The Canadian People vs. Bell & Rogers: An open letter to Jim Prentice
It looks like the net neutrality debate is finally picking up in Canada. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve been way overdue for such a debate. Rogers Canada’s traffic shaping practice, and now Bell’s, has gone on long enough. South of the border, Comcast has buckled to consumer outrage and Congressional pressure. Canadians need to let Rogers and Bell know how disappointed we are as well.
In the fight against big media, I believe we need the government to support the Canadian people against the unfair advantage these telecoms have. They own all the infrastructure and obviously have an interest in ensuring the Internet cannot threaten their significant investments into competing distribution channels (digital cable or satellite service).
To this end, I’ve written to Jim Prentice, the Minister of Industry.
Dear Mr. Prentice:
As a very concerned Canadian citizen, I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with your ministry’s policy of remaining uninvolved in the case of The Canadian People vs. Bell & Rogers in the issue of net neutrality.
In response to Charlie Angus’ question about your ministry’s involvement in this fight, the Globe and Mail quotes you as saying:
“At this point in time we will continue to leave the matter between consumers on the one hand and Internet service providers on the other”
I was extremely disappointed to read that you are leaving the Canadian people to fight an unfair battle, one in which the opponent holds the upper hand and all the bargaining power.
What power do I as a consumer have? If today Rogers and Bell are suppressing technologies like BitTorrent, which help to enable media distribution over the Internet, what alternatives do I have? BitTorrent and other Internet distribution technologies are the future of content distribution. These technologies are also a direct threat to Rogers’ digital cable and Bell’s satellite service offerings. Is it any surprise that we now find Bell is also traffic shaping and reducing the quality of the service offered by the wholesale service providers (an act that is also plainly anti-competitive)?
I would love for you to tell me what options I have, and what I can do to encourage Rogers or Bell to change their policy and keep the Internet open and fair. Tell me which provider I can switch to, or how I can vote with my dollar. Either that or tell me why I should trust such a critical public resource as the Internet to the likes of Bell or Rogers.
While you’re at it, also tell me how you’re securing the future of net neutrality and net innovation in Canada, and ensuring that we don’t end up becoming the laughing stock of the developed world.
Bell & Rogers have no will to concede to the Canadian people, and we have nowhere else to take our dollars without going back to stone-age Internet access.
Do you call this a fair fight, sir?
I urge you and our other representatives to take some action to ensure fair, responsible access to the Internet, such that innovation and choice — the lifeblood of the Internet — will be preserved.
Thank you for your time.
If you’d like to contribute to the discussion, then be sure to share your opinion with Jim Prentice at prentice.j AT parl.gc.ca (please be civil), or get in touch with your local MP. Oh, and do get involved with the Campaign for Democratic Media. It’s about time a consumer-rights organization got involved in the fight.