Enclosing the Internet, Canadian version
December 23rd, 2005

(Thanks, Garsett!)

Canadian professor Michael Geist cites a case in Canada that points out the dangers of enclosure that threaten the usefulness of the Internet to those who don’t control Internet access:

Internet service providers always seem to get the first call when a problem arises on the internet. Lawmakers want them to assist with investigations into cybercrime, parents want them to filter out harmful content, consumers want them to stop spam, and copyright holders want them to curtail infringement. Despite the urge to hold ISPs accountable for such activities, the ISP community has been remarkably successful in maintaining a position of neutrality–the digital successor (in spirit and often in fact) to the common carrier phone company.

Adopting a neutral approach has always required strict adherence to one cardinal rule: that ISPs transport bits of data without discrimination, preference, or regard for content.

The danger in veering away from that rule became apparent in a recent Canadian incident involving Telus. Canada’s second largest telecommunications company actively blocked access to Voices for Change, a website supporting the Telecommunications Workers Union. Telus has been embroiled in a contentious labor dispute with the union, yet its decision to unilaterally block subscriber access to the site was unprecedented.

The company argued that the site contained confidential proprietary information and that photographs on the site raised privacy and security issues for certain of its employees. Nevertheless, the blockage of the site was completely ineffective since it remained available to anyone outside the Telus network. Moreover, those within the Telus network could access the site with a bit of creative internet surfing.


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