Do we want an Internet that works for everyday citizens -- or one dominated by powerful bureaucracies, be they spy agencies, giant telecom conglomerates, or powerful Hollywood lobbyists? If we want a free and open Internet that works for all of us then we're going to have to fight for it.
If you're an enormous telecom conglomerate, and you release a new app to unfavourable ratings, what do you do? You could invest some of your vast resources into listening to customers and making the app better -- or you could get your senior managers to leave fake reviews to mislead customers and fluff up your ratings instead.
Mr. Moore, Mr. Harper, Mr. Blais, we have given the large carriers our trust. And they have abused it. It's now up to you -- we need you to work together to ensure that our networks are open to content producers, to innovative service providers, and most of all, to ordinary Canadian citizens. We need more than tweets, more than press releases and pamphlets. We are asking for a firm commitment to ensure that the large network operators will no longer be artificially favoured over upstart innovators and competitors, a commitment to providing Canadians with a bright and lasting digital future.
The real question people are starting to ask: why pay for a lot of channels with so many commercials? CBC, which is now mostly funded by taxpayers, and any other network with a business model that can eliminate or at least reduce ads, can flourish in this new environment. That is, by giving viewers what they really want, programs, not commercials.
The only time people aren't complaining about government regulation is when they are complaining about the lack of regulation! When Netflix speaks against regulations, they do so out of two motives. One, as a corporate entity that wants nothing to interfere with their profits. But secondly, as an American company.
The Internet being a global phenomenon, there is now an obvious discrepancy between the rules applying to Canadian broadcasters, and what companies like Netflix can "broadcast" in Canada through a website or an app. When certain companies are subject to restrictive regulation while some of their competitors are not, there are calls from the regulated companies for the same rules to apply to their competitors.
For almost a year now, Canada's broadcast regulator has been holding an important conversation with Canadians about the future of television. And while the effort, dubbed "Let's Talk TV," has heard from individual Canadians, the Commission has so far not addressed some of the most important issues.
Here's the full depth of the problem with CASL. When Parliament enacted this confusing and ambiguous legislation, it relinquished its legislative power to those regulators charged with enforcing the law. And since those same regulators have the power to directly levy enormous penalties, CASL permits bureaucrats to play the roles of legislator, police, and judge simultaneously. This combination has no place in a free and democratic society like our own.
Over the last year, we've seen the CRTC publish customer-friendly new rules for wireless, set up a special task force to investigate extortionate roaming fees, and start a conversation with Canadians about the Future of Television (and watching TV content online!) Things are starting to change.
Political speech is seemingly under attack from the last place we might expect: Canadian media broadcasters, that say parties can't use broadcasters' content in ads. Protecting copyright is not an illegitimate purpose, but this approach is less than ideal for political advertisements. Political parties rely on election advertising to persuade the electorate to vote for them. This political expression is a significantly important aspect of public discourse and should be accorded the highest priority and protection.
The National Post ran a commentary saying CBC seemed incapable of reinventing itself, which may be true, and concluded that it didn't matter since TV viewing was in decline and the television industry, that is, networks, cable, etc. wouldn't exist in its present form in "maybe two years." This blissfully ignores the fact that TV viewing and cable/satellite subscriptions have shown no decline.
To help ensure that Internet users' voices are heard, your team at OpenMedia.ca have put together a question-by-question readers' guide to the CRTC's Choicebook survey. We hope you find it useful, and encourage you to take a few moments to prevent the CRTC from going in the wrong direction.
One night not long ago I was about to take in my daily dose of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart after work, when I was forced to deal with a new popup window on the CTV website -- CTV and other Bell Media websites are the only legal websites you can use to watch this and many other shows. But a popup appeared...
Will the government cave under this pressure? We're hoping they won't -- after all, they've made a clear promise to Canadians to lower prices, a promise underlined personally by Prime Minister Harper at his party's convention last fall. We intend to hold the government to its promises. But already there are worrying signs, with Industry Minister Moore seemingly changing his tune.
It's no wonder that so many Canadians are speaking out about the state of our broken wireless market. We pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for often terrible cell phone service. Thankfully it looks like decision-makers are finally starting to take notice.