Saturday, December 16, 2017

US abandonment of net neutrality could affect Canada too

The Grinch-like Donald Trump continues in his crusade to pick apart civilization as we know it with his latest wheeze: the deregulation of the American internet structure and the abandonment of the principle of "net neutrality".
As you will probably have heard by now, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the body that regulates American phone, television and internet companies, has dropped the net neutrality protections introduced by the Obama administration, thus technically allowing big telecom companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T to slow down or even block entirely services and websites they don't like, or that they want business concessions from. So, they could, for example, charge more for premium access to popular sites like Netflix, Amazon, etc, or they could give preference to their own products and services.
The telecom companies are expected to play nice for a while at least, so as not to alienate their customer base straight away. Plus, they will probably want to wait and see what comes of the various legal challenges that will inevitably be levelled at the policy. But, some people see the internet in America ending up with tiered service like the cable TV system. Most stakeholders orher than the Republican Party and the telecommunications companies themselves think it was a BAD IDEA.
So, how will all this affect us here in Canada? Typically, when America sneezes, Canada gets a cold (or sometimes pneumonia), but the general consensus seems to be that Canadian access to the internet will not be affected much at all by the move. Net neutrality is well protected in law here, and support for it is strong, even among the big telecom companies. Where things get a little messy, though, is in the fact that Canadian internet traffic often transits through the USA, and there are some concerns that Canada's access to the internet could get caught in the American non-neutral policies that way. This is largely unexplored territory, and it is not at all clear just how far the fallout may reach.

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