Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the Annual General Meeting of the Internet Society, Canada Chapter.
What a year it has been! The vision of the Internet that we have is one that is open, accessible and affordable.
The one that the Government of Canada appears to have is of an internet that is a closed system, accessible to those approved of by regulation or licensing, and as expensive as consumers can bear. Does the government know what it is doing? I would say that, whether or not they know what they are doing, they sincerely believe what they are doing, and that makes them extremely dangerous.
In my 2020 report, I said that the BTLR, the Broadcasting Telecommunications Legislative Review, was a potential policy disaster that suffered from grave and irremediable flaws. These errors and more have been instantiated in the government’s Bill C10, an Act to amend the Broadcasting Act.
Everything bad about the intentions of the BTLR towards the Internet has come true in Bill C10. I cite the BTLR’s approach to the regulation of everything electronic:
“Our recommendations require that all providers of electronic communications services be included under the CRTC’s jurisdiction. Electronic communications services would be a new, inclusive term in the Telecommunications Act that would modify existing definitions to encompass all telecommunications networks and services as well as applications that ride on them.”
The BTLR was a mishmash of hubris and technological ignorance; all of which has been more fully realized in Bill C10. It is plainly unconstitutional in its overreach.
The BTLR report and the Bill it gave rise conceived the world in terms of saving and enhancing the power of broadcast media, and the regulator that depends on this scheme. The BTLR spoke of embracing the global market but rejected the implications of doing so. It noted that alpha-numeric communications (which is to say print) would blur with audio-visual media, but was unconscious of the fundamentally different legal regimes that govern print and broadcasting. It proposed ever more expansive powers for the CRTC to regulate the range of applications, users, and platforms, without consideration for the capacity of the CRTC, or any government institution under the ultimate control of cabinet, and composed of political appointees and civil servants, to manage the scale and scope of its responsibilities.
Hence the mess that is Bill C10.
However, it is cheering to note that the Internet Society Canada Chapter has had significant impact on stiffening and informing opposition to the Bill. We have acted through presentations, through social media, through articles in newspapers and trade journals, though every platform at our disposal, to write and speak against this abomination.
Yesterday I was informed by Senator Dennis Dawson, a vice chairman of the Senate Transportation and Communications Committee, that C10 would not be examined in the near term by the Committee and that, when it reconvened this fall, a wide variety of voices would be heard from.
I have no confidence that the government will desist from implementing the bad ideas of C10. Indeed a reading of the BTLR shows that they are only beginning their task of wrecking a free and affordable Internet. Our work is cut out for us.
Then we have had the disaster of the CRTC decision on wholesale pricing, which has undercut the independent ISP market and may drive many of them out of business, all for the sake of the chimera of “facilities based competition” which is code for “maintain the comfortable Canadian carrier oligopoly.”
I could go on at equal length about this decision as I have about Bill C10. I shall spare you for reasons of brevity.
The Society continues to make important contributions to CRTC hearings, particularly on technical matters, and to represent a voice that is needed. Lord knows the voice of a net-centric organization is required amidst the bleatings of the entitled, crying out for their entitlements.
I wish to thank the Board, its officers its committee chairs for the fine work they have been doing. Philip Palmer is owed a debt of gratitude for his fine writing, Lena Trudeau for getting the audit committee to function properly, Franca Palazzo for dealing with a serious money shortage, and Matt Gamble for writing CRTC interventions.
We came close this year to a total disaster. I fear the Internet for which we speak is not out of danger, and we must ever remember that the dangers can come form many directions, not just government.
But if not victory then I feel we are entitled to at least a sigh of relief and a modest, heartfelt round of self-congratulation. We rose to the occasion. We were tested and found true and effective.
Thank you all again for your deeply appreciated contributions to this enterprise.