Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to pick up where I left off on the important issue of net neutrality.
We have all experienced the message of “This content is not available in your country” when content distributors or creators have used various technologies to figure out where a user is and limit a user's access in order to drive a user to a different provider or place for that particular content, or to block a user from it altogether. Indeed, a lot of Canadian-produced content is virtually impossible to access in Canada while being available in much of the rest of the world. Try watching Canada's Mayday, for example, without a Bell account. It cannot legally be done. It makes me wonder on what grounds vertical integration of the media market is legal. The neutrality of the net is under threat from all sides already, and it will take a concerted effort to protect it.
Removing net neutrality gives companies that control over people's Internet access and control over their Internet content. Once they do that, companies can start shaping a consumer's opinion, tune marketing, and sell access to the consumer for a much reduced cost.
With the current Cambridge Analytica controversy surrounding Facebook, themselves the king of those who control what consumers do, see, think, and feel on the Internet, we can see that this is not just some kind of vague theory. It is important to remember that if one is not paying for a product, then one is the product. This data gathering and control is not conducted just for the fun of it. People's data is not being stored in a cloud. There is no cloud, just other people's computers, and they want your data for a reason.
Without mandated net neutrality, there is nothing to stop a company from paying someone's ISP to increase access to their own services or decrease access to their competitor's services. To my point the last time I spoke on this about overselling Internet connections, I do not have much sympathy for ISPs in that situation, and so the argument that net neutrality has to go because of capacity issues is spurious. In my view, ISPs should be required to market minimum, not maximum, sustained-speed capability to their first peer outside of their network at typical peak usage times.
Xplornet, for example, markets 25-megabit satellite service, but will not tell us that for most customers, this speed only applies at 3 a.m. on a clear night with no northern lights, and even then only during the full moon. I may be exaggerating, but only a bit. It is not that the satellites and ground stations cannot handle an individual connection at that speed most of the time, but that the connections are oversold, resulting in constant, bitter complaining in my riding from rural Internet users who are stuck between the Xplornet rock and the dial-up hard place.
It is not the service that bothers me, since it is essential to have companies like Xplornet provide service to remote regions that have no other options, and we need it. Rather, it is the honesty about what the customer is getting for their money, what is advertised to them versus what they actually get, that needs to be rectified. The company justifies all this very carefully, and in my years in politics as a staffer and in this role, it is the only company I have ever encountered that only lobbies with senior counsel present. I think that speaks for itself.
The highly profitable telecommunications giant Bell, which broke $3 billion in profit in 2016 and built most of its infrastructure on public money in the first place, and Rogers, which made $1.8 billion in net profit last year, are upping their Internet connection prices by as much as $8.00 per month per customer, but are not investing significantly in deep rural Canada unless they get gifts from various levels of government to do so. These companies and the other large Internet providers will not even look at investing in a project unless they can get a return on investment in less than three years. I know of no other legal business that operates on quite such an efficient return on investment.
This brings us to another important net neutrality issue that was recently brought to my attention by a professional digital rights advocate.
Net neutrality can, and perhaps should, be expanded further to encompass investment neutrality. It is not just access to Internet service that is important. Equal, or at least equivalent, access for Internet users is also vital.
Choosing to invest in a gigabit-speed network in a city and fobbing off the regions with five megabits is not neutral. Specific users are being limited instead of specific services, but the outcome is the same.
If we tell residents in the regions that we cannot give them access, it is not Netflix that is being limited, it is the entire Internet. It is their access to services. It is their access to the economy. It is their ability to participate in modern society. That is why we cannot say that we really have net neutrality until we also have neutrality in terms of Internet access, which will surely take billions more in investment from all levels of the private sector.
Let us imagine for a moment what would happen if access to electricity were viewed in the same way as Internet access is today. The regions would not always have full power, and remote communities would have no power whatsoever unless they had access to a river they could build a dam on.
As a society and as a nation, we have a responsibility to ensure neutral access, to invest in a neutral way, and to give every Canadian a chance to get connected. We will need the participation of government organizations to achieve that equality, as we did in my riding of Laurentides—Labelle with the Antoine-Labelle telecommunications co-operative.
If members would like to know what losing net neutrality looks like, try using an iPhone or an iPad, assuming that Apple has not slowed it down yet to coax people to buy a new one. If members have ever plugged an iPhone into a non-Apple laptop or wanted to copy pictures to a USB stick or watch something paid for through iTunes on an Android, Windows, or other non-Apple device, it is very difficult to do.
If one wants to use an application not approved by Apple, forget it. It is, by its very definition and design, not neutral. By giving itself the power to censor, Apple has found itself with the obligation to censor. In the words of Richard Stallman, the father of the free software movement, either the user controls the program or the program controls the user.
Apple, like many American corporations, strives not only to sell a product but to control what is done with it after purchase, just like region-encoded DVDs and players, which in my view should not even be legal. In essence, nothing that a person buys actually becomes theirs; rather, the person is paying for the dubious privilege of becoming a part of Apple's network.
John Deere, the tractor and farm equipment maker, is jumping on this bandwagon too, claiming that it is against copyright for farmers to fix their own equipment. The copyright issue and the DMCA and our equivalent Canadian Copyright Modernization Act's effects relating to technological protection measures, are a deeply worrying symptom of a wide-ranging offensive by corporate America against individual rights for people to use what they have bought and paid for.
If members think that has nothing to do with net neutrality, they would be mistaken. It is part of the same basic principle. If I buy a tractor, an iPhone, or an Internet connection, I expect to be able to use it where, when, and how I see fit, even if it was not part of the original design of the product.
Reverse engineering something one has bought and running a gopher server off their home Internet connection, if one feels like being that retro, are, at their core, the same right. Port or service blocking by ISPs is to me a violation of net neutrality, as is refusing to sell someone a static IP address or letting someone otherwise do what they want with the connection.
Ending rather than entrenching net neutrality would end the Internet as we know it, and we need to make a strong statement supporting the principle of net neutrality by supporting this motion.