Telecom watchdog Chris Seidl reiterated the importance of net neutrality in Canada during a House of Commons committee meeting yesterday.

The executive director of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) appeared before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and explained how Canada is upholding net neutrality regulations. He began by pointing to the Canadian Railway Act of 1906 when the concept of common carriage ensured that railway companies would carry all goods without discrimination.

“It turns out that the same principles are effective whether we are referring to cargo transported on railway cars or data carried over telecommunications networks. It is important to keep in mind that net neutrality is focused on carriage rather than content,” he said. Seidl then listed three specific ways the CRTC has promoted net neutrality in the country.

It created an internet traffic management framework that allowed it to determine compliance with the Telecommunications Act in 2009. In 2015, it ruled that service providers couldn’t suppress competitors in the market by using their influence to promote their own mobile television services. And lastly, the CRTC’s differential pricing decision from last April now prevents service providers from influencing consumers’ choices of which data to consume.

“Our framework supports a fair marketplace in which ISPs compete on price, quality of service, data allowance and innovative service offerings,” said Seidl.

U.S. decision won’t affect Canada

The Federal Communications Commission’s vote to strip away net neutrality laws in the U.S. will not affect the way internet traffic is treated in Canada, mentioned Seidl.

But in a recent interview, the CEO of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) told ITBusiness.ca that while it won’t impact Canadians in the short-term, they might feel the pinch down the road.

“That’s where it gets interesting in a Canadian context, where many of the providers of pipes and plumbing to the internet are also the content providers,” he said. “You might start to see differentiating business offerings for the end-user,” said Byron Holland.

But Seidl was steadfast about Canada’s commitment to net neutrality.

“The CRTC has set out its approach to net neutrality, consistent with its powers and duties under the Telecommunications Act, and we will continue to enforce it within Canada,” he said.

Bell’s attempts to create a not-for-profit corporation called FairPlay, which would maintain a blacklist of websites distributing pirated content is an early example of telecoms dabbling with preferential business models, said Holland.

Seidl wouldn’t comment on the application.

“We cannot comment on that application or any other that is currently before the CRTC,” he said.

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