What is Net Neutrality and how does it impact us in Canada?

Like me, you were probably vaguely aware of a debate taking place in the U.S. on something called Net Neutrality. I knew it had something to do with keeping the Internet an ‘open’ place; meaning no government or corporation could control it, regulate it or operate it. Once I started investigating it more deeply, however, I quickly came to realize how Net Neutrality could impact us here in Canada, too.

The FCC, America’s version of the CRTC, recently repealed Net Neutrality rules in the United States (New York Times Net Neutrality Repealed), allowing their mega ISP’s, think Verizon and Comcast, to gain control of the Internet. How? By giving them the ability to throttle traffic, based on a multitude of factors.

Essentially, they are now free to create an Internet highway with multiple lanes, each with different speeds and permitted applications – you pay for the super-fast lane, you get high-speed/unlimited data transfer plus Facebook, YouTube and Netflix. You pay for the slow lane, you get a lot less.

The internet is (or was) egalitarian in design and use – as long as you had access to it, you were free to view whatever you wanted, with the only limit being your device, the bandwidth of the service you were using and maybe a paywall. This decision puts power back into the hands of the big players creating an oligarchy of ISP’s in the U.S and the impact on Canadians, both consumer and corporate, is real. So much so, that parliament recently passed a motion, M-168, to show support for Net Neutrality in Canada and encourage our lawmakers to draft neutrality legislation.

As great as this is, we all know that much of our Internet traffic transverses the U.S. thus making this exercise less impactful. Do a traceroute using www.ixmaps.ca and see how your traffic is flowing.

Scary.

What’s even more frightening is that you can see who’s getting a sniff of it. And because your traffic is more than likely being routed through the U.S., it becomes subject to their rules.

With the recent repeal of Net Neutrality, your access to important US-based applications and services could be policed, throttled or blocked; a very concerning situation for Canadian businesses. In addition to preventing access to certain applications, U.S.-based ISP’s could block your corporate website because your competitor paid them to host and advertise their site, and you didn’t. Most importantly, your corporate traffic could be subject to surveillance and interception, putting you and your business in a risky position.

Data sovereignty is something you may want to start considering when putting together your corporate security plans. It’s a conversation worth having, both internally, and with your service provider. Later, you may regret not doing it.

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