Internet Service Provider: Gatekeeper to the Internet?

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Last week I blogged about the three strikes approach that some countries are looking at and that may be a part of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Trade Agreement (ACTA). While that post focused on some of the potential issues around taking such an approach in the context of the ACTA, it also brings to light a trend I think we’re starting to see – the Internet Service Provider (ISP) as gatekeeper to the Internet.

In last week’s post, I talked about the trend of suspected illegal file-sharers being met with a graduated response from their ISP, possibly leading to the ISP suspending their access to the Internet for a period of time. This is a very controversial approach for many reasons, not the least of which is that it can place the ISP in position of being in a dispute with customer.

This issue isn’t confined to the ACTA. The Australian federal government has recently given ISPs the authority to boot people off the Internet if their computers are suspected of being infected with malicious software that sends spam or attacks other computers.

Let me be perfectly clear: I believe that illegal activity on the Internet must be stopped, be it illegal downloading of music or movies, unlicensed online pharmaceutical trade, or child pornography. I also believe that steps need to be taken to control spam (a topic I will blog about soon) and malware. However, I do not think it is in the best interests of Canadians to have ISPs making the decisions about who gets access to the Internet, and who doesn’t.  I’m also sure there are many ISPs who are less than enthusiastic about being placed in a position of conflict with their customers.

What do you think? Should ISPs have the authority to boot people off the Internet?

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  • Michael Stewart

    Doesn’t this point to the need for some kind of Internet Access Ombudsman or 3rd party appeal process? I may be showing my ignorance here but is there such a thing in Canada (or anywhere for that matter)?

    I think bad traffic patterns damage access to the network no matter the cause. If the ISP is in a position to monitor and prevent that traffic from causing a problem at large it makes sense to me that they have the right to inhibit/cut-off access until the problem is managed. Just a on the power grid any power station that becomes aware of a problem has the right to protect the larger power grid by cutting off the source of the problem (despite the fact that that then cuts off legititmate customers from power as well).