After a meeting voting to end net neutrality, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai answers a question from a reporter, Thursday, in Washington. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Canadian ‘net neutrality’ supporters mourn repeal of Obama-era regulations

TORONTO — Canadian supporters of “net neutrality” say a U.S. regulator’s vote to repeal Obama-era restraints on internet service providers is a step in the wrong direction because it will tip the balance of power towards large commercial interests.

The head of CIRA — the organization that registers and manages the dot-ca domain names — said Thursday’s vote will “chip away” at a key pillar of the internet: equal treatment for all users.

CIRA president Byron Holland said Thursday’s 3-2 vote by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will remove protections that ensured a “level playing field” for all users of the internet. The move gives internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit or charge more for faster speeds.

Holland said the good news is that the Canadian government and Canada’s telecom regulator are supporters of the principles of net neutrality.

Navdeep Bains, the federal minister responsible for telecommunications, said the government supports “an open internet where Canadians have the ability to access the content of their choice in accordance with Canadian laws.”

Comparing net neutrality to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, Bains said “we believe that an open and accessible internet is vital to the free flow of content and information, which, in turn, is vital to our democracy.”

Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) — one of Canada’s largest internet and media companies — said it also supports Canada’s net neutrality framework.

“We do not believe that policy changes in the United States will have an impact on Canadians’ access to U.S.-based websites or services,” the Toronto-based company said in a statement.

But Holland said the FCC decision will eventually have an effect globally, because so much of the world’s internet traffic goes through the United States and so many of the biggest internet commercial giants are American.

“I don’t think it affects the whole world as of tomorrow, but I certainly believe that over time it will have an effect,” Holland said in an interview.

The FCC’s 3-2 decision along Republican-Democrat party lines had been expected — with chairman Ajit Pai casting the deciding vote.

In supporting his vote, Pai said the FCC was restoring a “light touch” to regulating the internet — as has been the case for most of its existence — and will provide incentives for investments in networks and innovations.

“Let’s be clear. Returning to the legal framework that governed the internet from … 1996 to 2015, is not going to destroy the internet,” Pai said. “It is not going to kill democracy. It is not going to stifle free expression online.”

But OpenMedia — a Canadian consumer advocacy group that has campaigned for net neutrality — said Thursday the FCC decision will have a negative impact on innovation, free expression and consumer choice.

“The internet doesn’t have borders. There’s no doubt today’s vote will impact us here in Canada,” said OpenMedia’s Katy Anderson.

“The FCC’s plan turns the internet’s level playing field into a tiered system with fast lanes and slow lanes – further separating those who pay, and those who can’t,” Anderson said in a statement.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ecologist Tony Blake was among several dozen area residents who participated in Tuesday’s public hearing on the future Molly Banister Drive extension. Blake argued for preserving trail connectedness and the wildlife corridor. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Molly Banister road extension stays

A nearly nine-hour public hearing ends with a 5-3 vote for keeping the road alignment

A server wears a mask at a restaurant, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Health officials receive thousands of COVID-related complaints

About 800 to 1,000 people call health officials weekly

Shaun Janse van Rensburg, a Red Deer resident, said he is tired of changing clocks twice a year. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
After COVID, Kenney may consider referendum on daylight savings

Albertans may be divided on several issues today, but there’s a consensus… Continue reading

The COVID-19 death toll in Alberta reached 309, according to numbers posted on the province’s website Tuesday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Another 422 COVID cases reported in Alberta and two more deaths

The Alberta government reported 422 COVID-19 cases Tuesday and two more virus… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
COVID-19 death toll verges on 10,000 as second wave continues to surge

Nearly 10,000 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, a mark of the… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts celebrates after a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning in Game 6 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Best Betts: Dodgers win first World Series title since 1988

Best Betts: Dodgers win first World Series title since 1988

Wade Sira is shown in a handout photo. Sira, the leader of Saskatchewan's pro-independence Buffalo Party, says he's extremely happy with last night's provincial election results, even though no candidates clinched a seat.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Wade Sira MANDATORY CREDIT
Buffalo Party’s strong showing in Saskatchewan vote a warning to Moe: experts

Buffalo Party’s strong showing in Saskatchewan vote a warning to Moe: experts

FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2019, file photo, Christian Coleman, of the United States, celebrates after crossing the line to win the gold medal in men's 100 meter final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Nick Didlick)
World champion Coleman banned 2 yrs; to miss Tokyo Olympics

World champion Coleman banned 2 yrs; to miss Tokyo Olympics

Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther returns to the sideline after missing his fourth field goal attempt during second half CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos, in Regina, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.  It's been a very difficult year for a number of kickers this year in the NFL, but CFL veteran Lauther continues to wait for his opportunity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Former Riders kicker Brett Lauther patiently awaiting opportunity to kick in the NFL

Former Riders kicker Brett Lauther patiently awaiting opportunity to kick in the NFL

Nashville SC midfielder Randall Leal, left, is congratulated by Alex Muyl after scoring a goal during the first half of the team's MLS soccer match against the Montreal Impact, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Willis gets MLS-leading 9th shutout, Nashville tops Montreal

Willis gets MLS-leading 9th shutout, Nashville tops Montreal

Kansas City mayor, star quarterback want Raptors to make Missouri temporary home

Kansas City mayor, star quarterback want Raptors to make Missouri temporary home

Djokovic, Thiem advance after slow starts in Vienna openers

Djokovic, Thiem advance after slow starts in Vienna openers

Most Read