to educate people about these issues and to influence those that can make changes.
- Mozilla stands up for a healthy internet for all. Mozilla Firefox is the only major independent browser that protects and respects your private information.
Retain a Free & Open Internet
Police are already piling on the pressure for new laws to force you to reveal all of your digital passwords. Telecom giants are jacking up the price of Internet at 5 times the rate of inflation, and Big Media wants to use the upcoming copyright review to turn our Internet into Cable TV 2.0.
Retain the current open Internet we currently experience and have taken for granted since we began to use it.
More about Net Neutrality:
- Net neutrality 101: What you need to know to survive the next 6+ months of debate.
- The FCC's case against net neutrality rests on a deliberate misrepresentation of how the Internet works.
- Infographic: 15 facts about net neutrality.
- FCC proposal would end net neutrality as we know it.
- Why support net neutrality and the open Internet.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation has blog posts and more about net neutrality.
- Save the Internet contains links and articles about net neutrality.
Big Media Wants a Two-Tiered Internet
Big media wants to create a two-tiered Internet, ending Net neutrality. They want to monetize the Internet — bring the cable TV pricing concept to Internet access.
Imagine having to pay more to get “premium” access (i.e., usable speeds) for YouTube, Netflix, Skype, gaming or social media sites. The image to the right shows one possible scenario.
Big Media Has a Conflict of Interest
Besides providing Internet access, ISP companies like Bell, Rogers and Telus produce content that has to compete with other services on the Web.
Home TV services now provide some time-shifting capability via company-provided PVR rentals or the ability to watch when away from home on mobile devices.
Because they are allowed to include these services without impact on bandwidth while slowing down their competitors offerings, there is a clear conflict of interest.
Bandwidth Caps Unjustified
Netflix competes directly with their TV subscription services.
ISPs began forcing subscribers to pay more via bandwidth caps or experience a slowdown due to throttling of their Internet services.
Even with time-shifting technologies, scheduled broadcasts cannot compete with being able to choose what you want when you want it that streaming provides.
This self-serving reaction indicates why ISPs that provide competing content have a conflict of interest.
By providing more of what people want rather than forcing people to consume standard content the move to streaming services would be lessened (although not stopped).
Technical Reasons Cited
The big media companies often cite technical reasons for throttling competing services such as the fact that Netflix only compresses and optimizes if bandwidth is limited.
Instead of throttling services, these companies need to invest in a bigger pipeline
This is a Lame Excuse
Since 80% of the cost of an ISP is in the initial investment (not the upgrades) this is a lame excuse. Smaller ISPs couldn't compete with the big three companies in bidding for limited bandwidth made available by the government so the government provided for access to that bandwidth.
Perhaps it is the competition they wish to do away with rather than anything technical.
The Government has companies bid on the available bandwidths they use to run their networks.
While this may make sense in a free market system, the government modified that process with the decision to ban foreign competition.
For a time they allowed smaller ISPs to purchase bandwidth from the larger successful bidders at a lower, yet reasonable cost.
This protected the larger corporations (Bell, Rogers and Telus) while making it possible for smaller ISPs to obtain the bandwidth needed for their smaller operations.
Smaller Players Gone
The smaller ISPs are now mostly gone, gobbled up or forced out of business by the big guys.
This move was supported by governments with the argument that they needed to be bigger to compete internationally. Now that competition is gone, prices are going up and service is declining.
These big media companies then managed to get the CRTC to allow them to buy out these smaller ISPs (usually becoming the discount brand of these large corporations) as well as reversing the previous CRTC decision providing reasonable costs for purchased bandwidth.
This narrowed the field of competition resulting in Canadians having the least competitive pricing in the world.
The Real Reasons For Throttling
The cost of getting elected today is immense and far beyond the ability of anyone but major corporations, unions and similar entities.
Money Buys Political Power
There is too much political power in the hands of a few corporations and even fewer wealthy and politically-connected individuals.
Just eight individuals, all men, own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world's population.
[T]hree people — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett — owned as much wealth as the bottom half of Americans combined.
This leads to control of the Internet by corporations that seek much more than a reasonable profit.
Remove the Potential for Corruption
So how do you fix this?
Perhaps by limiting total annual political contributions by ANY entity to an amount affordable by most individuals (such as $300–$500).
With such a small ceiling, no corporation or union or trade group or wealthy individual could buy significant political leverage with their donations.
Of course, this would force our political system to radically change to a more grass-roots level and would allow individuals more say and bring back control to those that have given up on the system.
Now, wouldn't that be an improvement!
Bandwidth & Data Caps
Data caps are seldom found outside of Canada except on cellular networks.
As Telus and other Internet providers began to sell TV services they added Internet overage charges.
Telus said they'd never have bandwidth caps when Shaw began the practice several years ago. This introduction coincided with Telus moving into the TV services business.
This sort of overbilling or service caps is not limited to TV services.
Telus billed me $100 for a few texts sent to the U.S. from my wife's cellphone. Their most expensive plan was $29.95 per year. She is no longer with Telus Mobility.
More Bandwidth Possible and Affordable
Data caps have nothing to do with real costs. They have everything to do with increasing profitability.
Just like the new fees for receiving a paper bill and fees for plastic shopping bags, these costs have traditionally been included as part of providing goods and services to the customer.
While paying some of the highest rates in the world, Canadians also suffer from some of the poorest service. Upload speeds vary greatly across the country at a time when uploading information became almost as important as downloading it.
TV Viewers Face No Bandwidth Caps
I find it interesting that the same companies that charge higher access fees for high-bandwidth Internet users have never taken similar steps to meter TV services. No one receives a higher bill for binge watching sports on a Saturday afternoon.
You can watch TV all day without surcharges, but Internet content is metered even though both are using the same pipeline.
The only difference is that the Internet provides choice — something that doesn't fit existing cable company structures (nor is as profitable).
CRTC: Internet a Basic Service
The CRTC has reclassified Internet as a basic service. This will change the subsidies offered from supporting copper-based telephone services (POTS) to supporting Internet access, including Internet-based phone service (VOIP) like Shaw and Skype provide.
Many Canadians no longer have a home phone, instead depending upon cellular phones and Skype-like services. Online meeting services like Zoom have replaced long distance telephone chats.
The CRTC (Canada's FCC) has required an affordable TV subscription option costing no more than $25 per month. Some companies have used hidden fees and other tricks to increase the actual billing rate for basic services.
Canadian Internet Tax Proposed
An Internet tax has been proposed (supposedly to get Netflix to fund Canadian content which they already do without any access to the funds provided to cable operators). British Columbia introduced that tax in their May 2021 budget.
The Liberal government added an Internet tax in Bill C-11 (formerly Bill C-10) to help offset the declining revenues and viewership faced by Bell, Rogers and Telus as well as to “support Canadian content” despite such content being readily available on the Internet.
A Dying Industry
We cannot afford to prop up a dying industry (and cable TV isn't the only one).
People need to speak out if we are to avoid being steamrolled by an industry that is bankrolled by our high cable and Internet fees.
Canadians Oppose Internet Tax
Canadians strongly oppose such a tax.
If high quality content was being produced it wouldn't need a subsidy.
Instead it could be marketed like the worldwide distribution of BBC productions.
While Canadians are being told that Bill C-11 is designed to go after international social media giants, it is propping up Canada's big media companies.
The consumer is going to pay the price, whether with increased fees or the loss of a streaming service that can no longer afford to provide content to Canadians.
Content Creators Hampered
Canadian content creators are hampered by a very small domestic consumer base combined with the presence of two official languages (with French being heavily subsidized).
Now we're seeing multiculturism legislation generating content for minorities in the basic band of television offerings rather than as a specialized subscription basis where its economics would be tested.
Much of this sort of content has no resale value. It only gets air time because of the distorted Canadian content, multiculturism and the cry for minority rights.
Of course, legislating Canadian content and regional requirements has upped the cost of TV services and providers have to find profitability somewhere.
Most TV viewers don't have any say in available content other than in picking bundles.
All TV subscribers heavily subsidize the cost of sports programing. These extra costs are hidden within the basic cable rates.
Canadian TV service providers must offer channels either individually or in packages of up to 10 channels and the affordable TV package mandated by the CRTC.
TSN Wasn't Allowed to Fail
Older Canadians will remember that TSN started off as a premium channel at $29.95 per month.
Rather than let it fail, the CRTC rolled it into the standard TV packages resulting in a monthly fee increases of $1 for everyone — whether they wanted TSN or not.
The inflated cost today is likely much more per cable subscriber.
Increased bandwidth is not only possible, but affordable. Instead, big media providers use government and CRTC influence to increase prices and avoid competition.
Faster, Cheaper Internet
With the help of local governments there are movements in Canada to bring faster, cheaper Internet to your community.
Canadian success stories exist in cities including Coquitlam, BC where residents on the network are able to access unlimited 10 Mbps Internet for an incredibly low fee of $20 per month.
Banned in Rural U.S.
Several U.S. rural communities decided to take matters into their own hands and built community broadband in areas the big ISPs refused to service.
The response? The ISPs lobbied to ban community broadband in 19 U.S. states, calling it “unfair competition.”
Remember, these were areas that commercial operators refused to provide broadband service because it was unprofitable.
Legislation protected huge profits by limiting bandwidth and competition.