Internet: neutrality and CRTC hearings

 TORONTO, Oct. 1 /CNW/ – Most Canadians are unaware of an emerging threat to their ability to access web-based information and services, according to data released today.
    A poll conducted by Leger Marketing found that Canadians are generally unaware of the concept of “net neutrality,” the principle that Internet service providers should not be allowed to impose restrictions on the web content or applications consumers can access. The concept of prioritizing Internet traffic or “traffic shaping” has been proposed by Internet service providers as a way to fund the upgrade or expansion of their networks.
    The study, commissioned by eBay Canada in June, found that although just 34 per cent of Canadians are familiar with the term net neutrality, 67 per cent agree with the principle once it is explained.
    The study found that three in five Canadians concur that Internet service providers should be required to treat all content, sites and platforms
equally. Two-thirds of Canadians disagree with the proposal that Internet service providers should be allowed to impose additional fees for access to specific content on the web.
    “Canadians are anything but neutral when it comes to the freedom of the net,” said Alexandra Brown, head of communications and public affairs at eBay Canada. “Reducing consumer access means reducing the ability of Canadian Internet users to reach a global market. The Internet is the silk route of the 21st century: Canadians want it to remain open to everyone.”
    The Internet has historically been governed according to the principles of openness and non-discrimination. Net neutrality is the current regulatory policy of the U.S. and Canadian governments, but it is currently under review by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and will form part of the CRTC’s New Media Project Initiative, which will review the telecommunications regulator’s stance on Internet traffic prioritization.
    Canadians are in widespread agreement about the economic value to Canada of the Internet, according to the Leger Marketing survey. Fully 81 per cent of Canadians agreed that consumer access to an open Internet is in the best public interest.

    The survey revealed the following facts about Canadians’ attitudes to net     neutrality:

    –   Almost three in four Canadians support the current government policy
        that requires Internet providers to offer net neutrality. Net
        neutrality is supported equally by men and women.
    –   Younger Canadians (18-34) and those with higher education are more
        likely to agree with the principles of net neutrality than older
        Canadians (83% vs. 60%).
    –   Canadians aged 25-34, those with children and professional Canadians
        are even more likely to support the current net neutrality policy.

    The Leger Marketing survey found that most Canadians support government intervention to protect consumer access to the Internet:

    –   76% of Canadians (including 70% of Conservative supporters,
        79% Liberal and 86% NDP) believe the federal government should pass a
        law to confirm the right of Internet consumers to access publicly
        available Internet applications and content of their choice.
    –   77% of Canadians agree that net neutrality policies protect the
        rights of Internet consumers.
    –   63% of Canadians believe the market should determine the price
        consumers are willing to pay for Internet access.

    “The Internet economy encourages creativity and innovation,” added Brown. “Reducing consumer access to the Internet is like restricting the colours an artist can use. Internet-based services and content have transformed our way of life. Canadians will not go back to the dial-up age.”
    The study was a random survey of 1,500 adult Canadians conducted by Leger Marketing by telephone between June 12 and 17, 2007. The margin of error for a study of this size is +/-2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.