Monday, December 8, 2008

CRTC to consider Internet regulation

‘The commission should resist the temptation to try and fix what is not broken,’ Google says in its submission

Vancouver Sun: 2008 December 8

TORONTO — Google Inc. says ensuring that new media content in Canada remains unregulated is essential to keeping the Internet “awesome.”

The online search giant’s enthusiastic opinion is part of one of almost 100 submissions to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission about upcoming hearings on whether Canadian new media, basically any content carried over the Internet, should be regulated in Canada.

I n October, the CRTC announced it would solicit comments from the public towards a hearing scheduled for February into the impact new media has had on the Canadian broadcasting system and whether steps should be taken to regulate it. Final submissions to the federal regulator were due Friday.

The hearings will take into account the rapid changes since the CRTC issued an exemption order for new media broadcasting undertakings in 1999 and whether those policies need to be revised.

“The commission should resist the temptation to try to fix what is not broken,” Google said. “ Without regulation the Canadian broadcasting policy objectives have been, and will continue to be, implemented on the Internet. The New Media Exemption is the best regulatory approach to keeping the Internet awesome.”

Google said it had decided to contribute to the policy debate because it provides free access and several platforms for accessing Canadian content on the Internet, including YouTube and its localized search service.

The company joins a large chorus of other industry heavyweights, including ACTRA, the Canadian Recording Industry Association, CTVglobemedia Inc. and even the National Hockey League in determining the role new media now plays in the broadcasting world.

The majority of submissions appear to back Google’s stance on a non-regulated environment. But some are less sanguine. A potential tax suggested in preliminary discussions with the federal regulator of between some 2.5 per cent to five per cent of gross revenues to be levied on Internet service providers that would go to broadcasters was met with widespread opposition by industry players.

“We believe that adopting the proposed ISP tax would be contrary to the best interests of Canada,” a consortium of ISP companies including BCE Inc., Rogers Communications Inc., SaskTel and Telus Corp said in a submission.

“It would harm Canada’s Internet industry while failing to effectively promote the success of Canadian new media content.”

However, media consultant Alan Sawyer argued the CRTC should find a way to update the funding models between new media and televised content to ensure all Canadian content can be broadcast fairly while addressing an ever-changing audience.

“We need to recognize that going forward it is vital to fund content across all platforms and not limit our funding to programming that is at least in part carried by licensed broadcasters over licensed distribution mechanisms,” Sawyer said in his submission.