Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne unveiled the government’s proposed new telecom policy directive yesterday, hailing it as a “historic step.” However, a closer look at the policy suggests that the only thing that is history are any immediate hopes for a more competitive communications marketplace in Canada. Once again, the government has shown itself unwilling to take a strong stand in favour of consumers and competition, instead releasing a directive that largely retains the status quo and sends the message to CRTC Chair Ian Scott to stay the course. Indeed, the primary purpose behind the announcement would appear to be an attempt to shield the government from criticism over its decision to leave the controversial CRTC decision on wholesale Internet access intact, thereby denying consumers the prospect of lower costs for Internet services.
Post Tagged with: "Champagne"
Why the Government’s New Telecom Policy Directive Means More of the Same for Canada’s Communications Competition Woes
The Canadian Government Makes its Choice: Implementation of Copyright Term Extension Without Mitigating Against the Harms
The Canadian government plans to extend the term of copyright from the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years to life plus 70 years without mitigation measures that would have reduced the harms and burden of the extension. The Budget Implementation Act, a 443 page bill that adopts the omnibus approach the government had pledged to reject, was posted late yesterday by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s department and could be tabled in the House of Commons as early as today. Page 328 of the bill features the shoehorned amendments to the Copyright Act, including an extension of the term of copyright. While the government is not making the change retroactive (meaning works currently in the public domain stay there), no one seriously expected that to happen. What many had hoped – based on the government’s own committee recommendations and copyright consultation – was to introduce mitigation measures to reduce the economic cost and cultural harm that comes from term extension. Instead, Freeland, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez have chosen to reject the recommendations of students, teachers, universities, librarians, IP experts, and their own Justice Minister.
The Canadian Government’s Groundhog Day Copyright Consultations: The Never-Ending Lobbying Battle for Website Blocking and Weakened User Rights Continues
Copyright did not figure prominently in either the government’s election platform or the Speech from the Throne, but the two departments responsible for copyright policy – Innovation, Science and Industry led by Francois-Philippe Champagne and Canadian Heritage led by Pablo Rodriguez – have both been actively consulting on a myriad of issues this year. The departments just released the submissions they received to one of three consultations on copyright, this one on intermediary liability issues. There was a prior consultation on copyright term extension (expected in some form in 2022 given the obligations under the USMCA) and another on innovation policies such as an exception for text and data mining to support the development of artificial intelligence. I submitted responses to all three consultations (term extension here, AI will be posted shortly).
My submission in the intermediary liability consultation focuses on two main points.
This is Who the Canadian Government Wants to Regulate the Internet
The CRTC yesterday released its wholesale Internet rates decision, shocking the industry and consumer groups by reversing its 2019 ruling and virtually guaranteeing increased costs for consumers and less competition for Internet services. Indeed, within hours, TekSavvy, one of the largest independent providers, announced that it was withdrawing from the forthcoming spectrum auction and would no longer offer mobile services. In other words, the competitive and consumer cost reverberations from the decision will impact both broadband and wireless services. When the increased costs coming from Bill C-10 for Internet services are added to the equation, the Internet could get a lot more expensive in Canada.
Much of the blame rests with the government as it appointed CRTC Chair Ian Scott, who has presided over a dismantling of a pro-consumer, pro-innovative policy approach. Moreover, the former ISED Minister Navdeep Bains opened the door to this decision last summer by inviting the CRTC to re-examine the 2019 decision and current ISI Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is seemingly completely uninterested in his own department’s digital files. I’ve written that this government has become the most anti-Internet government in Canadian history and the path that led to yesterday’s decision vaults to near the top of the evidence list.
Why the Liberals Have Become the Most Anti-Internet Government in Canadian History
The Liberals led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were first elected in 2015 on a platform that emphasized transparency, consultation, and innovation. The signals were everywhere: it released ministerial mandate letters to demonstrate transparency, renamed the Minister of Industry to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to point to the importance of an innovative economy, and soon after the cabinet was sworn in, Canadians were awash in public consultations (I recall participating in an almost instant consult on the Trans Pacific Partnership). With promises of entrenching net neutrality, prioritizing innovation, focusing on privacy rather than surveillance, and supporting freedom of expression, the government left little doubt about its preferred policy approach.
As I watched Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault yesterday close the Action Summit to Combat Online Hate, I was left with whiplash as I thought back to those early days. Today’s Liberal government is unrecognizable by comparison as it today stands the most anti-Internet government in Canadian history:
- As it moves to create the Great Canadian Internet Firewall, net neutrality is out and mandated Internet blocking is in.
- Freedom of expression and due process is out, quick takedowns without independent review and increased liability are in.
- Innovation and new business models are out, CRTC regulation is in.
- Privacy reform is out, Internet taxation is in.
- Prioritizing consumer Internet access and affordability is out, reduced competition through mergers are in.
- And perhaps most troublingly, consultation and transparency are out, secrecy is in.