Internet services providers fight back over Quebec’s gambling law

The country’s major internet service providers, a Quebec First Nations and potentially the federal government are lining up against Quebec legislation.

Canada.- Canada’s major Internet service providers, a Quebec First Nations group and potentially the federal government are lining up against Quebec legislation that will lead to the blocking of gambling websites chosen by the government agency Loto-Québec.

Under Bill 74, the new law recently passed in Quebec’s National Assembly, Loto-Québec can force Vidéotron, Bell Canada, Cogeco Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and other ISPs to block the sites of the government agency’s competitors or face fines of up to CAD100,000 (US$ 76,280) per infraction. Loto-Québec launched its own online gambling service, Espacejeux, in 2010.

Quebec’s new legislation doesn’t specify how ISPs should block websites, but the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) says its membership, which includes Vidéotron, Rogers, Bell and Telus, opposes the legislation in part because they know it would require expensive new infrastructure.

“It’s extremely costly and challenging technically from a wireless standpoint,” said Kurt Eby, CWTA’s Director of Government Relations. “Our three largest members are national in scope and many others are multi-provincial. Their networks are designed as a complete network, so they don’t have the means to block content at a provincial level. Even for what this law is asking for to be feasible, it would cost millions of dollars and take months of engineering. The bill sets a precedent that we haven’t seen, with the government using ISPs to block competitors against its own interests. We’re talking about gambling today, but who knows what we’re talking about tomorrow.”