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Intellectual Property

Fisher welcomes net neutrality vote

Net neutrality’s formal recognition by federal lawmakers is long overdue, Toronto intellectual property litigator Kevin Fisher tells

The House of Commons recently voted 277-0 in favour of a private member’s motion that recognizes Canada’s current net neutrality protections and commits to maintaining them in the future.

Fisher, a partner with Gardiner Roberts LLP, says it’s important to see such a formal expression in favour of the principle, which requires service providers to treat all internet data the same.

“The ability of everyone to use the internet and to do so with a level playing field is probably its single most important aspect,” he says.

Although the term can not be found in any law on Canadian statute books, Fisher says most observers accept net neutrality is protected by provisions in the Telecommunications Act which prevent carriers from “unjustly discriminating” or showing “unreasonable preference” towards any person.    

Private member’s motion M-168, proposed by Liberal MP John Oliver, referenced the Act, urging the House to:

  • Recognize the internet has thrived due to net neutrality principles of openness, transparency, freedom and innovation;
  • Recognize Canada has strong net neutrality rules in place that are grounded in the Telecommunications Act and enforced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
  • Recognize that preserving an open internet and the free flow of information is vital for the freedom of expression and diversity, education, entrepreneurship, innovation, democracy and the future economic and social prosperity of Canadians;
  • Express its firm support for net neutrality and the continued preservation of an open internet, free from unjust discrimination and interference; and
  • Call on the government to include net neutrality as a guiding principle of the upcoming Telecommunications Act and Broadcasting Act reviews in order to explore opportunities to further enshrine in legislation the principles of neutrality in the provision and carriage of all telecommunications services

Fisher says the move is particularly timely, considering the concept appears to be under attack in the United States.

Last year, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission began the process of undoing its net neutrality rules, by voting to reverse a 2015 order that brought internet service providers (ISPs) under the jurisdiction of Title II of the country’s Communications Act.

That categorization prevented ISPs from slowing or speeding up certain traffic by banning data discrimination in a similar way to Canada’s Telecommunications Act.

“The current U.S. administration doesn’t want to recognize net neutrality, and there are other, less open societies where the idea is also in danger,” Fisher says. “So it’s good to see Canada confirming that it’s something worth protecting.”

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