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CRTC asks Canadians to weigh in on potential Internet regulations

By Brad Bennett [1]

BELLEVILLE – The body that monitors the country’s communication systems held hearings [2] last week about Canadians’ Internet usage and where it could go in the future.

As Canadians use more and more data online, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission [3] is looking into issues around Internet service.

Over the course of the week, numerous groups [4] – ranging from major players like Bell [5], Facebook [6], Rodgers [7] and Xplornet [8] to smaller presenters like the Independent Broadcasters Group [9] – presented their ideas on Internet regulations to the CRTC. The goal was to try to ensure that as many Canadians as possible were represented.

The hearings could result in changes in Internet fees, data caps and access for consumers. They were intended to be a way for the CRTC and Canadians to educate themselves on what shape the Internet could take in the future, and what problems could arise if certain changes are made. Issues being looked at include:

One of the major questions the CRTC will be examining is whether Canada should have so-called “net neutrality” – which means that all Internet users, whether individuals or businesses, would have equivalent Internet access, no matter who their service provider was. Right now there are not large differences among providers, but there are also few rules preventing disparities arising in the future.

The United States [10] and the European Union [11] have already instituted regulations that help provide net neutrality.

One of the companies that made presentations at the hearing was Xplornet [12], which specializes in providing Internet to remote and rural areas. The company told the CRTC that it has concerns about losing competitiveness if new regulations are introduced.

“Xplornet does not believe that a new regulatory regime is necessary to regulate differential pricing practices,” Xplornet executive vice-president and general counsel C.J. Prudham told the commissioners.

The CRTC should instead react to complaints on a case-by-case basis with the powers it already has, Prudham said.

This stance was similar to the presentations of many other service providers. Common themes were that we have enough regulation already, and that we can’t regulate yet because we do not know what will happen as Internet use continues to increase.

In an email interview with QNet News Tuesday, Xplornet spokesperson Chris Maunder said: “We think all Internet service providers should have flexibility to offer unique new services to Canadian consumers. We also believe in an open Internet that promotes innovation and competition. Xplornet was pleased to participate in these hearings and will monitor the outcome closely.”

The CRTC is still inviting public input on this topic. Click here [13] to ask a question or make a complaint.