Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion on net neutrality, which is very important for a number of reasons for Canadians.
Net neutrality is important to how we set our mark in the world, especially with regard to the United States and its decision under President Trump to move away from net neutrality toward the telecommunication giants for the management of Internet traffic. This is very important for so many different things, not only the business aspect, but also the personal and democratic aspects of it and the innovative side of using the Internet.
The previous member highlighted one of the more important aspects of this, that perhaps we have taken this for granted in Canada. Many countries in the world do not have net neutrality like we have today. The mere fact that we do have Internet service providers, ISPs, that rely upon American servers and infrastructure will mean we are affected no matter what. In fact, there is also a consumer-driven element to this of cost, which no doubt will be borne by the consumers. In fact, we have some of the highest prices right now.
However, we receive some solid services. Therefore, it is not necessarily just a one-way street to the customers here. For a country of our size, our demographics, and the challenges we have, there has been a footprint of the industry that is very important for all Canadians, and it has been successful in many respects in employment and moving net neutrality and services to Canadians.
We just came from the industry committee in which we are studying the issue of rural broadband. We will have recommendations to table in the House very soon. Although I cannot get into the full report right now as it has yet to be tabled, it does get to the heart of the matter, which is the fact that net neutrality is important not only for urban areas but rural areas as well. We also have the obligation of moving online government services to that area.
Net neutrality and the spectrum it travels on is a public service. It is owned and part of a national asset. The previous Conservative government and the current Liberal administration, through spectrum auctions, have received over $8 billion in revenue. However, there is a responsibility of the government and the providers to Canadians who own this natural resource. Canadians have supported net neutrality from the birth of the service in Canada, and we would like to see that continue.
We have seen so many challenges in this file, but net neutrality will affect more things in the future. I will point to one of the more practical things we have, which is streaming users to certain services, products, and marketing. Some of that, without net neutrality, would also incur a cost. For example, if an Internet service provider wants to stream users to a particular advertisement, or a particular page, or a download, or something of that nature, that will part of the data package and that will cost. The users will then have to break out of that or have that incurred cost of data management in their system. Alternatively, they could seek a different product by going to different sites, which would use more data, just to try to find what they are looking for. It could be anything from online shopping, news information, sports entertainment, or a series of different things. It affects not only our democracy, but our purchasing habits as well.
It also affects small and medium-sized businesses, which should not be forgotten in this debate. They will get eclipsed by the larger operations, some of them international conglomerates, and that will stymie small business. As we try to include small business as a more innovative part of our Canadian society and business strategy, they will have trouble in a dominated non-neutral market.
This will affect everything, from people looking for entry into the business market, such as our youth, as well as people with second careers and those who have just developed work in an industry, to more sophisticated operations, where we have some of our creative and well-known talent in Internet web design services and other things that would, in many respects, be put at a disadvantage trying to compete.
The U.S. decision to follow in this vein as well gives us a strategic opportunity to capture some of that technology and workers in that area, as well as an economic advantage. Although we have a much smaller market to deal with, it does provide an opportunity for us as Canadians to take advantage of that type of restrictive and planned market, where access is going to be dominated by the dollar and not necessarily by the principle of being on the platform.
There are a number of things that are happening with this motion. Because the government, in budget 2017, reopened the discussion on this, the motion is appropriate to speak to today. It is something that is beneficial for the House. It is something that we as New Democrats will support. Having never wrestled with the concept of net neutrality, we believe that it is important not only for consumers but for our democracy.
It goes further and deeper. Very soon, I will be working on and launching a digital strategy platform that covers several different aspects. One of the things that connect to net neutrality here, as was implied in my previous question for the author of the motion, is the example of Facebook. There are different ways to undermine the principles of net neutrality. Where we really want to see a difference right now is in the enforcement through the CRTC board, which is more like a reactive model. We would rather see a proactive approach so that the CRTC could enforce the different types of penalties against ISP providers if they decided to throttle, skew, or change things. That is important, because it allows for a less defensive approach, where the onus is on one to play the game with one's competitors in that field, and at the same level.
Going back to Facebook, and how this connects with that, its activities and manipulation not only affect our democracy, but provide an example of how a business can purchase and get around net neutrality in many ways. However, generally, at least there are some rules out there for that. They have now been identified, and Christopher Wylie and unfortunately the Liberals were caught for this, with several operators who come from their war rooms and different types of operations now being connected to this and using data simulation and data models, and we are not even sure where they are being sold, how they are being used, and what third party involvement there is.
All these things are critical, especially with an Ontario election coming up, as we do not even know the crossover effect to the fullest degree. These things are critical, because we have a skewing of the net neutral model in the sense that Facebook is using data assimilation, collection, and so forth to stream people into different brackets, to be sold for marketing.
Where I would take issue with the author of the motion is that when something is put out there, basically it is a free-for-all. The reality is that the use or the eventual purpose of this information or data is sometimes not known when it is collected. What they do is keep a reservoir of collected information, and unfortunately we see the abuse that is taking place right now. Basically, people are being categorized and inventoried, and their behaviour is set, and that information, collectively, becomes a great economic tool, and also a management tool for streaming them toward a certain content. That is the problem we have. The crossover to net neutrality starts there. If we do not have that as a foundation for the use of the Internet, then we are at a loss to begin with. That is the most important thing. If we are going to play fair in the system, everything needs to be done, at least in the beginning, on a fair and equitable level. That is one of the things that are important for Canada.
In conclusion, we can show a divergence from the United States on this by further enshrinement of that model.
I thank the hon. member for bringing this motion to the House of Commons.