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The Trouble with the TPP: My Appearance Before the International Trade Committee

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Fri, 2016/05/06 - 08:23

Yesterday I appeared alongside Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research in Motion, at the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade public consultation on the TPP. There were some interesting exchanges that I will highlight once the transcript is released. My opening remarks are posted below.

Appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade, May 5, 2016

Good morning. My name is Michael Geist.  I am a law professor at the University of Ottawa, where I hold the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. I appear today in a personal capacity representing only my own views.

There is lots to say about the TPP – I have written dozens of articles and posts on the agreement and I am currently working on a book on point – but I have limited time so I’ll focus briefly on four issues.

First, Canada’s price of admission and weakness during the negotiations.

Canada was not an initial participant in the TPP negotiations. U.S. lobby groups urged the U.S. government to keep Canada out of the negotiations until a copyright bill was passed that satisfied its demands. Those demands had a significant impact on the contents of the 2012 Canadian copyright bill, particularly the retention of restrictive digital lock rules that were at the very top of the U.S. policy priority list.

Once the U.S. was convinced that Canada would meet its IP and anti-counterfeiting demands, it set further conditions for entry, including a commitment that Canada could not hold up any chapter if it was the lone opponent. This concession became important in the IP chapter, where there were several issues were Canada ultimately did stand alone and for which it was forced to cave.

As the negotiations neared a conclusion, senior Canadian officials were advised that Canada was at a disadvantage in the negotiations given the lack of coordination and transparency between government negotiators and interested stakeholders. We went ahead anyway and agreed to the deal.

Second, what did we agree to? The TPP leads to significant changes in Canadian IP law. 

For example, the term of copyright in Canada is presently life of the author plus an additional 50 years, a term consistent with the international standard set by the Berne Convention. This is also the standard in half of the TPP countries with Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Brunei, and Vietnam also providing protection for life plus 50 years. The TPP will require an extension by 20 more years. That is a major windfall for the U.S. and a net loss for Canada (and most other TPP countries). In fact, New Zealand, which faces a similar requirement, has estimated that the extension alone will cost its economy NZ$55 million per year. Last week, a draft report from the Australian government’s Productivity Commission pointed to estimates of AU$88 million per year for term extension. The Canadian cost may be higher without any real benefit.

The IP changes don’t stop there. The TPP includes changes to digital lock rules, longer patent protections, criminalization of trade secret law, changes to trademark law, new border measures, requirements for ratification by all TPP countries of as many as 9 international IP treaties.

Third, It is Not Just IP

The TPP goes far beyond IP. It touches on culture, restricting the ability to expand CanCon contributions policies. This means that despite Minister Joly’s recent promise to review Canadian cultural policies, contributions to support the creation of Canadian content are effectively locked into place with the TPP blocking new policies aimed at new services and technologies.

The TPP also leaves behind a complex array of regulations for services industries that is almost certain to result in unintended consequences. Hot button issues such as regulation of online gambling or regulating ride sharing services such as Uber may be decided by the TPP, not Canadian governments, whether at the municipal or provincial levels.

On the Internet, it reverses our longstanding hands-off approach on Internet governance and fails to meet our standards on issues like net neutrality.

The TPP even touches on privacy, restricting the ability for governments to implement restrictions on data transfers or data localization, while setting a very low threshold for privacy protection and anti-spam rules. This could place Canada between a proverbial rock and hard place on privacy sitting between European demands and TPP requirements.

Health is directly affected with increases to pharmaceutical pricing, locking in protections for biologics, and even sketching out the rules for a national pharmacare program if Canada were to adopt one.

Fourth, the risks and potential costs of getting implementation wrong are enormous.

The TPP was negotiated behind closed doors and presented to the public on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. I’ve read references from some MPs claiming Canada has already consulted on the deal. I know of few, if any, experts in these areas that were consulted. In fact, when I appeared before this committee in June 2013, I was told by government MPs that concerns about the TPP were premature and that we should wait until the negotiations were complete. Now that they are complete, I hear some saying there has been enough consultation.

Yet we must recognize that the risks of getting implementation wrong are enormous. The investor-state dispute settlement provisions in the TPP point to the possibility of massive liability from corporate claims. Minister Freeland has described the ISDS rules in the Canada-EU Trade Agreement as the “gold standard”, but the TPP rules do not meet that standard. Moreover, even crafting our own standards within the TPP may be a non-starter since the US maintains that it gets to decide for Canada how to ratify the agreement through a certification process.

In sum, Canada was at distinct disadvantage in the TPP negotiations and it shows with major losses on intellectual property, digital and cultural policies, as well as the prospect of significant liability through ISDS and US certification into how we implement . The issue isn’t about being pro or anti-free trade.  It is about a bad deal that should be renegotiated or rejected and trade alternatives pursued.  I welcome your questions.

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The TPP, IP, and Digital Policy: My CABE Presentation

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Wed, 2016/05/04 - 08:45

Earlier this week, I delivered a webinar for the Canadian Association of Business Economics on the implications of the TPP. The talk touched on a wide range of concerns including copyright, privacy, culture, and digital policies. A video of the talk can be found here.

 

The post The TPP, IP, and Digital Policy: My CABE Presentation appeared first on Michael Geist.

The Digital CanCon Review: Be Wary of Old Whine in New Bottles

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/05/03 - 08:42

Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly surprised culture and Internet watchers last week by announcing plans for a comprehensive review of Canadian content policies in a digital world. Joly says everything is on the table including broadcasting regulation, Cancon funding mechanisms, copyright law, the role of the CBC, and the future of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

While there is little doubt that the current framework was established for a different era, rules that have sheltered the industry from foreign competition and transferred hundreds of millions of dollars from consumers to creator groups will not disappear without a fight. Indeed, my weekly technology column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) warns that the most common refrain from the Canadian cultural community is likely to be that the existing rules should be extended to the Internet.

Joly’s consultation may be new, but questions about adapting Canadian content regulations to the digital environment have been around for some time. For example, the primary impetus behind the CRTC’s much-maligned TalkTV consultation was the dramatic shift in the television landscape due to the Internet. With rapid growth of unregulated Internet-based alternatives such as Netflix drawing millions of Canadian subscribers and offering new venues for sales of Canadian content, the Commission was faced with difficult policy choices on how to adapt old rules into the digital reality.

It implored creator groups to focus on leveraging the Internet by competing on a global stage, while urging broadcasters to adopt consumer-friendly packages given the emergence of greater consumer choice that ultimately seems likely to lead to a mass exodus from the regulated system.

The reaction from the Canadian culture establishment?

Most paid lip service to competing for new audiences, focusing instead on demands for Netflix taxes, CanCon requirements for digital services, retention of longstanding protectionist rules such as simultaneous substitution, and the continuation of expensive consumer television packages to preserve existing channels. There is little reason to believe those groups will offer a different vision of Canadian content regulation this time round.

In fact, they will likely expect even more from this consultation. In addition to regulations over Internet-based video services, there will be calls to implement an Internet service provider tax to fund the creation of CanCon. An ISP tax (or levy) was rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2012, but rewriting the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act will offer the possibility of new consumer fees to offset declining contributions from the broadcasting sector. Levies on Internet access would run counter to other policy goals, however, notably ensuring universal, affordable broadband for all Canadians since increases to the cost of Internet service would likely widen the digital divide.

The competing objectives highlight another complication of the consultation, namely the overlap between government departments. Canadian Heritage will lead on cultural issues, but there are significant implications for others such as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains (responsible for telecommunications and copyright) and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland (the Trans Pacific Partnership limits Canadian cultural policies).

Policy overlap is particularly pronounced on copyright, with some groups eyeing the CanCon consultation as the chance to demand further changes to the Copyright Act, despite the fact that a review of that law is already scheduled for 2017. Moreover, copyright was just modernized in 2012, with new rules designed to foster digital user generated content, promote online distribution, and tackle websites that enable infringement. If anything, Canadian copyright law is still more restrictive than its U.S. counterpart, where fair use laws offer more flexibility to creators of all stripes than Canada’s fair dealing provisions.

The modernization of CanCon regulation offers the opportunity to rethink longstanding policies by prioritizing global markets, consumer choice, competition, and the benefits of an expanded creative class that includes both commercial and non-commercial participants. Next week’s column will examine some of the policy possibilities, but for now, Canadians should be wary of a consultation process that could quickly devolve into a rush to regulate the Internet with claims that cultural policies in the digital world is little more than old wine in new bottles.

The post The Digital CanCon Review: Be Wary of Old Whine in New Bottles appeared first on Michael Geist.

Digital Cancon Fight Could End Up as New Whine in Old Bottles

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/05/03 - 08:38

Appeared in the Toronto Star on May 2, 2016 as Digital Cancon Fight Could End Up as New Whine in Old Bottles

Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly surprised culture and Internet watchers last week by announcing plans for a comprehensive review of Canadian content policies in a digital world. Joly says everything is on the table including broadcasting regulation, Cancon funding mechanisms, copyright law, the role of the CBC, and the future of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

While there is little doubt that the current framework was established for a different era, rules that have sheltered the industry from foreign competition and transferred hundreds of millions of dollars from consumers to creator groups will not disappear without a fight. Indeed, the most common refrain from the Canadian cultural community is likely to be that the existing rules should be extended to the Internet.

Joly’s consultation may be new, but questions about adapting Canadian content regulations to the digital environment have been around for some time. For example, the primary impetus behind the CRTC’s much-maligned TalkTV consultation was the dramatic shift in the television landscape due to the Internet. With rapid growth of unregulated Internet-based alternatives such as Netflix drawing millions of Canadian subscribers and offering new venues for sales of Canadian content, the Commission was faced with difficult policy choices on how to adapt old rules into the digital reality.

It implored creator groups to focus on leveraging the Internet by competing on a global stage, while urging broadcasters to adopt consumer-friendly packages given the emergence of greater consumer choice that ultimately seems likely to lead to a mass exodus from the regulated system.

The reaction from the Canadian culture establishment?

Most paid lip service to competing for new audiences, focusing instead on demands for Netflix taxes, CanCon requirements for digital services, retention of longstanding protectionist rules such as simultaneous substitution, and the continuation of expensive consumer television packages to preserve existing channels. There is little reason to believe those groups will offer a different vision of Canadian content regulation this time round.

In fact, they will likely expect even more from this consultation. In addition to regulations over Internet-based video services, there will be calls to implement an Internet service provider tax to fund the creation of CanCon. An ISP tax (or levy) was rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2012, but rewriting the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act will offer the possibility of new consumer fees to offset declining contributions from the broadcasting sector. Levies on Internet access would run counter to other policy goals, however, notably ensuring universal, affordable broadband for all Canadians since increases to the cost of Internet service would likely widen the digital divide.

The competing objectives highlight another complication of the consultation, namely the overlap between government departments. Canadian Heritage will lead on cultural issues, but there are significant implications for others such as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains (responsible for telecommunications and copyright) and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland (the Trans Pacific Partnership limits Canadian cultural policies).

Policy overlap is particularly pronounced on copyright, with some groups eyeing the CanCon consultation as the chance to demand further changes to the Copyright Act, despite the fact that a review of that law is already scheduled for 2017. Moreover, copyright was just modernized in 2012, with new rules designed to foster digital user generated content, promote online distribution, and tackle websites that enable infringement. If anything, Canadian copyright law is still more restrictive than its U.S. counterpart, where fair use laws offer more flexibility to creators of all stripes than Canada’s fair dealing provisions.

The modernization of CanCon regulation offers the opportunity to rethink longstanding policies by prioritizing global markets, consumer choice, competition, and the benefits of an expanded creative class that includes both commercial and non-commercial participants. Next week’s column will examine some of the policy possibilities, but for now, Canadians should be wary of a consultation process that could quickly devolve into a rush to regulate the Internet with claims that cultural policies in the digital world is little more than old wine in new bottles.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.

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Why Bell’s Plan to Buy MTS Could Kill the Government’s Fourth Wireless Carrier Strategy

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2016/05/02 - 09:55

Bell announced plans this morning to buy MTS, the Manitoba-based wireless carrier that has been critical to creating a more competitive wireless market in the province. The nearly $4 billion deal would include a commitment to divest one-third of MTS wireless customers to Telus. The agreement is still subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals along with figuring out how some customers go to Telus and some stay with Bell. While the government has yet to articulate a clear strategy for wireless competition in Canada, the deal appears to kill the hope of four carriers in each market and will likely mean sharply increased prices for Manitoba consumers.

With the four competitors in Manitoba – Bell, Telus, Rogers, and MTS – the province features some of the lowest wireless prices in Canada. Compare Bell’s wireless pricing for consumers in Manitoba and Ontario. The cost of an unlimited nationwide calling share plan in Manitoba is $50. The same plan in Ontario is $65. The difference in data costs are even larger: Bell offers 6 GB for $20 in Manitoba. The same $20 will get you just 500 MB in Ontario. In fact, 5 GB costs $50 in Ontario, more than double the cost in Manitoba for less data. The other carriers such as Rogers and Telus also offer lower pricing in Manitoba. The reason is obvious: the presence of a fourth carrier creates more competition and lower pricing. With MTS out of the way – and Bell and Telus sharing the same wireless network – prices are bound to increase to levels more commonly found in the rest of the country.

The deal therefore represents a huge blow to the government’s hopes for a more competitive wireless marketplace. Instead, one of Canada’s lower cost provinces is likely to see increased prices and the market continues to consolidate around the big three providers. If wireless competition is a priority, the government and regulator should carefully examine the proposed transaction and consider whether it moves Canadian wireless in the wrong direction.

The post Why Bell’s Plan to Buy MTS Could Kill the Government’s Fourth Wireless Carrier Strategy appeared first on Michael Geist.

Voltage Pictures Launches Canadian File Sharing Lawsuit With Reverse Class Action Strategy

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Thu, 2016/04/28 - 09:20

Voltage Pictures, which previously engaged in a lengthy court battle to require Canadian ISPs to disclose the names of alleged file sharers, has adopted a new legal strategy. This week, the company filed an unusual application in federal court, seeking certification of a reverse class action against an unknown number of alleged uploaders of five movies using BitTorrent (The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist). The use of reverse class actions is very rare in Canada (only a few have been reported). There were attempts to use the mechanism in copyright claims in the U.S. several years ago without success.

The Voltage filing seeks certification of the class, a declaration that each member of the class has infringed its copyright, an injunction stopping further infringement, damages, and costs of the legal proceedings. Voltage names as its representative respondent John Doe (linked to a Rogers IP address). It admits that it does not know the names or identifies of any members of its proposed class, but seeks to group anyone in Canada who infringed the copyright on one of the five movies. Voltage does not say how many people it has identified as infringing its copyright. It urges the court to issue an order to stop the infringement and to assess damages to be paid by each person.

The case raises many questions, most notably whether a reverse class action can be used an effective technique to target copyright infringement. Class actions typically involve a representative plaintiff who represents many others who have suffered the same harms from the actions of the defendant. Reverse class actions feature a single plaintiff (Voltage) and multiple defendants (the alleged file sharers). The most comprehensive examination of reverse class actions in Canada I could find comes from Ian Leach, who notes that while the strategy has rarely been used, there have been a few such cases in Ontario (the federal court rules have similar provisions).

There are several barriers to starting a reverse class action. In 2013, an Oregon court dismissed a similar Voltage lawsuit, concluding that the company “was unfairly using the court’s subpoena power in a “reverse class-action suit” to save on legal expenses and possibly to intimidate defendants into paying thousands of dollars for viewing a movie that can be bought or rented for less than $10.” Another reverse class action was tossed in U.S. federal court in Illinois in 2011, with the judge expressing concern that the case was little more than a “fishing expedition.” A New York Law School Review note comprehensively canvasses the issue from a U.S. perspective, arguing that the cases cannot be certified under U.S. law and that they raise significant issues of fairness.

One of the biggest concerns involves questions of representation for the defendant class. Before certification, the court will want assurance that the interests of the defendants will be fairly represented. But who will represent those interests? Who will pay for the legal counsel?  Unlike a plaintiff-led class action, where lawyers are often willing to invest in the case, there is no payoff at the end of this case and finding someone to represent the class will be a challenge when the only named representative is John Doe #1. If the representation issue is addressed, there will be additional concerns related to commonality (there may be a common copyright claim, but the defences may differ) and identification of the scope of the class, which appears to be indefinite.

Beyond the certification challenges, one of the primary barriers to reverse class actions is that defendants have the option of opting out of the class. This suggests that even if certified, any and all defendants will have the right to opt-out. In other words, after going through the process of trying to meet the requirements for class proceedings, all the defendants will be permitted to simply walk away.

Opting-out will pose its own sets of challenges as defendants will presumably want to have their anonymity safeguarded if they choose to opt-out. Voltage may be counting on the possibility of self-identification as a deterrence against opting out, but the court could establish a mechanism to allow for full exercise of the right to opt-out without being forced to disclose personal identity. The privacy issue related to the identification of the individuals is a separate matter that has its own process under Canadian law.

Class action experts may be able to shed more light on the issues related to a reverse class action, but at first glance this Voltage lawsuit is a puzzling strategy that should face stiff opposition from courts concerned with procedural fairness and appropriate representation of the interests of all class members.

The post Voltage Pictures Launches Canadian File Sharing Lawsuit With Reverse Class Action Strategy appeared first on Michael Geist.

Canadian Officials Admit TPP IP Policy Runs Counter To Preferred National Strategy

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/04/26 - 10:13

Today is World IP Day, which marks the creation of the World Intellectual Property Organization. Canadian policy has long preferred the use of international bodies like WIPO to advance its IP objectives, yet the intellectual property provisions in recently concluded trade deals such as the TPP and CETA run counter to Canadian strategy. That isn’t just the opinion of the many critics of those agreements. It is what government officials told International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland as part of her briefing materials.

The briefing document on intellectual property and the trade agenda, released under the Access to Information Act, leaves little doubt that trade officials are well aware that the Canadian position on IP in the TPP is inconsistent with our preferred position and that it will lead to IP trade deficits. The document states:

Canada’s preferred strategy is to establish international IP rules through multilateral forums such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, in the context of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Canada negotiated trade obligations that, while reflective of recent domestic reforms, are beyond those standards set through multilateral forums, and which will likely require amendments to domestic practice, such as in the areas of geographical indications (GIs) and patent protection for pharmaceuticals.

The position within the government bears repeating: the TPP and CETA go beyond international standards and require changes to Canadian law. Indeed, as critics have consistently argued, the Canadian IP approach on the TPP is a loss for Canada. Again, here is what Canadian officials advised Minister Freeland:

Canada provides a high level of protection and enforcement for IP. However, key trading partners such as the United States and European Union can be expected to be critical of Canadian policy, particularly with regard to their export interests in the copyright and pharmaceutical sectors where their view of the appropriate policy balance differs from Canada. Canada is a net importer of IP meaning that there is a net loss on intellectual tech transfer and patent licensing payments as well as a trade deficit in IP-intensive industries.

The briefing continues by acknowledging that Canada has accepted IP requirements that exceed multilateral benchmarks in the TPP and CETA. Officials anticipate that these demands for further change will continue.

What is particularly striking about the briefing materials is that they are entirely consistent with criticism of the TPP and the argument that the IP provisions do not serve Canada’s national interest. Canadian officials plainly state that Canada faces a net loss in technology transfers and patent licensing payments as well as a trade deficit in IP intensive industries. Yet despite the express acknowledgement of the situation by Canada’s own trade officials (and the obvious awareness of Canadian leaders), they not only agreed to those provisions, they expect more of the same in the future.

The post Canadian Officials Admit TPP IP Policy Runs Counter To Preferred National Strategy appeared first on Michael Geist.

Why Federal Leadership on Universal Broadband is a Need, Not a Want

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2016/04/25 - 15:13

With one week still remaining in the federal telecommunications regulator’s hearing focused on the state of Internet access in Canada, the process has taken a surprising turn that ultimately cries out for leadership from Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development.

Jean-Pierre Blair, chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), opened the hearing two weeks ago with a warning: even if an ideal speed target could be identified, there was no guarantee of regulatory action. Blais urged participants not to confuse “wants” with “needs”, a framing that suggested the goal of the hearing was to identify the bare minimum Internet service required by Canadians.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the remarks attracted immediate headlines that the Commission would not guarantee basic Internet speeds. The CRTC insists that only comments on the public record count, but it is obvious that the commissioners pay close attention to media commentary and social media postings.

Within hours of the first media report, Blais jokingly told one communications law professor that his class might consider analyzing how his remarks were turned into those headlines. In fact, the fixation with press coverage continued later in the week as Blais referenced “editorialists who never show up at our hearings but apparently have very strong views.”

The press and public coverage of the hearing – which unsurprisingly focused on the CRTC’s seeming reluctance to adopt ambitious forward-looking targets for universal Internet access – may have led to an unexpected abrupt shift in tone and policy. Days after the “needs” and “wants” talk, Blais offered a second set of remarks, this time describing the vital importance of Internet access as “self-evident” and characterizing the hearing as “a chance to create together a coherent national broadband strategy.”

The decision to change the focus of the hearing more than a year after submissions began may be unusual, but the CRTC is right. Canada desperately needs a national digital strategy with universal, affordable broadband as its foundation. However, whether the Commission is the right body to lead such a strategy is an entirely different matter.

A strategy focused on universal, affordable access raises two key questions. First, what are the minimum targets for download and upload speeds? Second, who will pay for the creation of universally available networks that guarantee access at whatever target speed?

Some of the major telecommunications companies have been urging the CRTC to adopt a “5 and 1″ approach representing 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. They claim those speeds are sufficient to allow for the use of many Internet applications including online video and Internet telephony (though the ability for multiple people in a single household to use these services simultaneously is in doubt).

Yet a national broadband strategy must surely go beyond the bare minimum and the applications of today. Multiple users, video-based education programs, tele-health, virtual community meetings, interactive entertainment, 3D printing, and numerous Internet-enabled devices are more than just wants. They are the future of broadband for many Canadians and the reason why a country focused on innovation cannot be content with painfully slow, expensive Internet access.

A realistic target also requires realistic funding. The CRTC has a relatively small pot of money available and it may be limited to shifting dollars from conventional telephone contributions to the Internet. That approach is unlikely to yield the necessary investment to create a true 21st century digital infrastructure.

There is a role to play for Canada’s telecommunications regulator, but it cannot replace a long-overdue Internet infrastructure commitment from the federal government. The Liberal government emphasized infrastructure investment in its 2016 budget, but allocated relatively little to the digital side of the ledger. If anything is self-evident, it is that federal government leadership on broadband funding and policies that encourage greater competition is a need, not a want.

The post Why Federal Leadership on Universal Broadband is a Need, Not a Want appeared first on Michael Geist.

Plan for Universal Internet Needs Real Leadership

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2016/04/25 - 15:09

Appeared in the Toronto Star on April 24, 2016 as Plan for Universal Internet Needs Real Leadership

With one week still remaining in the federal telecommunications regulator’s hearing focused on the state of Internet access in Canada, the process has taken a surprising turn that ultimately cries out for leadership from Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development.

Jean-Pierre Blair, chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), opened the hearing two weeks ago with a warning: even if an ideal speed target could be identified, there was no guarantee of regulatory action. Blais urged participants not to confuse “wants” with “needs”, a framing that suggested the goal of the hearing was to identify the bare minimum Internet service required by Canadians.

The remarks attracted immediate headlines that the Commission would not guarantee basic Internet speeds. The CRTC insists that only comments on the public record count, but it is obvious that the commissioners pay close attention to media commentary and social media postings.

Within hours of the first media report, Blais jokingly told one communications law professor that his class might consider analyzing how his remarks were turned into those headlines. In fact, the fixation with press coverage continued later in the week as Blais referenced “editorialists who never show up at our hearings but apparently have very strong views.”

The press and public coverage of the hearing – which unsurprisingly focused on the CRTC’s seeming reluctance to adopt ambitious forward-looking targets for universal Internet access – may have led to an unexpected abrupt shift in tone and policy. Days after the “needs” and “wants” talk, Blais offered a second set of remarks, this time describing the vital importance of Internet access as “self-evident” and characterizing the hearing as “a chance to create together a coherent national broadband strategy.”

The decision to change the focus of the hearing more than a year after submissions began may be unusual, but the CRTC is right. Canada desperately needs a national digital strategy with universal, affordable broadband as its foundation. However, whether the Commission is the right body to lead such a strategy is an entirely different matter.

A strategy focused on universal, affordable access raises two key questions. First, what are the minimum targets for download and upload speeds? Second, who will pay for the creation of universally available networks that guarantee access at whatever target speed?

Some of the major telecommunications companies have been urging the CRTC to adopt a “5 and 1″ approach representing 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. They claim those speeds are sufficient to allow for the use of many Internet applications including online video and Internet telephony (though the ability for multiple people in a single household to use these services simultaneously is in doubt).

Yet a national broadband strategy must surely go beyond the bare minimum and the applications of today. Multiple users, video-based education programs, tele-health, virtual community meetings, interactive entertainment, 3D printing, and numerous Internet-enabled devices are more than just wants. They are the future of broadband for many Canadians and the reason why a country focused on innovation cannot be content with painfully slow, expensive Internet access.

A realistic target also requires realistic funding. The CRTC has a relatively small pot of money available and it may be limited to shifting dollars from conventional telephone contributions to the Internet. That approach is unlikely to yield the necessary investment to create a true 21st century digital infrastructure.

There is a role to play for Canada’s telecommunications regulator, but it cannot replace a long-overdue Internet infrastructure commitment from the federal government. The Liberal government emphasized infrastructure investment in its 2016 budget, but allocated relatively little to the digital side of the ledger. If anything is self-evident, it is that federal government leadership on broadband funding and policies that encourage greater competition is a need, not a want.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.

The post Plan for Universal Internet Needs Real Leadership appeared first on Michael Geist.

wrapping copyright in the maple leaf

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Sun, 2016/04/24 - 10:21

On Friday, The Globe and Mail published “Kids will suffer if Canada’s copyright legislation doesn’t change” by Kate Taylor. I usually enjoy reading Taylor’s work; her capacity to grasp the heart of an issue by delving into underlying facts is often impressive. Unfortunately, on this occasion, her exploration is incomplete and emotion is presented as analysis.

While amendment of the Copyright Act is a year away, there should be no doubt that lobbying has begun. As per the time-honoured script, the essential step is to wrap copyright in the maple leaf. The very fabric of Canada is under assault, and only strengthening copyright can save us all. The script makes for good drama, but is short on evidence.

Taylor, like John Degen last month and Heather Menzies earlier this year, places the challenges of Canada’s educational publishing industry at the feet of the 2012 statutory expansion of fair dealing. (Such a selective invocation of Canadian copyright-related history conveniently omits any mention of the role played by Access Copyright in bringing about the decline of collective licensing.) The claim that reduced revenue from textbook sales is due to unauthorized copying is not new. But when put to the Supreme Court, after consideration of all the facts, a majority of the judges felt that the conclusion did not logically follow:

Access Copyright pointed out that textbook sales had shrunk over 30 percent in 20 years.  … [but] there was no evidence that this decline was linked to photocopying done by teachers … several other factors [are] likely to have contributed to the decline in sales, such as the adoption of semester teaching, a decrease in registrations, the longer lifespan of textbooks, increased use of the Internet and other electronic tools, and more resource-based learning (para. 33).

But the rising use of Internet-based materials does not placate those who have taken it upon themselves to protect our children. Taylor writes: “ … teachers increasingly turn to free online materials, using fewer Canadian sources in the classroom and fewer materials directly tied to the provincial curriculum. [Advocates] are concerned there is no quality control of free material.” It is entirely plausible that the causality runs the other way: teachers are finding quality materials online, materials which also happen to be free. (The Khan Academy comes to mind.) But in the hands of those opposing any dilution of the traditional publishing industry, “free” and “online” are invoked with a dismissive air at best, or a pejorative connotation at worst.

Setting aside the prospects for alternative publishing models (for now), let us assume that Taylor’s, Degen’s and Menzies’ analyses are correct.  Let us assume that all the ills of the educational publishing sector are solely the fault of fair dealing. What then? Have any of them considered that years of expanding the scope of copyright has only meant that even more Canadian dollars flow out of the country than stay in? Since before Confederation, the market north of the 49th parallel has been dominated by foreign copyright holders. First British, then American. Copyright is a blunt instrument; any discussion of remedy via copyright should not ignore the trade imbalance. Applying copyright with broad brushstrokes through blanket licensing means fewer Canadian dollars are left to focus exclusively on Canadian creators.

Copyright governs much more than educational publishing, but even if it was confined to educational publishing, an important question has been left unanswered: Do Canadian sources make up the majority of all materials in all subjects taught in primary, secondary and tertiary education in Canada? If the answer is Yes, please provide evidence. If the answer is No, it is astounding that in the name of Canada, taxpayers, students and families are being chivied to provide more of our hard-earned dollars to predominantly benefit non-Canadian entities.

The effort spent railing about fair dealing could be better spent seeking measures that will target support directly to Canadian creators. Given the renewed spirit of federal-municipal relations, why not lobby for dedicated funding for school boards to support creation of open-education resources (OER) specifically to fill the need for Canadian content? Canadian history, geography, and politics could be addressed by local writers and illustrators, in collaboration with teachers, librarians, and archivists. How about seeking some manner of matched funds, to encourage every municipality to sponsor a writer-in-residence? What about expanding the existing Public Lending Right program to address nonfiction educational materials? A little imagination could bring about surprising dividends.

A Made-In-Canada approach to education is not a new concept. Law professor Myra Tawfik describes early 19th century efforts in Lower Canada to secure appropriate learning materials for children:

Lower Canadian teachers began to write or compile their own teaching manuals and schoolbooks. Preferring these to British or American imports and wanting to print multiple copies for use in their schools, they quickly discovered that the cost of printing their manuscripts was well beyond their means. Consequently, they began to petition the House of Assembly asking that it either assume the cost of printing or grant a sum of money to defray the costs (p.81).

Notably, when the House of Assembly delivered the requested support, it came with conditions regarding price and distribution.

As Canada approaches its 150th birthday, with a nod to the spirit that prompted the Massey Commission, the creation of the Canada Arts Council, and the emphasis upon Canadian Studies’ programs, it is time to focus on Canadian creators in a meaningful way.

 


Apple Encryption Saga and Beyond: What U.S. Courts Can Learn from Canadian Caselaw

Freedom to Tinker - Thu, 2016/04/21 - 07:00
It has been said that privacy is “at risk of becoming a real human right.” The exponential increase of personal information in the hands of organizations, particularly sensitive data, creates a significant rise in the perils accompanying formerly negligible privacy incidents. At one time considered too intangible to merit even token compensation, risks of harm […]

The Defend Trade Secrets Act and Whistleblowers

Freedom to Tinker - Wed, 2016/04/20 - 11:48
As Freedom to Tinker readers know, I’ve been an active opponent of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA). Though my position on the DTSA remains unchanged, I was both surprised and pleased to see that the revised Defend Trade Secrets Act now includes a narrow, but potentially useful, provision intended to protect whistleblowers from trade secret […]

Canadian Copyright Bill for the Blind in Need of Fine Tuning

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/04/19 - 14:04

As the political world was focused on the Liberal government’s inaugural budget last month, Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, introduced his first bill as minister by quietly moving ahead with plans to reform Canadian copyright law to allow for the ratification of an international treaty devoted to increasing access to copyrighted works for the blind.

The World Intellectual Property Organization’s Marrakesh Treaty expands access for the blind by facilitating the creation and export of works in accessible formats to the more than 300 million blind and visually impaired people around the world. Moreover, the treaty restricts the use of digital locks that can impede access, by permitting the removal of technological restrictions on electronic books for the benefit of the blind and visually impaired.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the Canadian decision to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty is long overdue. The Conservatives announced plans to do so in last year’s budget but waited to table legislation days before the summer break and the election call. With that bill now dead, the Liberals have rightly moved quickly to revive the issue.

The treaty (and the Canadian bill) addresses three key issues. First, the bill establishes a new rule that permits non-profit organizations acting on behalf of persons with a print disability to reproduce copyright works in accessible formats without the need for permission from the copyright holder. This ensures that more accessible works will be created and distributed in Canada.

Second, once an accessible version of the work is created, the bill also allows the non-profit organization to make it available upon request to persons with print disabilities in other countries that are part of the treaty. With many countries signing on, this approach offers the potential to significantly increase the availability of accessible works with exchanges across borders.

Third, the bill amends the overly restrictive digital lock rules enacted in the 2012 copyright reforms. The Conservative government claimed that an exception for the blind addressed concerns that the law could create significant access restrictions, but the reforms represent a tacit admission that the exception is ineffective. Interestingly, the same restrictive language is used in an exception designed to address privacy concerns, suggesting that further copyright reforms are needed.

While the introduction of the bill represents an excellent first step, upcoming committee hearings offer the opportunity to fine tune the Canadian approach, which is more restrictive than required by the treaty. For example, the Canadian bill envisions the possibility of establishing additional fees payable by the non-profit organization to copyright collectives. The Marrakesh Treaty does not require adding royalty payments and many countries (including the United States) do not have such a provision.

The Canadian approach to exporting accessible works to other countries is also unnecessarily complex. The export exception does not apply to works that are “commercially available” “within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price” in the other country.

The limitation seems likely to create uncertainty and legal risks for those using the exception, creating the danger that some organizations may be reticent about exporting works for fear of running afoul of the law. The limitation is not found in proposed implementing legislation developed by international groups representing libraries and those with print disabilities.

Despite its shortcomings, the decision to focus on the world’s first user rights treaty sends a strong signal that the government recognizes the importance of ensuring that the law does not unduly restrict access to copyright works. With the Marrakesh Treaty nearly reaching the 20 ratifications necessary to take effect, the government must move quickly if it wants Canada to stand as one of the original group of ratifying countries.

The post Canadian Copyright Bill for the Blind in Need of Fine Tuning appeared first on Michael Geist.

Copyright Bill for the Blind Needs Fine Tuning

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/04/19 - 14:01

Appeared in the Toronto Star on April 18, 2016 as Copyright Law for the Blind Needs Fine-Tuning

As the political world was focused on the Liberal government’s inaugural budget last month, Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, introduced his first bill as minister by quietly moving ahead with plans to reform Canadian copyright law to allow for the ratification of an international treaty devoted to increasing access to copyrighted works for the blind.

The World Intellectual Property Organization’s Marrakesh Treaty expands access for the blind by facilitating the creation and export of works in accessible formats to the more than 300 million blind and visually impaired people around the world. Moreover, the treaty restricts the use of digital locks that can impede access, by permitting the removal of technological restrictions on electronic books for the benefit of the blind and visually impaired.

The Canadian decision to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty is long overdue. The Conservatives announced plans to do so in last year’s budget but waited to table legislation days before the summer break and the election call. With that bill now dead, the Liberals have rightly moved quickly to revive the issue.

The treaty (and the Canadian bill) addresses three key issues. First, the bill establishes a new rule that permits non-profit organizations acting on behalf of persons with a print disability to reproduce copyright works in accessible formats without the need for permission from the copyright holder. This ensures that more accessible works will be created and distributed in Canada.

Second, once an accessible version of the work is created, the bill also allows the non-profit organization to make it available upon request to persons with print disabilities in other countries that are part of the treaty. With many countries signing on, this approach offers the potential to significantly increase the availability of accessible works with exchanges across borders.

Third, the bill amends the overly restrictive digital lock rules enacted in the 2012 copyright reforms. The Conservative government claimed that an exception for the blind addressed concerns that the law could create significant access restrictions, but the reforms represent a tacit admission that the exception is ineffective. Interestingly, the same restrictive language is used in an exception designed to address privacy concerns, suggesting that further copyright reforms are needed.

While the introduction of the bill represents an excellent first step, upcoming committee hearings offer the opportunity to fine tune the Canadian approach, which is more restrictive than required by the treaty. For example, the Canadian bill envisions the possibility of establishing additional fees payable by the non-profit organization to copyright collectives. The Marrakesh Treaty does not require adding royalty payments and many countries (including the United States) do not have such a provision.

The Canadian approach to exporting accessible works to other countries is also unnecessarily complex. The export exception does not apply to works that are “commercially available” “within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price” in the other country.

The limitation seems likely to create uncertainty and legal risks for those using the exception, creating the danger that some organizations may be reticent about exporting works for fear of running afoul of the law. The limitation is not found in proposed implementing legislation developed by international groups representing libraries and those with print disabilities.

Despite its shortcomings, the decision to focus on the world’s first user rights treaty sends a strong signal that the government recognizes the importance of ensuring that the law does not unduly restrict access to copyright works. With the Marrakesh Treaty nearly reaching the 20 ratifications necessary to take effect, the government must move quickly if it wants Canada to stand as one of the original group of ratifying countries.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.

The post Copyright Bill for the Blind Needs Fine Tuning appeared first on Michael Geist.

Internet Voting? Really?

Freedom to Tinker - Mon, 2016/04/18 - 07:00
Recently I gave a TEDx talk—I spoke at the local Princeton University TEDx event.  My topic was voting: America’s voting systems in the 19th and 20th century, and should we vote using the Internet?  You can see the talk here:    

On distracted driving and required phone searches

Freedom to Tinker - Fri, 2016/04/15 - 07:00
A recent Arstechnica article discussed several U.S. states that are considering adding a “roadside textalyzer” that operates analogously to roadside Breathalyzer tests. In the same way that alcohol and drugs can impair a driver’s ability to navigate the road, so can paying attention to your phone rather than the world beyond. Many states “require” drivers to consent […]

Gone In Six Characters: Short URLs Considered Harmful for Cloud Services

Freedom to Tinker - Thu, 2016/04/14 - 07:37
[This is a guest post by Vitaly Shmatikov, professor at Cornell Tech and once upon a time my adviser at the University of Texas at Austin. — Arvind Narayanan.] TL;DR: short URLs produced by bit.ly, goo.gl, and similar services are so short that they can be scanned by brute force.  Our scan discovered a large […]

Intervening at the CRTC: Nothing Encourages Participation Like Background Checks and Legally Mandated Undertakings

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Wed, 2016/04/13 - 09:45

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s hearing on basic telecommunications services launched earlier this week with the Commission continuing its effort to engage the public with an open discussion forum that will allow for comments to placed on the record (comments outside of the CRTC universe – op-eds, blog posts or social media comments do not count). While CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais has emphasized his interest in hearing from Canadians, the recent experience of Concordia University professor Fenwick McKelvey highlights how more work is needed to remove barriers that may inhibit independent experts from participating in the process.

McKelvey told me he was very happy to participate, yet consider the barriers faced by academics or other independent experts seeking to contribute to the CRTC process. First, McKelvey (along with other academic intervenors) faced questions from Telus about their background, expertise, and funding. Telus demanded that each answer the following questions:

Did you receive any funding to support your intervention? If so, from whom?
Do you have a position at a university, or elsewhere, or are you in a centre, institute, or similar organization, that supported your intervention? If so, please describe your position at the centre, institute, or similar organization and identify the source(s) of funding.
Please describe any other entities with which you are or have been affiliated which have interests or have intervened before the CRTC or Industry Canada with respect to telecommunications policy and regulation issues.
Please provide a current copy of your curriculum vitae for the public record.

When the academics refused to disclose the information, Telus responded with lengthy arguments on why they should be required to provide all of this background information despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the substance of the hearing. Those demands alone might be enough for some to avoid the CRTC process.

While the demands for background checks came from Telus, the CRTC commissioners did themselves no favours in the first day of the hearing. Coming at the end of a long day, McKelvey brought two experts to discuss Internet measurement along with students to witness the proceedings. As the discussion became increasingly technical, Commissioner Molnar stated:

I have just one last question and I think this might be an undertaking, because you rapidly get beyond my technical capacity to understand what you’re saying, so in writing is easier for me.

After Molnar explained the legally required undertaking, McKelvey responded that he had concerns about timing, leading to the following exchange:

1880 MR. McELVEY …I would like to discuss with them whether it’s feasible within the May 5th timeline and am I allowed to say that I will get back to you on whether that’s feasible?
1881 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I wouldn’t think so.
— (LAUGHTER)
1882 MR. McELVEY: I don’t — I mean it’s my first time. I really do mean it as a genuine —
1883 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well I appreciate that, that it’s your first time, but normally people come ready for the possibility of having to answer within that timeline.

CRTC veterans and commissioners are likely to read the exchange and shrug their shoulders. Those are the rules – if you want to participate, you can find yourself subject to legally mandated undertakings that must be completed within tight time frames. While that may work well for government institutions and large companies with ample resources devoted specifically to these issues, for the average Canadian seeking to have their voice heard, this is likely to be viewed as a significant barrier to participation.

The post Intervening at the CRTC: Nothing Encourages Participation Like Background Checks and Legally Mandated Undertakings appeared first on Michael Geist.

Why Universal, Affordable Internet Access is a Job for Everyone

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/04/12 - 09:15

The future of Internet access in Canada takes centre stage this week at a major hearing focused on whether it’s time to update the rules associated with universal access to communications services. Canada has long had regulations in place that ensure that basic telephone service is available to everyone, using a funding model that subsidizes higher costs in rural communities.

My weekly technology column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that for most Canadians, however, basic telephone service no longer adequately addresses their needs. Today the Internet is widely recognized as the most indispensable communications tool, providing access to everything from electronic messaging to entertainment. While debates over broadband access have lingered for more than 15 years, there are still thousands of Canadians without service, owing to the lack of access or affordability.

The urban-rural digital divide frequently dominates Internet access discussions, yet a comprehensive national policy must also take affordability into account. Indeed, recent data indicates that there are two digital divides in Canada: the divide between those with and without access to high-speed Internet services (with access rates lower in rural communities) and the divide between subscribers and non-subscribers among those that have access. Affordability remains one of the most commonly cited reasons for not subscribing to an Internet access service despite its availability.

With dozens of groups slated to appear at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearing, there will be considerable pressure to declare Internet access an essential service and establish policies that ensure that all have affordable access.

A universal service program for the Internet would be a step in the right direction, but it would be a mistake to leave the issue solely to the telecommunications regulator. Fostering universal, affordable broadband access is a job for everyone with the need for active participation from all levels of government, the private sector, and community organizations.

Despite the federal government’s commitment to infrastructure spending in the most recent budget, very little was allocated in the short term for broadband services. Ensuring that all communities have access will require a public investment – the private sector will unsurprisingly prioritize the most profitable markets leaving some communities without access – along with policy frameworks that facilitate increased competition from independent providers and support the emergence of community-owned broadband services.

There are also opportunities for provincial and municipal governments in this area. Provincial governments should leverage existing networks, particularly those within education and health institutions, to bring access to the wider community. At a municipal level, using local construction initiatives to lay high-speed fibre accessible to any provider offers the chance to dramatically alter the competitive landscape.

The affordable access solution must also extend beyond government policy and funding with the private sector playing a critical role. For example, last week Rogers announced that it is extending its Connected for Success program to its entire cable footprint, effectively making affordable broadband access available to thousands of low-income Canadians.

The Rogers program first launched in Toronto in 2013 in partnership with Toronto Community Housing, offers broadband access for $9.99 per month. Once the program is fully implemented, the low cost service will be available to residents at more than 500 non-profit housing organizations.

The Rogers program is notable in part because it is the only such initiative in Canada. While the major telecom companies seemingly have little trouble matching price increases, they have been discouragingly unwilling to mirror the Connected for Success program.

On top of the issues around access and affordability, there is also the need for community programs dedicated to digital literacy, so that those new to the Internet can maximize the benefits. While younger Canadians have never lived in a world without the Internet, many others do not know where to start.

The Internet has dramatically changed our world, touching on virtually every aspect of society. Changing our rules on essential services to account for the digital world is long overdue.

The post Why Universal, Affordable Internet Access is a Job for Everyone appeared first on Michael Geist.

Affordable Internet Access is Everyone’s Business

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/04/12 - 08:58

Appeared in the Toronto Star on April 11, 2016 as Affordable Internet Access is Everyone’s Business

The future of Internet access in Canada takes centre stage this week at a major hearing focused on whether it’s time to update the rules associated with universal access to communications services. Canada has long had regulations in place that ensure that basic telephone service is available to everyone, using a funding model that subsidizes higher costs in rural communities.

For most Canadians, however, basic telephone service no longer adequately addresses their needs. Today the Internet is widely recognized as the most indispensable communications tool, providing access to everything from electronic messaging to entertainment. While debates over broadband access have lingered for more than 15 years, there are still thousands of Canadians without service, owing to the lack of access or affordability.

The urban-rural digital divide frequently dominates Internet access discussions, yet a comprehensive national policy must also take affordability into account. Indeed, recent data indicates that there are two digital divides in Canada: the divide between those with and without access to high-speed Internet services (with access rates lower in rural communities) and the divide between subscribers and non-subscribers among those that have access. Affordability remains one of the most commonly cited reasons for not subscribing to an Internet access service despite its availability.

With dozens of groups slated to appear at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearing, there will be considerable pressure to declare Internet access an essential service and establish policies that ensure that all have affordable access.

A universal service program for the Internet would be a step in the right direction, but it would be a mistake to leave the issue solely to the telecommunications regulator. Fostering universal, affordable broadband access is a job for everyone with the need for active participation from all levels of government, the private sector, and community organizations.

Despite the federal government’s commitment to infrastructure spending in the most recent budget, very little was allocated in the short term for broadband services. Ensuring that all communities have access will require a public investment – the private sector will unsurprisingly prioritize the most profitable markets leaving some communities without access – along with policy frameworks that facilitate increased competition from independent providers and support the emergence of community-owned broadband services.

There are also opportunities for provincial and municipal governments in this area. Provincial governments should leverage existing networks, particularly those within education and health institutions, to bring access to the wider community. At a municipal level, using local construction initiatives to lay high-speed fibre accessible to any provider offers the chance to dramatically alter the competitive landscape.

The affordable access solution must also extend beyond government policy and funding with the private sector playing a critical role. For example, last week Rogers announced that it is extending its Connected for Success program to its entire cable footprint, effectively making affordable broadband access available to thousands of low-income Canadians.

The Rogers program first launched in Toronto in 2013 in partnership with Toronto Community Housing, offers broadband access for $9.99 per month. Once the program is fully implemented, the low cost service will be available to residents at more than 500 non-profit housing organizations.

The Rogers program is notable in part because it is the only such initiative in Canada. While the major telecom companies seemingly have little trouble matching price increases, they have been discouragingly unwilling to mirror the Connected for Success program.

On top of the issues around access and affordability, there is also the need for community programs dedicated to digital literacy, so that those new to the Internet can maximize the benefits. While younger Canadians have never lived in a world without the Internet, many others do not know where to start.

The Internet has dramatically changed our world, touching on virtually every aspect of society. Changing our rules on essential services to account for the digital world is long overdue.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.

The post Affordable Internet Access is Everyone’s Business appeared first on Michael Geist.

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