Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez created an Expert Advisory Group on Online Safety earlier this year to help craft a potential legislative and policy response to online safety and harms issues. The panel recently concluded its work and though the media focused on a failure to achieve absolute consensus from a group that by design had different views, the reality is that common ground was found on several key issues. Emily Laidlaw, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity Law at the University of Calgary, served as co-chair of the expert group. She joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about how the panel functioned, where it found consensus, areas of disagreement, and what could come next for one of the thorniest Internet policy issues.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 135: Co-Chair Emily Laidlaw on the Work of the Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Online Safety
Bill C-11, the government’s online streaming legislation, has caught the attention of the U.S. government, which raised it as a concern during a recent meeting between U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Canadian Minister of International Trade Mary Ng. The issue is cited in the U.S. readout of the meeting, though the Canadian readout of the same meeting notably excludes any reference to the issue. The readout specifically states that “Ambassador Tai expressed concern about Canada’s proposed digital service tax and pending legislation in the Canadian Parliament that could impact digital streaming services.” The reference to concerns with a digital services tax has been raised before, but the inclusion of Bill C-11 is new. The concerns may reflect Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s decision to regulate user generated content, an approach not found in any other country in the world.
The Rogers Outage Aftermath: What Else Should Be On Minister François-Philippe Champagne’s Telecom To-Do List?
The massive Rogers outage took centre stage yesterday as CEOs of the leading telecom companies met with Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne to discuss next steps to reduce the likelihood of a similar event in the future. My initial post on the outage focused on three main issues: conducting hearings into the issue by both the CRTC and a House of Commons committee, competition policy, and consumer compensation. None of these issue were top of mind for the companies or Minister, who instead emphasized the need for agreements among the companies within 60 days on emergency roaming, mutual assistance during outages, and a communications protocol to better inform the public and authorities during telecommunications emergencies. The Minister also noted that there will also be a CRTC investigation.
While these are all useful steps largely modelled on similar developments in the United States, even Champagne acknowledged that this is “just a first step.” So what else should be on the government’s to-do list?
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 134: Monica Auer on CRTC Governance, Content Regulation and the Radio-Canada Decision
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been mounting outrage over a CRTC decision involving Radio-Canada and a broadcast segment from 2020 in which the N-word was used multiple times as part of a discussion of a book that contains the word in its title. That decision has sparked cries of censorship and concerns about the CRTC. Given that Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and the government want to give the Commission even more power over Internet content as part of Bill C-11, the implications extend beyond this case. Monica Auer, the executive director of the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications, joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the latest developments, the broader concerns with CRTC governance, and whether assurances regarding Internet speech safeguards stand up to careful scrutiny.
Responding to the Rogers Outage: Time to Get Serious About Competition, Consumer Rights, and Communications Regulation
Like many Canadians, I spent most of the massive Rogers outage completely offline. With the benefit of hindsight, my family made a big mistake by relying on a single provider for everything: broadband, home phone, cable, and wireless services on a family plan. When everything went down, everything really went down. No dial tone, no channels, no connectivity. Work was challenging and contact with the kids shut off. It was disorienting and a reminder of our reliance on communications networks for virtually every aspect of our daily lives.
So what comes next? We cannot let this become nothing more than a “what did you do” memory alongside some nominal credit from Rogers for the inconvenience. Canada obviously has a competition problem when it comes to communications services resulting in some of the highest wireless and broadband pricing in the developed world. Purchasing more of those services as a backup – whether an extra broadband or cellphone connection – will be unaffordable to most and only exacerbate the problem. Even distributing the services among providers likely means that consumers take a financial hit as they walk away from the benefits from a market that has incentivized bundling discounts. Consumers always pay the price in these circumstances, but there are policy solutions that could reduce the risk of catastrophic outages and our reliance on a single provider for so many essential services.