Dear Canada: The FCC is trying to screw you over too

When the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) votes in December to (probably) kill net neutrality, it’s going to cost you money.

Yes, Canadians. You. Loonies and toonies and all manner of maple-adorned currency.

How? Because Netflix, iTunes and Twitch are US-based services, and if an internet service provider decided to charge more for unfettered and full-speed access for them, you might have to pay more for it.

That’s right. US regulations could cost Canadians.

“Many of the content services that Canadians consumer most highly are American,” professor Amiee Morrison from the University of Waterloo told the CBC. Sites like YouTube and those mentioned above would have to negotiate with US-based ISP “to make sure their content is available in the U.S. Pay-to-ply internet in the U.S. could hurt Canadian firms trying to compete,” the article continues.

This creates a pay-to-play environment and, in order to maintain access and stay relevant, Canadian companies will likely have to pay to prevent service interruptions.

Laura Tribe, executive director of the Open Media digital rights advocacy group, says the end of codified net neutrality in the US would “put all of the control of what we see online, what we are able to do online and access online, into those service providers. (It takes) the control away from the customers and (is) actually giving that to the companies.”

If the proposal put forth by FCC Chair Ajit Pai last week becomes the law of the land, Canadians will pay more for their subscriptions to online services based in the US, Tribe says.

The Canadian government, on the other hand, stands firm in the belief that net neutrality should be protected and should remain untouched.

But don’t breathe too easily just yet: Come to find out, Canadian net neutrality isn’t protected or enshrined in law. Instead, it is “protected in multiple decisions by a federal regulator rather than in specific sections of either the Broadcast or Telecommunications acts, which govern the internet and communications services,” according to Huffington Post Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Motherboard he’s “very concerned” about Pai’s intentions. “Net neutrality is something that is essential for small businesses, for consumers, and it is essential to keep the freedom associated with the internet alive.”

When asked what actions Trudeau himself intended to take to maintain net neutrality, he responded only “We need to continue to defend net neutrality. And I will.”

Reporter Justin Ling pointed out, too, that  “Net neutrality is the law of the land in Canada, as the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission… has worked to strengthen its neutrality polices in recent years, taking aim at companies that try to use differential and discriminatory pricing or services to benefit their own business operations.” He adds that the CRTC “ruled against telecommunications giant Videotron after its unlimited music streaming plan gave preferential access to certain streaming companies.”

And take it from someone who knows the hard work the previous FCC put into protecting and enshrining net neutrality – former chair Tom Wheeler, who held Pai’s position under the Obama administration and who fought tooth and nail all the way to the Supreme Court. He worked tirelessly to have internet access and speeds governed and protected like water or electricity, as a utility, so that everyone who has access gets the same service without any preferential treatment.

“I hope that the Canadian government is smarter than the United States government and won’t let this kind of closing down an open internet to exist,” Wheeler said during an interview with CBC Radio’s The House. He categorized the American internet landscape as “dominated by a handful of gatekeepers that are exacting some kind of tribute. I’m sure that’ll be felt around the world.”

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

Amber Healy has 523 posts and counting. See all posts by Amber Healy

2 thoughts on “Dear Canada: The FCC is trying to screw you over too

  • This article (and many articles on this topic) sounds like it’s written by someone with a complete lack of knowledge of even the most basic level of how the internet works.

    Not to mention the CRTC ruled on this topic in April (yes a whole 7 months ago) but let’s not let that get in the way of some good old doomsaying ->


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