For the past several months I’ve been working away at a series of ‘traditional’ publication-type writings. One of those pieces included major sections of OpenMedia.ca’s report that was released today, entitled “Casting an Open Net: A Leading Edge Approach to Canada’s Digital Future.”
More specifically, I worked as the lead author on the economic section of the report, arguing that obtrusive network management practices, bandwidth speeds, and download/upload capacities that unduly favor one party over another are damaging to innovation in Canada. I’m also third author of the technical section, where I brought my expertise around deep packet inspection and usage based billing to the group of excellent authors who led that section. I’ve included the introduction, below, as well as links to download the report. Comments are, of course, welcome.
The Open Internet: Open for Business and Economic Growth
The Internet is widely regarded as one of the modern era’s greatest engines of economic growth and innovation. Ensuring ubiquitous, affordable, and open access to the Internet across all social sectors supports and promotes economic growth. By providing a reliable platform for applications development, communications improvements, and content distribution, we create the potential for greater efficiencies and growth in business-to-business, business-to-consumer, peer-to-peer, and consumer-to-business transactions.
In this section, we delve deeper into the essential role that the open Internet plays in the Canadian economy as an engine of innovation and growth. The unique characteristics of the Internet have allowed Canadians to create some of the world’s leading websites and applications. We argue that when businesses and citizens are forced to pay more for Internet access in Canada, or face other restrictions on use — especially compared to our global counterparts — we have fewer opportunities to invest in and develop the kind of innovations that make our economy flourish.
In Section One, we argue that co-invention and web-based entrepreneurship flourish best in neutral networks and that the Internet’s innate openness enables a democratization (i.e. of access and success) that fosters creativity, competition, and innovation. In Section Two, we argue that Canadian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are transitioning towards technical architectures that discriminate against and seek to control certain applications, and we warn that this gradual enclosure of the Internet threatens to restrict user access, choice, and innovation, and thus threatens to reduce the value of the Internet overall. In particular, we discuss how ISPs use the practice of bandwidth throttling of specific applications (e.g. P2P file sharing) and usage-based pricing to discriminate against certain types of online activities in an effort to centralize control. Finally, we conclude by emphasizing that ISP interference undermines the core values of equality and neutrality operating at the heart of the Internet and that this interference threatens the Internet’s invaluable role as an engine of innovation and economic growth.
The ability for Canadians to innovate is more and more central to our economic well-being and competitiveness. As we explain below, the open Internet is an essential engine of innovation; without a fast, ubiquitous, and open Internet, Canada will continue to fall behind in economic productivity. E-commerce, the information and communications technologies (ICT) sector, and increasingly, traditional businesses, depend heavily on open access to the Internet. Any barrier to Internet use is a barrier to business development in general.