B.C.'s major phone company, Telus, and its main union have been locked in fruitless contract negotiations for years, and last week that came to a head: the employees were in a strike position, and are now locked out. I'm not fond of the positions that either side has taken, but Telus lost much of any respect I held for them by blocking its Internet customers from viewing a specific website that strongly supports the union. (The company may also be cutting off employees' Internet access, but I can't verify that.)
Here's my problem with the site blocking:
- Blocking websites is not what ISPs are supposed to do—if something is illegal or dangerous (which it doesn't look like this is), they need a court injunction or other legal remedy to remove offending content. Why is the company blocking this site, and not those that provide information on blowing stuff up, for instance?
The precise argument ISPs have made (to avoid being held liable for file sharing and illegal activities taking place over their networks) is that they are "common carriers," and not responsible for the content they transmit. Telus can't have it both ways. What other sites might the company prevent me from seeing? With this precedent, what would stop government or a lawsuit from making Telus block sites in the future? Will the company prevent union members from phoning one another too?
- This only affects Telus customers (like me!), who may not be able to see the site at home, but who can easily access it through any other Internet service. So any argument that it protects people is bogus.
- The Internet has (inevitably) routed around the problem by setting up a mirror site, so the block doesn't even work except as a bad PR move for Telus.
So go visit vfc.proxy.pfak.org or www.voices-for-change.com, whichever works for you. And if you're a Telus customer, phone or Internet, then consider dumping Telus and switching carriers. After more than 20 years, I'm thinking about it.