Friday, October 23, 2009

Government quiet on new net neutrality rules

The government is reviewing the CRTC's new net neutrality rules but it will likely be several months before it can comment on them, Industry Canada says.

"CRTC decisions can be appealed to the Governor in Council within 90 days, therefore it would not be appropriate to comment on the matter," said Industry Canada spokesman Michael Hammond.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Wednesday issued its long-awaited framework for how internet service providers are to manage their networks.

The regulator said ISPs must first try "economic measures" such as usage-based billing and investing in new infrastructure before resorting to technical solutions such as traffic shaping in order to combat congestion. Such technical measures should be used only as a last resort, the CRTC said.

The framework met with mixed reaction from ISPs, consumer groups and internet experts. ISPs cheered the rules as they were consistent with existing network management policies, but the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the NDP said they placed an unfair onus on consumers to prove that violations of net neutrality were taking place.

Opposition MPs also this week called on the government to take action over what several recent studies have found to be Canada's decline in international broadband standings.

Hammond said the government is "well aware of the social and economic importance of the internet and has introduced a number of measures to ensure internet service for Canadians" and has taken a number of steps to expand broadband.

Those steps include $225 million in spending on rural broadband, new anti-spam legislation and upcoming copyright reform, as well as last year's wireless spectrum auction, which will net several new cellphone companies in the next few months.

The government is not prepared to get involved in wired and wireless broadband markets, as opposition MPs have urged, Hammond said.

"Internet prices and services are not regulated in Canada. Wireless service providers are free to determine the appropriate charges for their services based on market forces."

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