The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continues its hearing into Bill C-11 today with hours of scheduled testimony and witnesses that include Netflix, Youtube, and CRTC Chair Ian Scott. The witness list is becoming notable both for who is not included (a bill called the Internet Streaming Act without TikTok or Amazon or Apple or Roku?!) and who is back for another appearance (Scott will surely face pressure to soften his earlier comment that the user content is included in the bill). For those Canadians that haven’t been paying close attention, I’ve compiled a short video on the hearing thus far, which has featured multiple witnesses confirm their concerns that the bill includes the regulation of user content and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez pretending that he isn’t paying attention.
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Why the Government’s New Telecom Policy Directive Means More of the Same for Canada’s Communications Competition Woes
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.
CRTC Chair Ian Scott appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday and Bill C-11 proved to be a popular topic of discussion. The exchanges got testy at times as Scott seemingly stepped outside of his role as an independent regulatory by regularly defending government legislation, even veering into commenting on newspapers, which clearly falls outside the CRTC’s jurisdiction. With respect to Bill C-11, most newsworthy were two comments regarding the regulation of user content and the timelines for implementing the bill if it receives royal assent.
Is There Anything Less Convincing than CRTC Chair Ian Scott’s Empty Assurances on Bill C-11 User Content Regulation?
The Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11) has now passed second reading in the House of Commons and will be the subject of hearings at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in the coming weeks. With the prospect of user generated content regulation still a serious concern, outgoing CRTC Chair Ian Scott tried to provide assurances earlier this week that the Commission has no interest in exercising regulatory powers over user generated content. Yet Scott’s comments rang hollow as he twisted himself in a series of contradictory knots that lead to the inescapable conclusion that non-binding promises without actual reforms mean little.
The CRTC Provides an Advance Preview of Bill C-11 Regulation: Pretty Much Any Service, Anywhere, Any Terms and Conditions
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued a notable decision last month involving the creation of an annual digital media survey that likely provides an advance preview of how it will address Bill C-11 if it becomes law. That is a cause for concern, since the Commission apparently sees few limitations in its powers despite obvious doubts that it is operating within the boundaries of existing law. Those powers, which will be increased should Bill C-11 be enacted, lead to its position that any broadcasting from anywhere in the world is subject to its jurisdiction so long as there is a Canadian nexus to the activities. There is no requirement that the service be located in Canada in order to qualify and little practical guidance on what constitutes a Canadian nexus.