CYNTHIA KHOO IS A PUBLIC INTEREST LAWYER WHO WORKS AT THE INTERSECTION OF LAW, INTERNET POLICY, AND DIGITAL RIGHTS.
You love the Internet and want to create change. I can help.
I’ve dedicated my legal career to digital rights and making an impact at the intersection of Internet law and policy, human rights, and civil liberties. This has meant my practice is interdisciplinary and cuts across (tele)communications, privacy, intellectual property, copyright, technology, and human rights law. Much of my work involves legal and policy reform in addition to practicing law, so I spend as much time thinking about what our laws could or should be, as I do about what they currently are and how we can use them to solve problems unique to the digital age.
I have extensive experience representing clients in proceedings before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and acted for an intervener before the Supreme Court of Canada. I regularly research and write policy submissions to government consultations and advise on legal, policy, advocacy, and campaign strategies. I also speak at conferences or other events, deliver presentations, meet with politicians and government officials on behalf of clients, and interview with print and broadcast media.
I am called to the Bar of Ontario and a member of the Law Society of Ontario (formerly Law Society of Upper Canada), with a JD from the University of Victoria and BA (Honours English, with Co-op) from the University of British Columbia. This included exchange semesters at Université Jean-Moulin Lyon III and the National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law (NUS Law).
I serve on the Board of Directors of Open Privacy, am currently completing a technology law internship at the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), and completed the Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute (2017) at Oxford University.
My job is to help you advance your cause, achieve impact on an issue you care about, or otherwise bring the world even slightly closer to your vision for it. If you have questions or would like to connect, then get in touch! I look forward to seeing what we can make happen.
[NOTICE: As of September 2018, I am enrolled full-time as an LL.M. Candidate (Concentration in Law and Technology) at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. I am also engaged as a Research Fellow at the Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary Internet and civil rights research laboratory located within the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.]
Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc. (Supreme Court of Canada): I represented an intervener as co-counsel and agent in this case, involving Google being ordered to globally de-index all links to the defendant’s websites around the world.
We argued that the Court should develop and apply a legal test for online content takedown, that respected freedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and tried to establish that the Internet is a protected medium of communications. (My observations from the hearing here.)
TELUS Communications Inc. v. Avraham Wellman (Supreme Court of Canada): I represented an intervener as junior counsel and appeared at hearing as second chair, in a case about whether or not mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts of adhesion should apply to small businesses in Ontario.
We argued that in context of the radical marketplace shifts resulting from a digitized society, many small businesses such as sole proprietors, freelancers, “prosumers“, and gig economy workers effectively operate with a similar lack of commercial and legal sophistication as average consumers, and thus should be similarly protected in disputes with much larger corporations. (Twitter summary here.)
(TELECOMMUNICATIONS LAW AND POLICY)
I have been involved in nearly every major telecommunications proceeding implicating the public interest, before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, during the past four years. This includes the following in particular:
Proceeding: Examination of differential pricing practices related to Internet data plans (Telecom Notice of Consultation 2016-192)
The Story: “The net neutrality /zero-rating one.” Bell Mobility favoured its own mobile video app by not charging for data to use it (vs. charging for data to watch Netflix)–a.k.a. zero-rating. The CRTC said this violated net neutrality. Videotron zero-rated music from certain commercial music streaming apps. The CRTC launched a general proceeding on the legitimacy of zero-rating in Canadian telecommunications law. Client’s goal: ensure the CRTC upheld net neutrality and banned discriminatory zero-rating practices as illegal. (Spoiler: we won.)
Key Issues: net neutrality, zero-rating, Internet competition and choice, innovation
Proceeding: Review of basic telecommunications services (Telecom Notice of Consultation 2015-134)
The Story: Plain old telephone is legally considered a basic telecommunications service in Canada. Broadband Internet access should be a basic service, too. (The CRTC agreed.)
Key Issues: broadband Internet, basic service, universal service objective, universal access, broadband affordability, Internet affordability
Proceeding: Development of the Commission’s broadband funding regime (Telecom Notice of Consultation 2017-112)
The Story: The CRTC had to decide how to allocate $750 million to roll out new broadband networks across Canada. My client’s goal was to ensure this public funding went towards community, non-profit, Indigenous, and municipal broadband initiatives–and not to large, commercial Internet service providers who already ruled the market.
Key Issues: broadband Internet affordability, community broadband, rural broadband, broadband competition and choice
Proceeding: Reconsideration of Telecom Decision 2017-56 regarding final terms and conditions for wholesale mobile wireless roaming service (Telecom Notice of Consultation 2017-259)
The Story: Sugar Mobile sold ultra-cheap mobile phone and data plans using a workaround in Ice Wireless’s roaming agreement with Rogers. The CRTC said this wasn’t allowed. The federal Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development returned the decision to CRTC and told them to reconsider. Client’s goal: persuade CRTC to order national carriers to open up mobile wireless networks to independent competition.
Key Issues: mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), WiFi-first MVNOs, mobile wireless competition, mobile wireless affordability
Proceeding: Review of wholesale services and associated policies (Telecom Notice of Consultation 2015-551)
The Story: Fibre is the future of the Internet–not DSL, copper, or non-hybrid coaxial cables. Canada’s largest Internet service providers had a legacy head start on fibre networks and could price out the competition from independent ISPs for good, unless the CRTC ordered them to provide wholesale access to fibre (FTTP) networks on fair terms. Fortunately, the CRTC did (kind of).
Key Issues: FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) broadband Internet, Internet access competition and choice, independent service providers, wholesale service policies
Proceeding: Review of the Wireless Code (Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2016-293)
The Story: The Wireless Code provides consumer protection in buying cell phones and mobile wireless plans. The CRTC created it in 2013 and launched this proceeding to evaluate its performance. Client’s goal: update the Wireless Code to close demonstrated loopholes, strengthen consumers’ rights, and ensure effective enforcement.
Key Issues: consumer protection, mobile wireless competition, mobile wireless sales practices, device unlocking, data caps, contract terms, consumer rights, innovation
CONSULTATION SUBMISSIONS AND BRIEFS
In addition to representing clients in formal legal proceedings, I have written briefs and submissions to various government consultations and parliamentary committees on a range of issues, including digital trade, privacy, intellectual property and copyright reform, Internet affordability, and the importance of public interest advocacy:
Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade:
Priorities of Canadian Stakeholders Having an Interest in Bilateral and Trilateral Trade in North America, Between Canada, United States and Mexico, specifically regarding
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), copyright, and digital trade (more information)
Submission to Canadian Heritage consultation:
Canadian Content in a Digital World (more information)
Submission to Standing Committee on Alberta´s Economic Future:
Review of the Personal Information Protection Act (more information)
Submission to the Federal Court of Appeal and Federal Court Rules Committee:
Review of the Rule on Costs (more information)
Submission to Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (Industry Canada):
Bell Canada’s Petition to the Governor in Council to Vary Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-326, Review of wholesale wireline services and associated policies (more information)
“‘To Be’ Is A Verb: Rewriting Law Through Embodied Reform“
Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues: Digital Companion, 2014.
“The Sum of All Attention” (page 11)
The Monitor, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (Sept/Oct 2018)
“The revolution will not be automated”
Asserting a place for labour within the technosocial gestalt
The Monitor, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (July/August 2018)
“Crafting Internet policy with nuance, not kneejerks”
How can we revisit the idea of ‘Internet exceptionalism’ when crafting policies and laws, without sacrificing what made the Internet exceptional?
Policy Options, Institute for Research on Public Policy (May 2018)
“The Ghost Investor“
The Monitor, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (March/April 2018)
“Dramatis Principiis” (page 31)
The Monitor, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (January/February 2018)
“Google v. Equustek at the Supreme Court of Canada: Dispatch from the hearing,”
Rabble.ca (January 2017)
“Hope Springs Municipal: How small towns are driving Canada’s digital future“
The Monitor, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (March 2015)
Writing for IPilogue at IPOsgoode:
- When the Internet Has a Party, Everyone’s Invited: IP Law Issues at the Internet Governance Forum 2013
- Bowman v. Monsanto and Patent Exhaustion: To Be, or Ought to Be?
- Mining the Digital Gold Rush: The Legal (L)ore around France’s Data-Mining Tax
- Bonsai This Is Not: ICANN and the Internet Governance Landscape
- Sunny with a Chance of Chill: Forecasting EU’s New Cloud Computing Strategy
SELECTED MEDIA APPEARANCES
Maclean’s (September 26, 2018)
What happens when artificial intelligence comes to Ottawa
Canadian Lawyer (September 26, 2018)
Report says use of AI could be violating human rights
Toronto Star (September 26, 2018)
Researchers raise alarm over use of artificial intelligence in immigration and refugee decision-making
Podcast: Beyond the Headlines (April 20, 2018)
Net Neutrality in the Canadian Context
Business Insider (April 7, 2018)
“Facebook’s plan to let users ‘unsend’ messages could boost harassment and bullying, experts warn”
Yahoo Canada News (November 27, 2017)
“What Canadians need to know about net neutrality”
MobileSyrup (November 29, 2017)
“Here’s everything you need to know about Canada’s unlocking fee ban”
Tiffany Sostar (November 12, 2017)
“Digital Self-Care: An Interview with Cynthia Khoo”
Law Times (June 12, 2017)
“Focus: U.S.and Canada diverge on net neutrality”
TRT World (May 18, 2017)
“The Newsmakers: Net Neutrality”
IT World Canada (April 24, 2017)
“Could CRTC ruling against zero-rating be a boon for ISPs and businesses?”
Via Satellite (January 18, 2017)
“Canada on Path to Provide High Speed Internet to All”
Forbes (October 17, 2014)
“Secrecy-Shrouded TPP Leaks Alarm Internet Freedom Advocates”
Redeye, Vancouver Co-op Radio, CFRO 100.5FM (July 26, 2014)
“Free Access To Online Information Under Threat From TPP”
RightsCon Toronto (May 2018)
- Trickle-Down Progress: Messaging Traps in Strategic Campaigning (Moderated Roundtable: Session Notes)
- Can trade agreements such as CPTPP, NAFTA, and RCEP be used as a tool for advancing digital rights? (Panelist: Copyright & the Public Domain: Slide Deck)
- Policing the Internet, or Promoting Digital Rights: World Intermediary Liability Developments 2018 (Panelist)
BEA2018: Annual Convention of Broadcast Education Association (April 7, 2018)
RightsCon Brussels (May 2017)
- Making Facebook Pay (for the News) (lightning talk)
- Choosing Your Battle (Terrain): Digital Rights Advocacy and Capturing the Grounds of Debate (workshop)
- The Digital is the Political: Anti-Oppression Resistance and an Introduction to Migrant Rights for Digital Advocates (roundtable)
- Net Neutrality Planet: What’s Next in the Global Fight for an Open Internet (panel)
Future of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Broadcasting (June 16, 2017)
- CRTC Interventions 101: A Nuts-and-Bolts Workshop on All the Logistical Details You Never Wanted (But Need) to Know (slide deck)
Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute (July 2017)
- Loss in the Time of Convergence: A Tale of Media Woes and Internet Foes (Or: How to Save News Media without Breaking the Internet)
- AI and Decision-Making: Basics, policy, application, and GoC perspectives (Ottawa Law & Technology Meetup, Shopify, November 1, 2018)
- Convergence, Competition and Common Carriage in the Review of the Telecommunications Act and Broadcasting Act (Panel for Media Industries and Network Society course by Dr. Dwayne Winseck at Carleton University, October 4, 2018)
- Shooting the Messenger? Intermediary Liability & Harmful Online Speech (McGill University Faculty of Law, March 14, 2018)
- Canadian International Law Students Conference 2018: International Cyber Law Panel (Osgoode Hall Law School and University of Toronto Faculty of Law, March 9, 2018)
You have likely landed here for a reason, so let’s talk! Feel free to email or fill out the contact form below, and I look forward to hearing from you.
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