Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry today promoted the government’s plans for wireless affordability. The effort was largely an attempt to reiterate its wireless affordability platform, which targeted a 25 per cent reduction in consumer wireless bills by emphasizing more competition through MVNOs and spectrum set-asides. The renewed emphasis on the policy comes as an updated Wall Report finds that prices have been declining in some baskets (the long-overdue emergence of unlimited-ish plans a key factor), but not in the core middle tier of plans where prices remain high. The government states “Canadians have been paying more overall compared to consumers in other G7 countries and Australia” and noted that the government will track pricing on a quarterly basis starting from January 2020. Coming on the heels of threats from incumbent telecom companies such as Telus, it was good for the government to re-assert its policy objectives for the sector.
Bains’ Other Wireless Affordability Problem: The Broadcast Panel Plan for WhatsApp, Skype and Other Internet Services to Pay Canadian Broadband Taxes
A CRTC Without the West: Why an MP Is Calling a Broadcast Panel Recommendation “Discriminatory” and Warning it Could Further Alienate Western Canada
The Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report calls for a massive overhaul of Canadian communications law including significant changes to the CRTC that even include a name change to the Canadian Communications Commission. Yet more significant – and seemingly more controversial – is a change to the requirements for commissioners. The current CRTC Act provides for the creation of regional commissioners, who must reside in their region with the expectation that they are better positioned to raise regional concerns. The panel recommends dropping regional commissioners altogether, requiring instead that all commissioners reside in the Ottawa/Gatineau region:
Ontario’s Record Breaking, Multi-Billion Dollar Film Production Year: “A Healthy Balance Between Domestic and Foreign Production”
The Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report justifies its call for a massive overhaul of Canadian communications law – with increased consumer costs, violation of net neutrality, CRTC intervention into discoverability, and USMCA violations – due in large measure to concerns about support for the creation of Canadian content. I previously blogged about how the panel did not disclose – in either its report or subsequent comments – results of benchmarking research on the Canadian television production sector it commissioned from Nordicity. That report reveals that Canada ranks first among peer countries with respect to television production per capita, domestic television production (ie. Cancon or equivalent domestic production) per capita, hours of television production, and employment.
Last week, Ontario Creates, the Government of Ontario’s agency for cultural creation, released new data that reinforced how the panel’s claims regarding the state of Canadian film and television production are not supported by industry data. Ontario Creates touted a “record breaking year” for Ontario’s film and television production sector, citing more than $2 billion in production spending for 343 productions. Of the $2.1 billion, there was a near-even split between domestic and foreign production: $1.1 billion in foreign production and $1 billion on domestic productions.
The CUSMA Cost: My Appearances Before the Standing Committees on International Trade and Industry, Science and Technology
Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to appear before two House of Commons committees – International Trade and Industry, Science and Technology – to discuss the digital law and policy implications of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement. My opening remarks were nearly identical and focused on four issues: copyright term extension, the cultural exemption, privacy and data protection, and Internet platform liability. The Standing Committee on International Trade yesterday released its report on Bill C-4, the bill implementing CUSMA, with no changes, meaning that lobbying pressure to immediately extend the term of copyright was rejected.
Earlier this week, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology began hearings on Bill C-4, the bill designed to implement the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement. I appeared before the committee to discuss digital issues (more on the appearance in an upcoming post), but just prior to my panel, the team of lead negotiators from Global Affairs took questions from Members of Parliament.
The questioning opened with a stunning exchange between Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner and chief negotiator Steve Verheul on the privacy analysis (or lack thereof) conducted by Canadian officials: