Cogeco, the fourth largest cable operator in Canada (and number two in Ontario and Quebec), warns the broadcast and telecommunications legislative panel about the dangers of unregulated video services such as Netflix to national sovereignty in its previously secret submission. Obtained under the Access to Information Act (much like the previously discussed Bell and Shaw submissions), the Cogeco submission opposes new digital consumer protections and net neutrality rules but strongly supports increased regulation for online video services.
The consumer side of the submission warns against regulation. For example, it states the following on net neutrality:
Net neutrality should not be defined and mandated in new federal legislation, as issues respecting net neutrality can and should continue to be supervised and regulated by the independent federal regulatory agency in accordance with evolving technical and market conditions.
It also warns against federal digital consumer protection rules:
Attempting to unilaterally implement in the new federal legislation a sector-specific layer of new rights or safeguards for ‘digital consumers’ would likely create more issues than it would solve due to increased complexity, confusion, conflicting requirements, jurisdictional issues and ensuing legal challenges.
While consumer protections are off-limits for Cogeco, it strongly supports regulating online video services such as Netflix. The submission argues against ISP taxes, noting the costs the network costs and the impact new fees would have on network access and affordability, but favours regulation of online video services. contributions apply to all. What is notable about the Cogeco submission is its attempt to frame Netflix regulation as a matter of safety for Canadians rather than simply a cultural issue:
This public policy imperative is not only driven by the need to ensure that Canadian content is available to Canadian consumers on all distribution platforms and that all players within the Canadian broadcasting system compete and support Canadian content funding on a level playing field, but also by the need to ensure that the Canadian broadcasting system does not become an unregulated conduit for content that undermines Canadian sovereignty, the safety and well-being of Canadian consumers, or the integrity of their democratic institutions.
The arguments regarding a level-playing field have always been far weaker than its proponents its acknowledge. The suggestion that Netflix puts the safety and well-being of Canadian consumers at risk is even weaker.