Consultations and legislation needed to protect net neutrality

'Your government must act.' - NUPGE urges Industry Minister Jim Prentice


Net neutrality Ottawa (20 Feb. 2008) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is asking the Harper Conservatives to hold open, public consultations on the need for legislation to protect Internet neutrality in Canada.

In a letter to Industry Minister Jim Prentice, NUPGE president James Clancy says concerns over net neutrality are rising and there has been a lack of action to date on the part of the government to protect consumers and producers of Internet material. The letter was accompanied by a recent NUPGE report entitled, The Internet: accessibility and net neutrality.

Clancy cited a series of recent incidents in Canada and the United States that are raising alarm bells about the issue, including an investigation launched by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington into the blocking of legal peer-to-peer file-sharing services by Comcast and other Internet service providers.

This follows a complaint and petition filed by members of the Coalition and a number of Internet law scholars from leading American universities.

"The actions of the coalition were in response to an article that appeared in the Associated Press about Comcast’s actions. After initial denials that they had engaged in blocking Internet traffic, they eventually admitted to having done so," Clancy writes.

"Comcast is acting in a manner that violates the reasonable right of Internet users to access the software and content of their choice. The company is blocking legal peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, such as BitTorrent and Gnutella, and business applications such as Lotus Notes. This is even in violation of Comcast’s own Internet Policy Statement," he notes.

Previously, the giant U.S. telecommunications company AT&T announced that it is considering plans to examine all the traffic it carries for potential violations of U.S. intellectual property laws.

"This will probably be a violation of the net neutrality conditions the company agreed to, albeit reluctantly, in December 2006 as part of its mega-merger with BellSouth," Clancy said. "Unfortunately, these are not the only examples of violations of net neutrality."

In Canada, Clancy cited the notorious example of Telus blocking access to the website of its striking workers (along with hundreds of other websites). Rogers has also admitted to interfering in Internet traffic in a manner that is comparable to that being conducted by Comcast. More recently, it was discovered that Rogers was actively exploring the possibility of inserting their content into the web pages being viewed by users.

"These examples from the United States and Canada demonstrate that, left unregulated, the market will not ensure the Internet is kept open and accessible," Clancy told the minister.

"It also demonstrates that single agreements and voluntary compliance policies are insufficient measures to protect Internet users and content producers. Legislation is needed," he argues.

"The Internet promises a great deal of benefit to Canadians. Historically, our government has made a considerable investment into developing and implementing communications technologies, including the Internet. Your government must act to ensure the intention of this public investment is realized – an Internet that is open and accessible to all Canadians." NUPGE

More information:
? The Internet: accessibility and net neutrality
? National Union and the Internet