#CyberFLASH: The Trouble with the TPP, Day 20: Unenforceable Net Neutrality Rules

15109096143_418befce5e_k-780x350One of President Barack Obama’s selling points for the TPP has been claims that it helps preserve “an open and free Internet.” The references to an open and free Internet, which is closely linked to net neutrality, may strike a chord with those concerned with digital issues. However, the Trouble with the TPP is that a close examination of the text and a comparison with existing net neutrality rules in many TPP countries reveals that it doesn’t advance the issue. In fact, the standards are so weak and unenforceable that at least half of the TPP countries already far exceed them.

Article 14.10 of the TPP provides:

Subject to applicable policies, laws and regulations, the Parties recognise the benefits of consumers in their territories having the ability to:
(a) access and use services and applications of a consumer’s choice available on the Internet, subject to reasonable network management;
(b) connect the end-user devices of a consumer’s choice to the Internet, provided that such devices do not harm the network; and
(c) access information on the network management practices of a consumer’s Internet access service supplier.

As a starting point, this is not mandated obligation. The TPP countries merely “recognize” the benefits of some net neutrality provisions. For those countries without net neutrality rules, there is no requirement to implement anything in order to comply with the agreement. In fact, if there was any doubt about the lack of enforceability, the entire provision is prefaced by the reference to “subject to applicable policies, and regulations.” In other words, the provision doesn’t advance anything for countries without net neutrality provisions.

For those with net neutrality provisions, the TPP typically falls well short of what they already have in place. In Canada, the CRTC’s Internet Traffic Management Practices go far beyond the TPP, offering more comprehensive coverage, a complaints mechanism, and enforceable obligations overseen by the CRTC. Many other TPP countries also have stronger net neutrality rules:

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#CyberFLASH: The Future of the Global Internet Hangs in The Balance

GettyImages-556421117We’d all like to think that a simple browser and a few keystrokes can give us access to the unlimited knowledge base of the internet. But there are a growing number of toll roads on the information superhighway.

According to the latest edition of Freedom House’s annual Internet Freedom Report released this week, digital civil liberties have been curtailed across the globe for the fifth year in a row. There are now more countries with a heavily censored internet than there are ones with a completely free internet.

Last among the 65 countries assessed is China, which also happens to be the country with the largest number of internet users (641 million). Thanks to a new law passed last week, Chinese internet users are now even more vulnerable to criminal charges if they are found to be spreading “rumors” or politically delicate information online.

In the United States, President Barack Obama advocated for an open internet when the Federal Communications Commission was considering the question of net neutrality earlier this year.

“Ever since the Internet was created, it’s been organized around basic principles of openness, fairness, and freedom,” the president said. “This set of principles—the idea of net neutrality—has unleashed the power of the internet and given innovators the chance to thrive.”

But America isn’t first, second, or third on Freedom House’s list. Rather, the U.S. steals the fifth spot after Iceland, Estonia, Canada, and Germany.

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#CyberFLASH: Bell Canada Seeks Reversal Of CRTC’s Net Neutrality Ruling In Federal Court

BCE Beats Profit Estimates as Smartphone Subscribers GainBell Canada has gone to court to overturn a ruling from Canada’s telecom watchdog that requires the media giant to price competing streaming services at the same rates as its own.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled last month that Bell had been “unlawfully” setting a double standard by exempting its $5-a-month Bell Mobile TV app from download limits it places on subscribers to its mobile network.

That ruling stemmed from a 2013 complaint to the CRTC by activist Ben Klass, which argued that Bell in effect was marking up prices for competing streaming services by as much as 800 per cent.

Bell filed a lawsuit Friday in the Federal Court of Appeal, the Globe and Mail reported, arguing that the CRTC was wrong to issue its decision under the authority of the Telecommunications Act, because its Bell Mobile TV app is a broadcasting service.

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#CyberFLASH: Why We Need To Fight For a Free and Open Internet in 2015

large_cybersecOne of the most challenging things about working for an Internet freedom organization like OpenMedia is that there’s often a lot going on. As in, a LOT. It certainly makes for an exciting work life, but I’d be the first to admit it can also make it tricky to take a step back, reflect on the journey to date, and look at the bigger picture.

That’s partly why December is one of my favourite months. Not just because of the chance to catch up with old friends and family, but because it gives a rare opportunity to step back from the day-to-day campaign work and look forward to the challenges ahead.

And, when it comes to 2015, there’s a lot in store – it’s shaping up to be a pivotal year for digital rights and Internet freedom. Let’s look at just some of the key challenges we face:

Affordable Internet and cellphone service: Canadians have long suffered from some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for Internet and cellphone service. Our lack of choice and sky-high prices has held back innovation and our whole economy. 2015 will be a decisive year, with an important auction of key wireless resources, and with policymakers at the CRTC poised to rule on three vital decisions on wholesale wireless, access to affordable fibre Internet, and the future of TV in a digital era.

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#CyberFLASH: John Baird and Carl Bildt on protecting digital freedoms

B97375091Z.120141001155319000GS36SSNI.11For many of the three billion people around the world who use the Internet, it’s a place to connect with friends, tweet, read news and share ideas. For others, though, the Internet is much more: the last bastion of protest against repression and authoritarian regimes.

As an open forum for individuals, the Internet acts as a powerful tool for free expression and dialogue. For this to continue, the Internet must remain free, open and secure. In Western countries such as Canada and Sweden, this openness can sometimes be taken for granted. But we all bear some responsibility for protecting these digital freedoms, because there can be no doubt that, while we see openness as a virtue, others see it as a threat.

Countries such as Iran crack down on the sharing of ideas by attempting to create an impermeable national internet, where online expression is monitored, regulated and, ultimately, suffocated within their borders. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has accelerated restrictions on the Internet.

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Canada joins closed door Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations: Critics warn Canadian Internet rights will suffer

Canada has officially joined Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, a move that Canadian Internet advocates say could result in harsh restrictions on Internet use in Canada and leave ordinary citizens facing heavy fines and banishment from the online world over accusations of copyright infringement.

“The (TPP) agreement is being negotiated in secret but we do know from documents we have obtained that in the agreement are provisions that make it so there can be heavy fines for average citizens online, you could be fined for clicking on a link, people could be knocked off the Internet and web sites could be locked off,” said Steve Anderson, founder of Vancouver’s OpenMedia.ca, which was joined by theElectronic Frontier Foundation, the U.S. digital rights group Public Knowledge, the Council of Canadians, the global consumer advocacy group SumOfUs.org, the software company Tucows, the Chilean public interest group ONG Derechos Digitales and the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Public Citizen in opposing Canada’s move to join the negotiations, binding the country to the agreement when it is reached.

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