There’s been plenty of talk in recent days about so-called “net neutrality,” the idea that Internet providers should not discriminate against or favor certain types of Internet data over other types.

So, for example, net neutrality would mean that both Netflix video data, requiring a lot of bandwidth and a regular news webpage, requiring little bandwidth, would be treated equally by an Internet provider. 

An Internet provider would be forbidden from slowing down the Netflix connection or speeding up the regular news webpage – all data, irrespective of its bandwidth requirements, would be treated in a similar fashion.

At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Tom Wheeler hinted that the FCC would support net neutrality in an upcoming vote and would regulate Internet carriers as public utilities.

Until Wheeler’s recent comments, many observers worried that the FCC might do the opposite, allowing Internet carriers to favor certain types of data or particular companies that paid Internet carriers additional fees to increase the speed of their data delivery.

In Canada, a similar debate has been taking place, albeit at a lower level of intensity. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated he strongly favors net neutrality, but a 2011 decision by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) allows for usage-based billing, which could discriminate against high bandwidth data such as audio and video.

As the debate reaches a final conclusion in the US, it’s likely to push the Canadian government into also providing additional clarity around this critical Internet issue. 

Comment