Initial cost estimates to implement the federal government's online
surveillance bill run into the tens of millions of dollars, and experts
say those costs will be passed on to Canadians by either the government,
or the companies forced to upgrade their technology to comply with the
Public Safety Canada is estimating it could cost $80 million over
four years for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Telecommunications
Service Providers (TSPs) to acquire the necessary hardware and software
to engage in the type of surveillance allowed for in Bill C-30. The
legislation is also known as the Protecting Children from Internet
The bill would require TSPs and ISPs to hand over basic information
about their clients at the request of law enforcement or spy agencies,
including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), without a
warrant. It would also allow that data to be duplicated without proper
A massive backlash erupted last week after Public Safety Minister Vic
Toews unveiled the bill, including a short-lived Twitter account that
dispensed salacious details from the public record of Toews's divorce.
Backers of the bill, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of
Police, say it will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to
prevent and solve crimes.
Critics of the bill say it allows agencies access to Canadians' private information without due process.
Tom Copeland, chair of the Canadian Association of Internet
Providers, says the initial costs to a small ISP such has himself will
run into the tens of thousands of dollars just to acquire the necessary
hardware and software.
But he said the costs could easily soar.
"That's part of the quandary we're in right now because we don't know
what level of simultaneous intercepts or simultaneous wiretaps we're
expected to be able to handle," Copeland told CTV's Power Play
"But at the initial stages we're guessing it's going to be in the
tens of thousands of dollars for a small ISP and upwards from there just
depending on the volume of intercepts you're supposed to be able to
Copeland said complying with the law "has to be cost neutral for us,
otherwise we have no choice but to pass that cost along to our clients."
He says that Canadians will either pay for the bill when their ISP
passes on the costs to their customers, or they will pay with their tax
In a "Myths and Facts" document posted to the Public Safety Canada
website, the agency says that equipment already in place when the
legislation comes into effect "is only required to maintain existing
However, the agency says the law is written with the understanding it
will be "more cost-effective to incorporate intercept capability at the
design stage than it is to include it in equipment already in use."
To that end, the law grants an 18-month grace period for companies to
get their technology up to speed with the law, and promises "reasonable
compensation" to TSPs in "instances where the RCMP or CSIS require them
to implement intercept capability that goes over and above the
It also allows for compensation "for the specialized
telecommunications support" they provide police and CSIS in performing
interceptions and providing basic subscriber information.
British Columbia blogger Christopher Parsons, an expert in online
surveillance bills in other jurisdictions, says the costs of the bill
could balloon well beyond initial estimates, and could have more
far-reaching implications than the public suspects.
According to Parsons, an online surveillance law enacted in 1994 in
the United States was initially projected to cost about $500 million.
Ten years later, industry estimates put the price tag at a minimum of
between $1.3 billion and $1.7 billion.
He said independent auditors in the U.S. have been unable to pin down
the law's exact costs, and he suspects "it's going to be incredibly
hard to evaluate what these costs will be for C-30 over the long term."
Parsons also points out that because CSIS is among the agencies that
can request information under the bill, the information could end up in
the U.S. if Canada signs a cross-border security deal with the United
"I think that what we're seeing with this legislation is law
enforcement's carrying a lot of water for other parties. This is an
intelligence and surveillance bill. So not just the RCMP, OPP and other
policing forces, they're not the only ones that get into this, it's also
CSIS," Parsons told Power Play.
"And so with a cross border deal, we don't know exactly what's
included in that, but we can expect broader cross-border data sharing
and that will be between intelligence bodies as well as regular policing