Canada’s Telecommunications Policy Review Panel recommends statutory protection for network neutrality

Canada’s Telecommunications Policy Review Panel issued its final report. The report makes a number of other recommendations to reduce or eliminate the current level of CRTC economic regulation. The report also recommends a new approach to control anti-competitive conduct in telecommunications markets on the basis of complaints made on an ex post basis, rather than by prescribing detailed ex ante restrictions governing the provision of services. However, with respect to network neutrality, the Panel considered it important to ensure that Canadian consumers are not denied access to the wide range of new and innovative Internet services.

The report notes that there is a growing concern that increasingly deregulated telecommunications service providers could, for strategic competitive reasons, decide to block or limit access to some Internet applications and content. Therefore the Panel recommends that the Telecommunications Act should confirm the right of Canadian consumers to access publicly available Internet applications and content by means of all public telecommunications networks that provide access to the Internet. … The Panel believes telecommunications service providers in most cases have little or no incentive to interfere with customer access. However, the principle of open access to the Internet is sufficiently important that it justifies a new regulatory provision to ensure that it is maintained.

This will be good news to VOIP service providers, and other Internet content providers, who are concerned about ISPs blocking access to their content or services or reducing the priority of their traffic.