Yesterday, Verizon and Google announced a joint policy proposal for an open Internet, suggesting that

there should be a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices. This means that for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition.

Taken alone, this seems like a boon for net neutrality. But, Google and Verizon continue:

we both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless

So, Matthew Lasar at Ars says, “Wireless network operators can discriminate and prioritize to their heart’s content.”

This news is particularly interesting for Canadians, because it comes at a time when the CRTC is actively soliciting comments as part of its open consultation on basic service. Among the questions that the CRTC poses:

Do you think that wireless services (e.g. Wi-Fi, 3G networks or satellite) can be substitutes for landline services to connect to the Internet? Explain why or why not.

Given than in the US, under Google-Verizon’s proposal, wireless internet providers would be exempt from net neutrality principles, this could set the stage for a tiered internet system in Canada. I suspect this question is particularly relevant for underserved rural Canadians. According to recent numbers, 1 in 5 rural Canadian homes does not have access to broadband internet service. Based on its questions, the CRTC seems to be considering wireless technology as a possible way to ensure broadband to all Canadians.

In addition, the CRTC asks the following internet-related questions:

  • For what activities do you use or expect to use your Internet service?
  • what role, if any, should the CRTC play in ensuring that all Canadians have access to broadband Internet service?

This week, my CBC Radio tech column is all about the CRTC’s open consultation. It airs Tuesday on afternoon shows across the country. The consultation runs until August 20 (not August 10, as the FAQ indicates), and you can particpate at o2s.publivate.ca.