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Telecom Policy Review Panel Calls For Net Neutrality Legal Safeguards

Michael Geist

The Telecommunications Policy Review Panel report [Canada] was released yesterday and while the immediate reaction will no doubt focus on the recommendations for a market-oriented approach with significant changes to the CRTC, I would call attention to three other recommendations gleaned from reading the executive summary (the full document is nearly 400 pages).

First, the Panel has called for a new legislative provision protecting net neutrality standards. The panel calls this an open access provision, with Recommendation 6-5 stating that:

"The Telecommunications Act should be amended to confirm the right of Canadian consumers to access publicly available Internet applications and content of their choice by means of all public telecommunications networks providing access to the Internet. This amendment should
(a) authorize the CRTC to administer and enforce these consumer access rights,
(b) take into account any reasonable technical constraints and efficiency considerations related to providing such access, and
(c) be subject to legal constraints on such access, such as those established in criminal, copyright and broadcasting laws."
This is a welcome recommendation. Although it leaves some wiggle room to ISPs, the panel is clearly calling for legislated assurances that ISPs will not veer significantly from net neutrality principles.

The other two recommendations of note are the retention of privacy within the Telecommunications Act (including the view that the Privacy Commissioner and the CRTC have complementary roles on privacy) and the call for a new national broadband strategy that would target universal broadband access in Canada by 2010. More later.

By Michael Geist, Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law
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