The Oliver Chronicle
Wednesday, April 1, 1998
page 1

Anti-racism groups push BC Tel to dump FTCnet

by Kathleen Connolly

Opponents of Bernard Klatt's FTC Internet provider are now callin on BC Tel to cancel his telephone service.

The Oliver man allows groups supporting white supremacy and NeoNazism to establish websites on his server. Klatt has come under fire in recent months for the business decision, and was the subject of a free speech rally held in Oliver March 21.

Now, B'nai Brith of Canada has called on BC Tel to stop "enabling" Klatt to spread hatred through the Internet. B'nai Brith vice-president David Matas and Alan Dutton of the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society met with BC Tel representatives Monday in Vancouver.

BC Tel spokesman Michelle Gagne said the meeting was "very straightforward".

"We were there to listen to B'nai Brith and look at the next step", said Gagne, adding she has asked Matas to provide more specific information regarding the questionable websites.

But Gagne said the telephone company is "two steps removed from the actual problem", noting Klatt provides the actual service to those who post the objectionable material. "He is using a pipeline of ours to get to the Internet but we don't offer service directly to (Klatt's) customers."

"We don't have the authority to disconnect a phone line based on our opinions", said Gagne, but added BC Tel will study its Internet server contracts and make sure Fairview Technology complies with the terms of the agreement.

Matas, a lawyer, has informed BC Tel that it does have the authority to deny service to Klatt.

"This is a private business, they are free to do business with whoever they want. The corner grocer doesn't have to stock pornography. This has nothing to do with free speech - it's a business decision."

Matas said there is plenty of established precedence of telephone companies restricting Internet access. He said Telus, an Alberta phone company, recently threatened to end access for a provider whose sites were being used by "Spammers" to litter e-mail addresses with junk mail.

"They were told they had 48 hours to get rid of the client or they would lose all connections. We're asking BC Tel to give an ultimatum to Fairview", he said. "Promoting hate speech is a far more harmful activity than spamming. Spamming, at its worst, leads to failure of the Intemet. Hate speech has lead to the murder of millions."

Matas noted legislation states telephone service cannot be denied as long as bills are paid and other conditions are met. However, he said no such legislation exists for Internet providers.

"It's just a commercial enterprise. "If, for whatever reason, you're hesitant to make a judgment on legality, surely there cannot be any disagreement that the use of the Internet to promote hatred is an abuse", Matas told BC Tel.

Klatt also provides Intemet access through the Oliver cable company. Company spokesman Ian McKay said OTV will provide access until Klatt asks to discontinue the service.

"We have an obligation to service anyone who asks", said McKay.

However, OTV asked Klatt to remove his telephone equipment from the local cable office when news of Klatt's clients first became public.

"He had equipment in our office, we asked him to vacate the premises."

But McKay said the cable company won't act as a "moral judge" and stressed that Klatt's clients "are not clients of ours".

"I guess we've wrestled with that question on more than one occasion... we can't be the moral judge of everyone in the country and deny them TV."

McKay said all Klatt needs to offer cable access is a business account with OTV and a modem.

In the meantime, the Oliver Chronicle has learned that Klatt's rural telephone service is not adequate to maintain an Internet provider business. Because FTCnet uses the 498 exchange, Klatt's equipment and telephone lines must be housed somewhere within the town of Oliver. A BC Tel representative said the phone lines must be housed in a local commercial or industrial business as residential lines are not sufficient to handle the caller load.


Copyright © 1998 by The Oliver Chronicle. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.