Report: ‘Lawful Access’ Laws Threaten Canadian ISPs

Nov 23, 2011 7:00 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — The shifting Internet playing field is creating a variety of issues for operators in all arenas, including small web hosts that could be priced into extinction.

One such example comes from Canada, where reports indicate that among other factors, costs associated with implementing proposed Internet surveillance laws could harm and potentially bankrupt smaller Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

According to The Huffington Post, three pieces of legislation that are now pending before Canada’s Parliament would vastly expand law enforcement’s legal ability to collect various forms of intelligence online; such as compelling ISPs to reveal subscriber information, including names, email addresses and phone numbers, without a warrant.

It is a provision requiring ISPs to install real time network monitoring equipment that will allow law enforcement to monitor a suspect’s Internet access and communications as they happen, however, that is worrying the Canadian Network Operators’ Consortium —  a trade body representing more than two dozen ISPs.

Many CNOC members are small to mid-size ISPs with limited financial resources.

“The degree of network monitoring and surveillance they’re asking for is alarming in terms of its costs,” CNOC President Bill Sandiford, who also serves as president of ISP Telnet, stated. “If [some of these] small ISPs need to spend $1 million to be compliant … that could mean the end of them.”

“We’ve co-operated with law enforcement many, many times over the years,” Sandiford stated, adding, “Who’s going to compensate us for this?”

A revised version of the proposals is expected to be introduced later this year.

“The legislation has been condemned by many digital rights activists — as well as provincial and federal privacy commissioners — as a potentially dangerous expansion of police power,” Daniel Tencer wrote for The Huffington Post, “and as the thin end of the wedge to an unaccountable surveillance state.”

Regardless of the final outcome of this legislation or any impact it may have on ISPs, it stands as another example of the global uptick in legislation aimed at monitoring and controlling how people use the Internet; as well as an example of the growing barriers to entry and operation presented by this maturing marketplace.

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