Digital issues were expected to garner attention in the 2019 Canadian federal election campaign. Over the course of the past few weeks, all the main political parties have had something to say about the high cost of cellphone prices in Canada and the prospect of implementing new taxes on tech companies. Laura Tribe, the Executive Director of OpenMedia, joined the podcast to talk about election 2019 and digital policies in a conversation that focused on wireless services and Internet taxes as well as privacy, intermediary liability, trade, and copyright.
Post Tagged with: "internet tax"
The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 27: Digital Policy and Election 2019 – Laura Tribe of OpenMedia on Where the Parties Stand
The question should be an easy, slam-dunk: will you implement new Internet or wireless taxes to support the creation of Canadian content? Given that Canada has some of the highest Internet and wireless costs in the world, rejecting new fees or taxes that would further increase those costs should not require any hedging or attempts to change the subject. In fact, while the Canadian Heritage committee and the CRTC have proposed new wireless fees and taxes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clearly rejected the approach. For example, minutes after the Heritage report was released, he told the press:
The Cultural Lobby Demands for Internet Taxes and Fees: The Forgotten Piece in Canada’s Lower Wireless and Internet Cost Puzzle
Over the past few weeks, both the National Post and Reuters have reported that the Liberals plan to include lower Internet and wireless costs as part of the fall election campaign. The reports indicate that reforms could include price caps or a firm commitment to facilitating the entry of new competitors in the form of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). I’ve posted regularly on Canada’s high wireless prices and efforts to address the issue (here, here, here, here, and here), which remain uncompetitive relative to many other countries (some of the reasons why are discussed in this LawBytes podcast episode with Antonios Drossos of Rewheel Research).
A potential Netflix tax may garner the lion share of media attention, but the more harmful tax proposal comes from those advocating for a tax on Internet service providers that would have a real impact on all Internet use (earlier posts in the series include digital sales tax and Netflix tax). As far back as 1998, the CRTC conducted hearings on “new media” in which groups argued that the dial-up Internet was little different than conventional broadcasting and should be regulated and taxed as such. In other words, groups have been arguing for new Internet taxes since before Google, Facebook, or Netflix.
Making Sense of the Canadian Digital Tax Debate, Part 2: Mandated Canadian Content Contributions aka a “Netflix Tax”
The series on the Canadian digital tax debate continues with an examination of calls for mandated contributions by Internet video services to support the creation of Canadian content, frequently referred to as a “Netflix tax” (earlier post on digital sales tax). The Netflix tax is perhaps the most politicized digital tax issue, with both the Conservatives and Liberals opposing such a tax during the last federal election. Despite the opposition, the issue continues to resurface as it is regularly raised by cultural groups and was part of the CRTC’s report on the future of broadcast regulation released in the spring.
Proponents of a mandated Netflix contribution typically rely on three arguments: (i) failure to impose fees and regulation on foreign providers represents an “existential threat” to Canadian creative industries since they argue it will lead to reduced spending on production in Canada; (ii) there is a need to “level playing field” for Canadian services competing against foreign providers; and (iii) Europe is moving toward Netflix regulation and Canada should too.