If you want the internet, not TrudeauNet, find a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and you are on your way. VPNs are designed to enhance security but also to make your IP address invisible to the rest of the internet. That means you can’t be tracked by either the big platforms or governments. VPNs have been criticized because they enable you to go to “bad” places without anyone knowing what you looked at. They are perfectly legal.
Bill C-11 was passed by the Senate on April 27th. This bill had been sold to the public as a bill that addressed a supposed inequity. Canadian cable companies must now pay 5% of gross revenues to Canadian production funds. These funds pay for the production of Canadian movies and television programming. Netflix and other Internet platforms do not pay to these funds. So, this bill will require that these platforms pay a percentage of their Canadian revenues to production funds. This is only fair, say the bill’s promoters.
Once again, the government is trying to stuff new technology into an old regulatory model that was designed for a different era. When Direct-to-Home satellite television was introduced, it was required to carry many local television channels on expensive satellite bandwidth. This increased the cost to consumers, but made it “fair” to television broadcasters and cable companies. The boat was not rocked.
C-11 tries to contain the internet in our old broadcasting regulatory system. Consumers will pay more because the platforms will pass on the higher costs of implementing the government’s subsidy and censorship measures. But the legacy broadcasters, cable distributors and program producers will benefit from the level playing field.
C-11 also contains measures to force platforms like Google to comply with government ordered censorship measures on top of the censorship already practiced voluntarily.
What can you do if you don’t want the new government-approved internet?
The easiest way to opt out is to subscribe, to a VPN. VPN’s use encryption to limit participation to the authorized users as if they were physically connected by a private network. VPNs provide enhanced security and protection against unwanted trackers, malware, and viruses. If you have worked for a company with multiple locations or a government department, you have probably used a VPN.
Commercial VPNs offer the same service to individual internet users everywhere from free to a small monthly fee of $20 per month , depending on the terms and services selected. You have likely seen ads for VPNs on YouTube or other platforms, so they are readily available. The VPNs provide enhanced security, blocking viruses, malware, and trackers. They also effectively get around geo-fencing that is used to provide different content for different countries.
Your request to visit a web site goes to the VPN first. The request is then forwarded to the web site address from a server in Canada, Romania, the UK, or anywhere else in the world where your VPN has a server, but your original IP address is not identifiable.
The web site can’t tell that the request came from Canada, so it can’t label you as Canadian and provide you with the Canadian version of the site. It can’t implement other measures that the Canadian government would like to impose either.
In theory, the government could counter by making VPNs illegal or requiring VPNs and ISPs to track users’ activity and maintain geofencing. But these measures would require a massive intrusion into the legal activities of businesses, generate years of legal and trade challenges, driving business out of Canada. They would also be very expensive to implement and easily evaded.
The government could also try to prohibit individuals from using commercial VPNs. Once again, this would be a massive intrusion that is impossible to enforce effectively. So far, the government has not pursued VPNs or their customers who use them to receive the US version of Netflix. Individuals could use VPNs with no physical presence in Canada, and pay in a digital currency making enforcement nearly impossible.
Unfortunately, many people will probably not bothering to look into VPNs. No doubt, many Canadians will be unwilling to add more cost to their internet access which is already expensive enough. Others won’t care. And some will even prefer the government approved version. But consumers need to know they don’t have to play along with the government.
If you want the internet, not TrudeauNet, find a VPN and you are on your way.
Roland Renner is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He owns a consulting company assisting competitive telecom companies (satellite, cable, ISP’s).