Canadian Presence Requirements vs. Canadian Content Requirements

During today's CRTC new media hearing, Chair Konrad von Finckenstein raised the prospect of identifying Canadian content by virtue of a dot-ca domain name.  This possibility has been discussed several times during these hearings, with the Commission apparently hoping that dot-ca domain name registrations can serve as a proxy for identifying Canadian content (and then prioritizing that content). 

This argument represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the dot-ca domain.  Registration of a dot-ca requires registrants to meet Canadian presence requirements, which can include nothing more than a Canadian trademark.  In other words, every major U.S. content provider with a Canadian trademark can register a dot-ca domain even though none of the content on their site need be Canadian.  Moreover, lots of Canadian content resides on dot-com domains.  CIRA has often marketed the dot-ca as the domain of choice for Canadians, but it is a very poor metric for identifying Canadian content.


  1. Ian Harvey says:

    Freelance Journalist
    You know what gets me about all this yakkety yak about Can Con on the Web is that writers like me are getting screwed. We produce content, Canadian content, for rates which haven’t changed much in 25 years and then are forced to sign over the digital rights usually for no extra compensation.

    In all the chatter I have yet to hear anyone talk about how the existing creators of Cancon are going to be paid. Sure,set up a fund! Great idea, but how are you going to ensure the real content creators get paid. (To be fair there are some good publishers who do pay extra for Web rights)

    And when Canadian newspapers and magazine start dying, like print media is in the US, where will the backbone of local content for Canadians about Canadians come from? Your local bloggers? How many blogs do you have to read to get the same balance, authoratative view of Canada, indeed the world, that you can by picking up and perusing a quality newspaper or new magazine?

    Somehow in this CRTC debate I think we’re missing the point. There’s a bigger crisis brewing here.

  2. As a former employee of a major registrar
    Let me tell you CIRA is absolutely horrible. If you thought Verisign was bad, try dealing with CIRA for a spell. Also, most people will opt for .com because:

    1) It’s much cheaper annually then a .ca domain
    2) Far far less bureaucracy is involved in both acquiring and keeping that name
    3) Dotcom is still the popular vernacular for web pages to the uninitiated.

    Canadian or not, those points above have a lot of influence.

  3. Anthony Marco says:
    A government or government agency’s protectionist attitudes on the web are, at best, misguided and, at worst, breaching on censorship. There is a reason it’s called the world wide web, and why the ubiquitous prefix “www” has become standard; the web will not be constrained without pushback to outright revolution.

    Cancon is an outdated notion in all media. In as much as I would love to see quality programming come from Canadian networks and independent television stations, they try to follow a US model that is borne on billions of advertising dollars. The CRTC is quite willing to have Canadian networks buy up US shows and make money off of Canadian advertising, while censoring viewers’ choices to watch US network feeds if they wish. As a web parallel, I know that even though I may get the default Canadian site on Google or Amazon when I go there, I have the choice of going to the US site if I wish. The CRTC and cable television providers have eliminated this option.

    I contribute to three regular blogs and two podcasts, none of which have a .ca domain, all of which are 100% Canadian. The prioritizing of content on the web happens quite effectively through internal measures. The CRTC should worry about one thing for all Canadians: free access to a free web for anyone that wants it. Stop getting whipped by CIRA and the RIAA. Stop the scare tactic cries of “child pornography” which as disgusting and illegal as it is, will not be curbed by allowing P2P throttling or “pushing” Canadian content on browsers.

    What’s next, all browsers in Canada will have a filter that force you to go to an equal amount of .ca sites as .com or you can no longer browse without watching an episode of Red Green replete with Tim Horton’s and McCain commercials while singing O Canada with a hockey stick in one hand and poutine in the other?

  4. Chris Williams says:

    Education not regulation
    The only way to ensure a Canadian voice is present on the world stage in the digital space is through education. If we as a nation teach our kids and emphasize to our workers the priority of digital expertise then and only then will we have and deserve a voice.

  5. That’s an absolutely useless method…
    When using to browse and the “pages from Canada” box checked, there’s only a fraction of the results that *are* actually Canadian or even pertain to Canada.

    If the web can fool Googles software (which is more advanced than ANYTHING our government would even consider), then the CRTC doesn’t have a hope.

    This appears to be an absolutely hopeless situation, with government really itchy to control the net or see it as a cash cow when they have not clue one what they are doing.

  6. Chris Jones says:

    While the .ca domain may be useful as a marketing tool to point out Canadian content, it’s not useful as a way to prioritize traffic: the internet (specifically DNS) simply isn’t built in a way to make that easy to do. In general, this is going to be impossible without doing some serious deep packet inspection (and even then, it’s only feasible for some content) which might raise some problems with wiretapping.

    To tell whether a communication is going to or from a “Canadian” site, in the general case, you’d need to look at the IP addresses involved and then figure out whether one of them happens to have a name within .ca that resolves to it. The problem is that any IP address can have an arbitrarily-large number of names which resolve to it — and there’s no way for you to find them (absent creating a list of all names in all subdomains of .ca and their corresponding IP addresses, which is technically infeasible if not outright impossible, and would at any rate be impossible); the closest you can get is to find the canonical reverse DNS lookup for it. Not only is this far too slow to implement to prioritize traffic on a packet-by-packet basis (reverse DNS lookups are slow and frequently fail), but this fails for a Canadian website which happens to be hosted on a machine whose name doesn’t end in .ca (e.g. hosted in the US, or with a company that prefers to use another domain for its servers).

    You can get around this a bit by looking into some kinds of traffic (unencrypted HTTP, unencrypted SMTP) and looking at the headers (Host: for HTTP, RCPT for SMTP), but now you’re in the position of taking a very close look at the traffic in order to figure out whether it’s going to a .ca domain.

    So: the Commission clearly doesn’t know the technology, and could use testimony from someone who has a clue about how it works. What they’re proposing is like asking phone companies to give a clearer line to people who mention the word “syzygy” in their conversations: in principle maybe possible, but practically not.

  7. Chris Jones says:

    “and would at any rate be impossible” should read “and would at any rate be impossible in practice”. My apologies.

  8. Didn’t like what I read.
    The only thing that bugs me in this thing is what Dr. Geist said here:

    “prioritizing that content”

    I’ve had it up to my eyeballs on how everyone wants to control everything.

    I don’t want my content tossed in a slow lane or fast lane.

    By the reply the Chair Konrad von Finckenstein gave, it seems the Canadian Neutrality debate is a done deal already.

    Throttled, DPI’d and now “prioritized”.

    If I want to watch EU content on an EU blog or elsewhere, I don’t want my packets slowed down so Celine Dion comes in faster.

    I pay a lot for my internet access.


    If they start “Prioritizing” does this mean latency (ping times) on WoW will increase because it will be tossed in the slow lane (and i’m not a WoW player, but I don’t like what I read).

    Does this mean Korean Canadians will be tossed aside from streaming content from their home country in their language?

    I don’t like what I just read… That’s all. Seems the CRTC already made a big decision.

    Anyone else catch this?

  9. Already Explained
    I have been reading through the transcripts. To hmmm: no, actually I get the opposite impression. On the point that Geist is trying to make: actually KvF continued to ask questions about this, and had it explained very concisely to him by Rogers and others. The thing about a court like process is that it actually does work when evidence gets heard.

    9710 MR. LEE: No.

    9711 Now, with respect to the .ca issue, whether or not .ca is a proxy for the traffic, I would put forth that there are probably two ways you could potentially look at the problem, and one is the .ca issue. I think that the challenge with .ca, as Ken said — the composition of the content within those sites is not necessarily specifically Canadian.

    9712 The second thing is that, based on the way we actually issued the .ca domain in Canada, there are a lot more people who actually use the .com domain than the .ca, because the Americans basically issued them like candy. You didn’t really have any real requirement to get a .com, so everybody initially drove .com.

    9713 So I am not sure that the .ca traffic is necessarily a good proxy for Canadian traffic.

    9714 Then, the other method that you might want to take a look at, which equally has problems, is the IP block issue. Clearly, to geocode content, you have to be able to identify a range of IPs that are Canadian versus American.

    9715 The challenge with that is that you have all of these CDN servers. Akamai and Limelight, which Astral referenced, actually have servers located in Canada distributing American content.

    9716 So the content that comes off Canadian addresses is not necessarily Canadian content. In fact, in our own business, we actually provide content from Yahoo! for our subscribers, and we actually did a deal with CBC. We actually ship the CBC content into the U.S. and then backhaul it from Washington, Virginia and New York.

    9717 So, actually, the CBC content coming into Rogers’ ISP customers is housed in U.S. servers from U.S. addresses.

    9718 Unfortunately, the way the network is built, it is really designed to be distributed quite widely, either for efficiency or cost or performance purposes, so there is no real good proxy for what is Canadian traffic versus non-Canadian traffic.

    9719 THE CHAIRPERSON: In summary, (a) you can’t measure it, and even if you could, it wouldn’t be accurate.

    9720 MR. LEE: That’s a good summary.

    9721 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. I appreciate that, because this idea has been floating around, and I have not —

    9722 I would appreciate it if you could outline your views in your further submission.

  10. George Smiley says:

    The problem with hearings like this is….
    that the people conducting the hearings have precious little knowledge of the realities of the internet – much like many commissioners at the Ontario Securities Commission have no real concept of technology and market practices when they rule on trading technologies.

    CTRC hearings need to be more like RFC standards discussions – only with expert testimony/counsel from smaller independents (not Bell/Rogers/Telus/Videotron, et. al) and these smaller independents/counsel should be paid by the CRTC for their efforts.