ISPs balk at surveillance price tag

OTTAWA — The government’s online surveillance bill — already hitting snags over privacy — is raising concerns among Internet providers about who’ll pick up the tab.

OTTAWA — The government’s online surveillance bill — already hitting snags over privacy — is raising concerns among Internet providers about who’ll pick up the tab.

The legislation would allow authorities access to Internet subscriber information — including name, address, telephone number and email address — without a warrant.

It would also require telecommunication service providers to have the technical capability to enable police and spies to intercept messages and conversations.

The price tag for carriers could be significant, and it’s unclear what kind of compensation will be offered, said Bernard Lord, president of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

“These new undertakings could generate significant costs, and the question remains whether the government will compensate those costs,” Lord said in an interview.

The association represents companies including Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Telus, which provide wireless services to millions of Canadians.

“I don’t think we should ask law-abiding citizens that are using Internet services or wireless services to pay more on their bills because the government decides that the police needs extra tools to investigate,” Lord said.

The government says the legislation contains provisions that would “minimize the cost to service providers” when fulfilling their obligations.

The bill requires the new interception capabilities to be included only in newly installed equipment. In addition, there would be an 18-month transition period allowing providers adding new equipment and services time to plan, test and integrate the needed features.

There would also be compensation to telecommunications providers for providing police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service basic subscriber information, and for technical support to authorities performing interceptions.

Meetings to discuss compensation are planned over the next several weeks with officials from the departments of Public Safety, Justice and Industry, said Tom Copeland, chairman of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, which represents small- and medium-sized companies.

“The feeling of the association is that if the government wants this capability then it’s up to the government to carry the cost,” Copeland said.

“Certainly we don’t have any details on things like the cost, the potential compensation. So as a result we don’t know what the impact might be on us financially or ultimately on our customers.”

Copeland, who runs an Internet provider in Cobourg, Ont., said he’s skeptical the bill is even necessary.

“There’s been no demonstrable proof that it’s needed,” he said.

“It’s hard to imagine that we need this overarching new piece of legislation to help them.”

Copeland said he’s had only one request from authorities for a customer’s name and address in the 17 years he’s been in business.

“I may go another 17 years before I get another request. The value in this is questionable when you consider that, even for a small provider like myself, I may be forking out tens of thousands of dollars to become compliant.”

Under fire from opponents — including some Conservative backbenchers — concerned about the bill’s implications for personal privacy, the government has promised to send it directly to committee, skipping second reading in the House of Commons, for a wide-ranging review.

During question period Thursday, Liberal MP Ralph Goodale pressed the government to commit to full and open hearings.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said that “amendments can be considered, and will be considered, by the committee, whether they are within the scope of the legislation or outside the scope of the legislation. It is a very broad referral.”

Liberal MP Sean Casey tried to make a point about the bill’s potential intrusiveness by using the Commons question paper to demand information about websites Toews and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson visited on their government-issued devices during the first two weeks of February.

Indeed, Toews has faced pointed and personal criticism for leading the federal charge on the bill, with an anonymous Twitter user dishing out salacious details of the minister’s divorce proceedings this week.

On Thursday, the popular social media site featured a deluge of Tweets labelled TellVicEverything.

Tweeted one user: “I spend a lot more work hours than I should on Twitter — but you probably already knew that.”

Just Posted

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has advised that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be used interchangeably for second doses and Alberta is following that approach. (File photo by The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

road consturction
Road closures at Red Deer hospital next week

Red Deer drivers are advised of road closures in the vicinity of… Continue reading

(Advocate file photo)
Westaskiwin man killed in collision last Friday

Man’s vehicle collided with gravel truck on Highway 2A near Wetaskiwin

Black Horse Singers performed for students at Ecole la Prairie on Monday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Students remind Red Deer that every child matters on National Indigenous Day

Heart-shaped messages to decorate trees at Ecole la Prairie through the summer

Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) gestures to teammates during the first half of Game 5 of their NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Salt Lake City.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Rick Bowmer
After months of speculation, Canada’s men’s basketball roster set ahead of qualifier

With a tantalizingly deep pool of talent, Canada’s men’s basketball roster has… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens' Corey Perry can't get the puck past Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner as he is held back by defenceman Nick Holden during first period game 4 NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey semifinal action in Montreal, Sunday, June 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Canadiens look to turn the page after terrific Game 4 performance ends in defeat

MONTREAL — Corey Perry has seen plenty throughout his 16 NHL seasons… Continue reading

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky poses for a photo in Toronto on Monday, October 17, 2016. Two of Canada's most prominent athletes are part of the ownership group of a new Las Vegas National Lacrosse League franchise. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu
Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash join forces with Las Vegas lacrosse team

LAS VEGAS — Wayne Gretzky’s trade to the Los Angeles Kings in… Continue reading

Nelly Korda holds the trophy after winning the Meijer LPA Classic golf tournament, Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Nelly Korda wins in Michigan for 2nd victory of year

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Nelly Korda became the first two-time winner on… Continue reading

Jon Rahm, of Spain, holds the champions trophy for photographers after the final round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Rahm finds perspective to go with passion and wins a U.S. Open

SAN DIEGO — Jon Rahm’s road to becoming a U.S. Open champion… Continue reading

The Lime-S electric scooter is pictured in Toronto on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. When shared e-scooter companies rolled into Canada in 2018, they hoped a few small pilots would quickly result in a country full of people zipping around on two wheels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini
Despite the rough ride, e-scooter companies are bullish on Canada

TORONTO — When shared e-scooter companies rolled into Canada in 2018, they… Continue reading

Inter Pipeline's Heartland Petrochemical Complex is shown under construction in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., on Thursday, January 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Inter Pipeline rejects revised hostile takeover offer by Brookfield Infrastructure

CALGARY — Inter Pipeline Ltd. has rejected a revised hostile takeover offer… Continue reading

A crowded Maid of the Mist tour boat operated from the American side of the Niagara River is seen from Niagara Falls, Ont., on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. The travel industry says the federal government’s new border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians are a step in the right direction but don't provide enough clarity on what travel will look like for consumers this summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Travel industry says new border rules don’t provide enough clarity

HALIFAX — The travel industry says the federal government’s new border measures… Continue reading

Most Read