Justin Trudeau Is ‘Very Concerned’ With FCC’s Plan to Roll Back Net Neutrality

“We need to continue to defend net neutrality,” Trudeau said, but stopped short of saying he'd speak to Trump directly.

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Nov 22 2017, 10:36pm

Justin Trudeau in Toronto on Wednesday. Image: The Canadian Press/Chris Young

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says President Donald Trump’s plan to roll back net neutrality protections for the internet “does not make sense” and that he’ll be looking into what he can do to defend net neutrality for the whole internet.

“I am very concerned about the attacks on net neutrality,” Trudeau said in Toronto on Wednesday, in response to a question from Motherboard about Trump’s plans. “Net neutrality is something that is essential for small businesses, for consumers, and it is essential to keep the freedom associated with the internet alive.”

Motherboard asked specifically what Trudeau planned to do in response to the plan put forward on Tuesday by the Federal Communications Commission, which could pave the way for tiered internet service and pay-for-play premium access to internet consumers.

“We need to continue to defend net neutrality,” Trudeau added. “And I will.”

Under the FCC’s plan, which would roll back neutrality rules that were implemented by the previous two administrations, companies would have new freedoms to charge more for higher internet speeds and could block or slow traffic to certain sites or services.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, lauded the plan as a win for the free web, saying in his statement: “The federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet.” Critics, including an array of online media companies, say it will do the exact opposite.

Trudeau wouldn’t comment specifically on whether he would convey the message to Trump directly.

“We are just absorbing the position the president has taken and looking at the impact it’s going to have in the United States and in Canada,” Trudeau said.

Read More: To Save Net Neutrality, We Must Build Our Own Internet

The changes contemplated by the FCC could fundamentally alter how the internet functions, impacting not just consumers and businesses in the United States, but also in Canada and abroad.

If American telecommunications companies begin charging websites to access the fast lane—a faster tier of internet service that would benefit only those able to pay more—companies from around the world could have to pay in order to access the valuable American market.

The changes could also embolden the telecommunications giants to charge other companies to ensure access to their websites. This could be ruinous for smaller companies that can’t afford to pay.

Net neutrality is the law of the land in Canada, as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission—which is responsible for regulating the country’s telecommunications companies, and is basically an equivalent to the FCC—has worked to strengthen its neutrality policies in recent years, taking aim at companies that try to use differential and discriminatory pricing or services to benefit their own business operations.

Earlier this year, the Canadian regulator ruled against telecommunications giant Videotron after its unlimited music streaming plan gave preferential access to certain streaming companies.

“A free and open Internet gives everyone a fair chance to innovate and for a vast array of content to be discovered by consumers,” then-chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said at the time.

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