Regarding CRTC’s opinion that Quebec cannot block access to gambling sites

Back in 2015, I wrote a commentary for the Montreal Gazette about Quebec’s consideration of a proposal to block its citizens from accessing out-of-province gambling websites.

While Domain Name System (DNS) blocking is not uncommon, it raises several concerns. Blocking access to a website doesn’t take the “offending” content off-line, nor does it prevent anyone from accessing that content (a quick search will turn up hundreds of services to avoid DNS blocking).

In my commentary for the Gazette, I wrote that practices like DNS blocking are a step toward fragmenting the Internet.

What the Quebec government is proposing is to block the resolution of particular domain names, those that host gambling sites not run by Loto-Québec. Many DNS experts believe that modifying the operation of the DNS through practices like DNS blocking could have long-term negative impacts on the stability, security and reliability of the Internet…

… I encourage the Quebec government to not punish the Internet for the actions of a few people. The consequences of engaging in DNS blocking are not worth the gains it expects to see, especially in terms of the security vulnerabilities users may face.

Fast-forwarding to just this past week, a preliminary opinion from the CRTC stated that Quebec cannot force Internet companies to block access to certain websites without the approval of the CRTC. In the Huffington Post article, it goes on to say that in a letter from the secretary general Danielle May-Cuconato, federal telecom law states only the CRTC can legally order websites be blocked, and only in exceptional circumstances.

The Internet is an open space for publishing and reading content, and we should work towards keeping it that way – and not just for Canadians, but for all global citizens. It’s good to see that the CRTC seems to be aligning itself with this point of view. If Quebec is granted the ability to block access to certain sites, it would set precedent for a shifting control of filtering the Internet.

Now, the opinion that was made public last week was only preliminary – and in the letter, the CRTC gave 15 days to respond. I hope the Quebec government comes to the realization that if they are successful in what they’re asking for, it is a step towards fragmenting the Internet, the very thing that has been connecting us all.