Corus Calls For Net Neutrality Task Force

As I wrote earlier this week, the deadline for submissions for the CRTC's Diversity of Voices proceeding closed on Wednesday.  There is a lot to review – samples of submissions from hundreds of Canadians, competing consultants reports (CFTPA hired Nordicity, Canwest hired Communic@tions Management), some calls for regulation of new media content (ACTRA, Socan), and opposing claims about whether the CRTC should encourage or discourage greater media concentration.

My column focused on the net neutrality issues associated with new media and the diversity of voices and I think it is noteworthy that several submissions raised similar concerns.  Corus, which is one of Canada's most successful media and entertainment companies, immediately became one of the highest profile Canadian companies to express concern about net neutrality, stating:

Canadian creators and producers need to ensure that they can continue to have access to the networked bit stream on the basis of equitable rules.  The CRTC should examine its potential role in governing net neutrality to ensure that access remains open to Canadian services on new digital distribution platforms.  Corus recommends the establishment of an Industry Task Force on net neutrality.

The Corus concerns were echoed by Pelmorex, which owns the Weather Network, which ranks among the most popular Canadian websites.   After arguing for the promotion of a Canadian presence on mobile and Internet platforms, the company warns:

However, the same cannot be said for cross ownership of new media undertakings by distributing undertakings, whether licensed, exempt, or unlicensed. In these situations, a more careful approach must be taken to ensure that undue preferential treatment is not given to distributor-owned content or that the gatekeeping activities by the distributor are not permitted to influence accessibility and ultimately the diversity of Canadian voices available to the public.

The Canadian Media Guild offers up the strongest endorsement of net neutrality among the submissions.   One of its core recommendations is for a net neutrality guarantee, noting the potential for a company such as Rogers to unfairly advantage its own content.  To address the issue, the CMG urges the CRTC to:

Guarantee "net neutrality" by establishing a rule prohibiting Internet service providers from controlling clients' access to websites for commercial gain.

While I'm not sure that covers all the concerns associated with net neutrality, the interest from at least three major players in the Diversity hearings suggests that the issue will likely resurface at the hearings in September.

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