Thursday, February 19, 2009

Net Neutrality in Canada

For us in Canada there are actually two notable things going on that have to do with bit torrents and net neutrality.  

First of all there is the more international news of the popular swedish bit torrent site 'The Pirate Bay' which is in court right now with some major record labels (Warner Bros, MGM, EMI, Colombia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sony BMG and Universal) in Stockholm.  It was 
announced yesterday that half the charges were dropped which is pretty significant but here is what the lawyer for the labels said:

"It's a largely technical issue that changes nothing in terms of our compensation claims and has no bearing whatsoever on the main case against The Pirate Bay. In fact it sim
plifies the prosecutor’s case by allowing him to focus on the main issue, which is the making available of copyrighted works."

This has not stopped the founders of The Pirate Bay from trying to turn the trial into a gong show.  They are showing up in a multi-coloured bus, twittering from the trial and generally getting the bit torrent community/internet all riled up.
The second big event concerns just Canada and our net neutrality laws.  Last year the CRTC ruled that it was ok for Bell to throttle the internet speed of it's customers.  Bell was doing this on the pretext of preventing illegal bit torrents.  But they are also preventing legal internet uses like Skype and Google Video Chat.  The interesting thing about this is that both of those services could be seen as competitors to Bell's phone service.  If people are using either of those free services they may not use their phones.  That, my friends, should be illegal.
So the CRTC set a deadline for all the companies to submit specific information regarding
 internet use.  That deadline was last week.  The companies of course waited till the last minute so that nobody would be able to comment on their data.  However the data was so surprising that the CRTC extended the time limit on comments until April.  One of the things that interested me was that the broadband rate of use was not as high as everyone thought.  There was a point where everyone was getting high speed and so the rate of growth was very fast.  But in the last few years that growth has slowed considerably because most people now have high speed.  That means that the internet providers claims that the internet is getting clogged by people using bit torrents is actually false.  There is quite a bit more room for growth than was
 previously thought.  Here is another article from Ars Technica that explains some other points on this issue.

So I hope the CRTC makes some good decisions here.  Canada is seriously lagging when it comes to Net Neutrality.  We aren't quite as bad as China but we are nowhere near the level of most European countries.  Even the States, especially with Obama, is way ahead of us in this respect.  This is one of the worst problems with our current government.  C'mon Steve!  I hope his meeting today with Obama (which is causing serious transportation woes in Ottawa today) will touch on this but somehow I think the economy will be at the top of the list.  One can always hope though.  It really is a very important issue.  Far more important than people realize.
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