lovehate: The Great Throttlewall of Canada

“Madness is badness of spirit, when one seeks profit from all sources” - Aristotle

For the past week the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission has been listening to ISPs press for the ability to regulate internet bandwidth based on their ability to soak every last penny from end users/customers across Canada. While I understand that the minutae of such hearings in an Ottawa committee room may not be of tremendous interest to anyone outside of Canada then I would urge you to reconsider. These considerations are not just national because the money that is backing much of the anti-net neutrality debate is coming from multi-national music and film conglomorates that don't only seek to enact such restrictions in Canada, but world-wide.

The end run of film and music lobby groups is in no small part responsible for a press to throttle the internet. If ISPs are allowed to eliminate your computer's throughput because you're downloading a video or music file using a bit torrent protocol, the hope, on the part of the studios is that you'll eventually stop doing it. But what about legal files shared through bit torrent technology? If I had a CD or independent film to offer up for free (or pay-what-you-want), the bit torrent protocol would likely be the only way I could afford to pursue such a practice, yet ISPs and studios want to shut it all down.

If there's one thing I've learned over more than 20 years of 300 baud dialups to BBSs to highspeed surfing through social networks, recommendation engines, and news aggregators, it's that the net is REALLY good at self-regulating. I'm not denying the illegal activities that go on with file-sharing, but where were all of these lawsuits against people making mixtapes 25 years ago?

Data are clusters of ones and zeros having no more or less intrinsic value than an ascii text string. To assume by the method which I choose to acquire data, that somehow it's automatically illegal, is idiotic. It analogous to saying that, because speed boats are used more often than canoes to smuggle cocaine, anyone who uses a speedboat can go no faster than those in the canoe or they must be cocaine smugglers.

I pay for high speed internet. Let's repeat that: I PAY FOR HIGH SPEED INTERNET!

I don't pay for high speed web page surfing or Youtube watching or email sending or podcast listening. I pay for bandwidth. I pay the same amount as anyone else pays with my provider. They have every right to use their bandwidth to its fullest potential. To imply that my downloading habits adversely affect someone who is choosing to use even less doesn't make sense. My basic cable and telephone subscription packages are a flat rate no matter how much I use them. Does this mean that if I watch less television, I should get a rebate? Should get a cut rate telephone bill if make only half the calls that my neighbour does while on the same package? To sell an upload/download speed and then throttle back the advertised speed I purchased, without telling me when or why, is an unfair business practice that is probably actionable... though I am far too lazy to hire a lawyer.

To put it in a completely exaggerated way, ISPs are participating in their own form of Neo-McCarthyism. It's like the great "Red" scare: "Have you downloaded or watched, or have you consorted with anyone who has downloaded an illegal copy of a Harry Potter film?" If we allow ISPs and media conglomorates decide that it's okay to punish those who use a TYPE of program they don't like, what's next: The Great Throttlewall of Canada?

Fight for your right to an open internet. And if anyone has the gumption to start up a class-action lawsuit for ISPs throttling my bandwidth without telling me, I'll sign up.