Internet Surveillance and Boomerang Routing: A Call for Canadian Network Sovereignty

William Waites wwaites at
Tue Sep 10 17:51:21 UTC 2013

On Tue, 10 Sep 2013 10:27:15 -0700, Bill Woodcock <woody at> said:

    > or to make an ISP class license requirement that every service
    > provider network deliver traffic that has source and destination
    > addresses within a region, without passing the traffic across
    > the border of the region.  That's a technology-neutral way of
    > saying that if you have a customer in a region, and someone else
    > has a customer in the same region, you and they had better
    > figure out a way of delivering that traffic through peering or
    > local transit.

That's historically the way it was in Canada, although it was original
phrased in terms of the telegraph and persisted up until the
beginnings of the commercial Internet when the rule was
abolished. It's also the reason why, for example, the old
trans-atlantic cables went from the UK to Nova Scotia before New York
even though the bulk of the traffic was UK-US. Theoretically, traffic
within the empire was not supposed to cross a third border. I believe
the rationale behind this was to prevent eavesdropping.

I have a pet theory that this rule was one of the main reasons that
Canada has such a well developed telecommunications industry -- it was
forced by law to develop it indiginously rather than just dumping
telephone calls across the border into the 'states, which probably
would have made more economic sense. When the rule was abolished in
the early 1990s it wasn't clear if it should or should not apply to
Internet traffic but leaving the answer entirely to market forces
may have stunted the development of East-West capacity within Canada.

Is this a good or a bad thing? I can remember back when there was a
project in the 'states called Carnivore, and we had some American
police -- I believe they were FBI -- come up and ask us politely if
we'd like to put some of their machines on our network. Everybody
pretty much uniformly said no. Shortly thereafter an American carrier
showed up selling gigabit ethernet circuits to NYC for well below what
was the going rate at the time and effectively pulled a lot of traffic
that would otherwise have remained in country across the border. I've
been outside of North America for a while now so I don't know first
hand, but from the commentary on this list that trends appears to have

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