The CRTC and net neutrality

CRTCMuch chatter has surrounded potential policy changes on the horizon impacting network operators south of the border. With a new president and a new FCC chair, some Canadian observers are speculating that it is only a matter of time before a spill-over effect drives law-makers in Canada to impose regulation on the internet.

I don’t think it is going to work that way. I think that the FCC and US industry observers should be looking northward for guidance on how to govern the behaviours of internet service providers.

We’ll have a public hearing on network management practices in early July and a final decision out before the end of the year, if all goes according to schedule.

Some of the loudest voices in Canada keep ignoring the fact that we already have legislation and regulatory precedents that provide protections that are missing from the toolkit available to the FCC in disciplining abuse in the United States.

To start with, the FCC has an internet policy statement that serves as a proxy for formal regulation of carrier behaviours; Canada has in place some key legislation, such as the non-discrimination provisions of Section 27(2) and the non-blocking provisions of Section 36.

Will the FCC significantly vary or backtrack on the views expressed [ pdf, 88KB] by outgoing Chair Kevin Martin at a conference in Denmark in September:

Our action was not about regulating the Internet. Instead, we took a cautious approach that merely requires operators to use an even and fair hand as they control the flow of traffic on their networks. Adopting broader regulations in this area could have unintended consequences that could stifle innovation.

We have our network management proceeding underway. Responses to CRTC interrogatories are already available on the CRTC website. Written comments will be due on February 16.

Based on the comments that are received, the Commission may ask an additional round of questions, or address questions to any of the other parties who submitted comments. The Commission asked parties to respond to specific questions in the Public Notice.

There is a lot of noise about net neutrality among the unaffiliated technophile community. Will there be sufficient focus in their submissions to permit a meaningful discussion of the issues?

We have a special session planned to explore the issues at The 2009 Canadian Telecom Summit in June. We expect that people will be testing their arguments in advance of the CRTC proceeding a few weeks later. Have you registered yet?

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