The Internet and the CRTC

This is what the country really needs; the CRTC controlling the Internet in Canada.

If that happens, you can be sure that costs will go up to users with no apparent additional benefits. The thrust of many of the proponents for more control seems to be how to gain a financial benefit from the Internet while continuing business as usual. Read: Having the internet subsidize them.

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.

The CRTC decided in 1999 to keep their hands off the Internet, but now with pressure coming from arts groups and other organizations feeling the competition they have decided to take another look at it.

In an interview with Montreal newspaper La Presse, Michel Arpin said the CRTC, which in 1999 decided it would not regulate the Internet, has since changed its tune. He says the federal regulator is studying the issue and plans to hold public hearings about the Internet at the end of 2008.

“The door is not closed on regulating [the Internet],” Arpin told the French-language paper, in an article that appeared on Wednesday. In 1999, he added, “there was nothing to regulate.”

Arpin made the comments in the wake of a Monday press conference in which 18 unions and associations, mainly from Quebec, criticized the CRTC’s handling of social and cultural matters.

The group — which includes film, TV and music lobby groups such as the Union des artistes, the AQTIS, the APFTQ, ACTRA and music industry group ADISQ — says cultural stakeholders in the province are worried about the apparent deregulation agenda of the CRTC and its head von Finckenstein. It is calling on Heritage Minister Josée Verner to put pressure on the CRTC to enforce the cultural and social objectives of the Broadcasting Act more rigorously. It also called on the feds to be more involved in the Internet.

But when push comes to shove it really all come down to money.

ACTRA president Richard Hardacre concurs. “This is not an attack on the CRTC. I think the CRTC has a real handful to deal with… We just want the minister to pay attention, to not permit this drift towards deregulation,” he says.

Hardacre is concerned, however, that the CRTC isn’t going to hold public hearings on regulating the Internet until the end of 2008. “There is no point closing the barn doors after the horse has already got out,” he says. “The Internet is expanding exponentially. Ad revenue is going up 30% annually online. It’s generating big money.”

Regardless, having the CRTC screwing around with the Internet does not bode well for users.

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