Declaring the Internet federal

Today we are holding the first symposium of the Canadian Chapter of the Internet Society in Ottawa. The issues we are concerned with include the threat to balkanize the Internet through provincial regulation.


The most salient example is Quebec’s proposal to pass a law requiring ISPs to channel all on-line gambling by Quebec residents to its own official Lotto Quebec site. The Internet Society has written to the Minister of Finance of Quebec, Carlos Leitao, to advise him that the proposals are difficult to engineer, and futile since, if you have access to a VPN, you have ready means to disguise your point of origin.

The letter is found here.

One of the interventions on this point came from Konrad von Finckenstein, the former chairman of the CRTC. His proposal was to have the Parliament of Canada declare that the Internet was for the general good of Canada.

The power arises under section 92(10) of the Constitution Act 1867, which is one of three exceptions to provincial jurisdiction over local works and undertakings.

92 (10). 
Local Works and Undertakings other than such as are of the following Classes:

c) Such Works as, although wholly situate within the Province, are before or after their Execution declared by the Parliament of Canada to be for the general Advantage of Canada or for the Advantage of Two or more of the Provinces.


If such a declaration ever passed the federal Parliament, it would have the immediate effect of vacating provincial jurisdiction (to the extent that any such jurisdiction exists), and in so doing it would eliminate the threat of various provinces to block or hinder interprovincial commerce conducted by means of the Internet. It would prevent the need for a multitude of expensive legal appeals to the Supreme Court to fight provincial favouritism towards their sites, projects or policies.The idea of one  regulator rather than eleven or thirteen has a certain attraction.

I think it is an idea that the Canadian Chapter of the Internet Society should take up.

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