If you want the internet, not TrudeauNet, find a VPN and you are on your way
Bill C-11, which passed the Senate on April 27th, has been sold to the public as a bill that addressed a supposed inequity. Canadian cable companies must now pay five per cent 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 have to pay 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 they already practice 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 (Virtual Private Network). VPNs use encryption to limit participation to 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, depending on the terms and services selected. You have likely seen ads for VPNs on YouTube or other platforms, so they are readily available. Besides enhanced security, VPNs also effectively get around geofencing, which is simply a filter that streaming platforms set up to restrict non-local users from accessing their local content catalogues.
Your request to visit a website goes to the VPN first. The request is then forwarded to the website 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 website 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 also can’t implement other measures the Trudeau 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 U.S. 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 bother to look into VPNs. Undoubtedly, 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, ISPs).
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