Canadian Law

Net Neutrality Still Under Attack

It appears that Americans will have no choice but to subscribe to services dictated to them by their internet providers. And that Canadians will be up for a fight to retain fast access with the states.

That’s right, not only are these Americans limited in regards to their choice of internet providers but these providers will be able to throttle sites that compete with sites they own or have business relationships with, which include Canadian sites.

Although this is being sold as an improvement to the internet by the Federal Communications Commission in their official November 21st, 2017 statement (PDF), most experts know that this is yet another call for deregulation, a process that eventually results in parties imposing themselves on the consumer, without a means for the consumer to defend himself/herself.

In this statement, the FCC claims “the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate” yet nothing is mentioned about the lack of competition is some states or the possibility of fees being placed on accessing certain sites like Netflix, iTunes or even Amazon.com, who also stream content to Americans.

The bill itself calls for the US Government “to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from reclassifying broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service and from imposing certain regulations on providers of such service” with no information on how it proposes to regulate internet providers that currently hold a monopoly on high speed internet access in some areas or how it would prevent some internet providers from blocking certain competitors or redirecting traffic to their sites.

As Canadians we should also be conserved about these content providers because whatever happens in their primary market can determine how much we pay for their services here. And it appears that quite a few of the content providers are spending considerable amounts fighting the so called “Restoring Internet Freedom Act” because it hinders not only their freedom but the freedom of their customers.

In what way is the average consumer having his or her freedoms hindered by net neutrality ?

The claim that access is being withheld because internet providers are unable to fund their infrastructure is made dubious by the amount of profit these companies release every quarter. They can easily afford expanding but won’t because they want to re-direct their customers to more profitable in house services, whose cable television services have been suffering because of the new content providers.

In other words they’re asking the FCC to give them their cable television customers back by enabling them to throttle and block their competition, which could easily include streaming broadcasts from television networks they do not own. This is a rather vague, slippery slope situation that could be so litigious as to cause subscription fees to skyrocket beyond the inflation rate. And the North American Free Trade Agreement talks won’t help either.

If you have American friends, please encourage them to visit Open Media and to contact their local representatives in regards to this issue.

Thank you.

Streaming Taxes In Quebec

It appears that streaming services like Netflix might be subject to provincial sales taxes in Quebec soon.

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said this could be a possibility soon, depending on the details of the $500 million Canadian Content deal the federal government has worked out with Netflix.

Some download and streaming services are already subject to provincial or harmonized sales taxes, like iTunes, Apple Music and other services that are based in Quebec or in Canada.

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Anti-Scalping Legislation Introduced

New legislation was introduced to the Ontario Parliament yesterday to prohibit the use of ticket bots, software that enables the mass purchase of concert and event tickets.

Schedule 3 of Bill 166, a.k.a the Strengthening Protection for Ontario Consumers Act, will enact the Ticket Sales Act, which will replace the Ticket Speculation Act and essentially cause automated ticket purchasing software to become illegal for events in the province of Ontario.

Also included in the Ticket Sales Act are provisions capping the resale price of tickets at 50 percent above face value, regulations in regards to transparency (mandatory disclosures of the identity of the seller, number of tickets in the seller’s possession, and original ticket price) and regulations in regards to mandatory residency and/or incorporation in the province of Ontario for ticket sellers.

Click here to read the proposed legislation, in full.

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Net Neutrality Simplified

Imagine this situation – You want to rent a blockbuster and your internet provider’s film rental site offers this film for $6.99 in HD whilst another film rental site offers it for $4.99, also in HD. And thinking that because they’re both listed as HD you rent from your internet provider’s competitor only to notice pixelization caused by slow download speeds.

Now imagine you’re completely fine paying more to rent films and one day hear about this great flick that everyone’s raving about on the internet. But you can’t find it on your internet provider’s film rental site and have no choice but rent it from one of your internet provider’s competitors, subjecting yourself to the aforementioned issues.

This would be the norm if net neutrality was abolished.

Internet providers with a larger market share would use this status to demand payment for access to their customers and would shut out film rental companies that didn’t pay up, including the companies set up by their competing internet providers.

You’d be at the mercy of media conglomerates fighting each other, as they hinder the speeds of each other’s services and fight for the exclusive rights to certain films, music, and services.

You’d have dropouts whilst streaming and slow transfer issues accessing your own files on cloud services because these services didn’t pay up or is owned by the competitors of those that did. And this would only get worse when you’re on the go and use wi-fi services from different providers at your favorite hotspots.

Seriously, travelers would also see their speeds drop if they happen to choose an American hotel whose internet is throttled, especially when they throttle sites on which operating system and security software updates are hosted.

They’re not lowering their prices, they’re making it harder for people to access services that do and making content providers pay to access their share of the market, in many cases resulting in a reduction of royalties for artists, composers, writers, etc. And who knows if publicly funded internet like those at public libraries will be subject to internet traffic management practices?

How exactly is this progress?

As it stands, Net Neutrality in Canada is supported by the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission, several last mile internet providers and three political parties, the Liberals, NDP and Green Party. And both Rogers and Bell made statements that they would end throttling in late 2011 and early 2012.

Netflix is currently keeping track of the speed of our internet providers accessing their services and publishing their results on their Netflix ISP Speed Index site and I’m guessing if push comes to shove more of those sites will appear.

Hopefully, the internet providers in the states will figure out this is all counterproductive because people that eventually find out that they’re being throttled needlessly get more demanding and all it takes for their competition to nab their customers are anti-throttling policies.

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New Law Proposed In Ontario

In case you missed it yesterday, the Government of Ontario has proposed new regulations in regards to the resale of concert and event tickets within the province.

As stipulated in an official June 26th press release, the proposed measures include:

  • Banning the use and sale of ticket-buying software – also known as ticket bots – that are used to block legitimate fans and scoop up the best seats the moment an event goes on sale
  • Forbidding the sale of tickets on the resale market that are not owned or possessed by the seller (i.e. speculative tickets)
  • Continuing to restrict the resale of tickets unless they are verified by the primary seller, or the reseller offers a money-back guarantee.

Also included in the proposed measures are new rules in regards to transparency:

  • Primary ticket sellers would be required to disclose the number of tickets that would be available through the general on-sale, as well as the capacity of the event
  • Ticket resellers and online resale platforms would be required to disclose the original face value of the ticket and precise seat location, as well as the identity of a commercial reseller
  • All ticket-selling businesses would be required to disclose the all-in price of a ticket up front, plus clearly indicate the currency.

The “Ticket Sales Act” will be introduced to the Provincial Parliament in the fall.

Ontario Wants Help To Curtail Ticket Bots

The provincial government of Ontario is now consulting the public in regards to ticket bots.

“Ticket bots” enable companies and individuals to purchase large numbers of tickets to popular events almost instantaneously, requiring many regular consumers to pay significant more to see their favourite team, musical act or theatrical performance, as seen on CBC’s Marketplace.

A survey can be found by clicking here until March 15th, 2017.