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Google-Verizon deal alarms Canada's open Internet advocates

Canadian advocates for keeping the Internet an even playing field for big and small web sites have blasted U.S. regulators and Google and Verizon for threatening a core principle of digital democracy: "net neutrality".

A press release by and the coalition urges Canadians to tell their own government not to follow the U.S. example. Here are excerpts from the release:

Yesterday, Google and Verizon released a "joint policy proposal" outlining a framework for the future regulation of internet service in the U.S. The proposal comes just days after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it was abandoning its own efforts to develop a plan through negotiations with leading phone, cable and internet companies. The timing of these two events suggests that the Google/Verizon proposal is the end result of longstanding policy neglect concerning internet openness rules.

The terms of the proposal, published by Google in a blog post titled "A Joint Policy for an Open Internet," have outraged US public interest groups like FreePress and drawn criticism from the FCC, which has issued a response stressing the need to reassert regulatory authority. Net neutrality policy development in the U.S. now seems more convoluted and precarious than it has been in years.

The FCC's failed process for developing net neutrality policy and the resulting attempt by Verizon and Google to develop public policy themselves should be a lesson for Canadian policy makers. When public policy dramatically lags behind the needs of citizens, the situation can spin out of control as it has in the U.S. and the coalition believe the crisis in U.S. digital policy should be a wake-up call for Canadian policymakers and citizens.

The press release quotes Steve Anderson, National Coordinator of and the coalition, saying: "Here in Canada we're ahead of the U.S. in that we have some net neutrality guidelines for both wired and wireless devices -- but, crucially, we still don't have net neutrality in actual practice. Industry Minister Tony Clement has been asleep at the switch on this issue for too long."

Anderson, who publishes a digital media policy column in The Tyee, adds: "In order to have real net neutrality we need to ensure, through regular audits, that internet service providers are not discriminating against certain types of traffic. Policy makers like Clement need to stop stalling and make the open internet a reality."

The Tyee was one of the earliest Canadian publications to cover the net neutrality fight, including this 2007 article.

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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