Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shhh . . . Big Brother Is Surfing

We Canadians live in a very protective culture. Beer, wine and liquor sales are highly regulated and controlled across most of the country – the exception being Quebec where you can get a six-pack in many milk shops and gas bars. We have the safest food inspection system in the world, an internationally renowned health care system, and one of the best democracies.

So government regulation isn’t all that bad.

Though some things were just meant to be untamed, wild and free. Like the Internet – that unabashed electronic super highway of every useful and useless fact.

But last week, the Canadian government announced it was going to try to regulate the last of the unregulated media – yeppers – the Internet.

The Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) which licenses and regulates all television and radio broadcasts, figures we need more Canadian content on the Internet.

More Canadian content – more “cancon?”

Cancon is the term used by many night owls, that happen to be listening to their favourite tunes on a Canadian radio station, only to be disturbed by the sudden change from what they like, to what the government has ordered the station to play. You can catch the most rockin’ tunes of Gordon Lightfoot, Ann Murray, and Rita McNeil on after-hours radio, usually about two in the morning or later.

Granted, we do have more Canadian-grown acts over the years, like the Bare Naked Ladies and Shania Twain.

Television is the same, though the major broadcasters aren’t too bad at creating some of that much needed “cancon” to fill the void. Though they did cancel the Canadian version of American Idol. Must have been the “American” part?

Getting back to the net, Canadian content – hello?

According to many studies, Canada is one of the most wired nations on the planet – one recent study even says that over 95-percent of Canadian households have high-speed broadband Internet. There’s lots of Canadian content online – you can find just about anything and everything online, be it here in Canada, or someplace else – it’s there in cyberspace.

And isn’t that the whole point of the Internet – to be an INTERnationalNETwork?

The international network of networks, formerly the World-Wide-Web (www), actually was started by two somewhat opposing forces. On one side, were the American academics, which wanted a quick, cheap and effective way of sharing knowledge. On the other, was the American military, which wanted to have an uninterruptable communications system, in the event of a global catastrophe, like a nuclear war.

The academics worked with the military, and created the Internet – a system of cheap, and effective communications, run by every computer on it, so that it would be virtually impossible to disrupt.

Though the academics won out in terms of use of the net – instead of it being reserved for private military matters, the technology was shared, and now kids right out of the womb, are downloading videos of Elmo.

Governments and big businesses have both tried to lay claim to running the net. Some companies that will remain nameless – Microsoft shhh – wanted to make the net a Windows-proprietary-run system, so that you could only access it if you were using an MS-Windows-based machine. When Sun Microsystems released JAVA, an open-source language, which runs on any operating system, Microsoft was the first to pounce, restricting their web-browsers access to it. That tactic didn’t work, as JAVA and now it’s more powerful Adobe cousin – Flash dominates the web.

China’s government controls access to the net over there – but to the extreme that it really just isn’t the same. China will actually ban certain Internet Prototcol (IP) addresses, domain names, and other identifiers, so that no one will ever see them. They even banned the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) coverage of the Olympics this past summer!

I don’t know what the federal government employee was drinking, when he came up with the bone-headed idea to try to add more Canadian content to the Internet. But I do know he or she will have to get the rest of the country quite drunk before any control over the net is accepted.

Unless our federal government takes on the same Communistic measures that the Chinese government has, any attempts at regulating it will fail. And if our democratically elected government does that – then they certainly won’t be democratically elected to office ever again. Unless of course, that’s the next step – goodbye democracy, hello dictatorship?

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