Good morning, everyone. My name is Pam Dinsmore and I am vice-president, regulatory, cable, with Rogers Communications.
Rogers welcomes the opportunity to provide input to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. My remarks will cover the recent developments in the United States with the FCC repealing its 2015 Open Internet Order, as well as the net neutrality regime in Canada.
I will start by reiterating that Rogers fully supports net neutrality. All legal content must be treated equally by Internet service providers. We were the only major ISP to support the CRTC's differential pricing practices decision. We believe the Internet is a vital resource in our digital economy. Businesses, consumers, and families deserve fair and equal access to the Internet pipe.
Internet service providers, or ISPs, should not be allowed to abuse their position and act as gatekeepers, giving privileged access to this vital resource to a select few. Canadians win when they have the freedom to make their own choices and are not artificially forced to use a particular product or service and are not subjected to their ISP determining winners and losers in the online environment.
In 2015, the Federal Communication Commission's Open Internet Order classified broadband and wireless services under title II of the Communications Act as telecommunication services. This moved jurisdiction away from the Federal Trade Commission over to the FCC. The order prohibited carriers from blocking, throttling, or offering paid prioritization of Internet traffic.
On December 14, 2017, an FCC panel voted along party lines to repeal the 2015 Open Order, thereby eliminating all net neutrality rules. It replaced them with a new transparency rule of disclosure. Blocking, throttling, and fast-laning or prioritizing content is no longer banned as long as the Internet service provider informs its customers of its policy on an easily accessible website.
The FTC will be responsible for policing the accuracy of disclosures and the FCC will enforce the requirement that ISPs make disclosures. The FCC order is still making its way through the legislative process in the two houses and is likely to be the subject of legal challenges. At this time, we do not believe that these changes in the U.S., if they are ultimately passed into law and upheld by the courts, will have an impact on Canadian's access to U.S.-based websites or services. Like many others, we are following developments very closely.
Unlike in the U.S., net neutrality in Canada is already well protected by our current statutory and regulatory regimes. These Canadian safeguards are based on the common carriage principles enshrined in section 27.2 of the Telecommunications Act. They ensure that no carrier will give an undue preference to themselves or another party, or subject any person to an undue disadvantage. The CRTC has used this authority in a series of key decisions to ensure the fair and equal access to information.
The first decision dates back to 2009, when the commission set out its Internet traffic management practices. In doing so, the commission recognized that there are reasons that carriers may need to manage the traffic that flows through their networks, but at the same time sought fairness and transparency around any practices the carriers might use. As such, the commission allowed carriers to engage in traffic management practices, but only when an entire class of traffic was treated in the same manner and only when there was full and transparent disclosure of the practice.
Subsequently, in 2017, the commission's decision on differential pricing practices related to Internet data plans reasserted this strict net neutrality approach. In virtually all aspects, it reflected the position put forward in the proceedings by Rogers. The CRTC determined that prohibiting differential pricing practices that favour specific content or a specific class of subscribers ensures that all stakeholders are treated fairly by ISPs.
Pursuant to the CRTC's decision, carriers are not permitted to zero-rate or advantage specific traffic, other than account management and billing traffic. Rogers believes that by virtue of section 27.2 of the Telecommunications Act, the CRTC has all the necessary tools it needs to protect net neutrality in a fast-changing environment, while maintaining the flexibility to adapt to future changes occasioned by new technologies.
As an example, the next evolution of wireless service, known as 5G, may require a flexible approach to ensure continued innovation. With 5G, certain services will require different levels of connectivity.
For example, connected cars and remote medical services will require higher reliability and lower latency levels than networked parking meters. The current regime will allow the CRTC to make these essential accommodations to promote innovation without endangering fair access to information. As such, we do not consider that any changes must be made to the Telecommunications Act to in some way enshrine net neutrality in Canada. We believe it is already enshrined appropriately.
I look forward to any questions you may have. Thank you very much.