03/16/2012 11:42 EDT | Updated 05/16/2012 05:12 EDT

The Other Tax Your Internet Bill Could Have Come With


One of the major unanswered questions about Bill C-30, the lawful access/online surveillance bill, is who will pay for the costs associated with responding to law enforcement demands for subscriber information ("look ups") and installation of surveillance equipment ("hook ups"). Christopher Parsons has an excellent post that takes a shot at estimating some of the costs. I recently obtained documents from Public Safety under the Access to Information Act that indicates that the government doesn't really have its own answer. As of December 2011, the issue was still the subject of internal debate with Public Safety working with the RCMP and CSIS to develop a fee schedule for the costs.

The document is particularly interesting because it places the spotlight on how the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) would like to handle the issue. In 2009, the CACP proposed several possibilities, including the creation of new public safety tax that would appear on monthly customer bills.

The CACP adopted the position that law enforcement should not have to pay for the associated costs claming it "brings the administration of justice into disrepute." Instead, it proposed three alternatives:

  • The telecom companies and Internet providers could pass along the costs in the form of a "public safety tariff" that would apply on monthly consumer bills

  • The government could provide tax credits to telecom companies and Internet providers

  • The government could establish a federal funding pool to cover the costs

The government rejected all three possibilities, but incredibly does not seem to have its own plan to address the tens of millions of dollars in costs created by its online surveillance plans. As I noted in a post on fixing the bill, both the regulations and the cost issues should be made public before the bill is considered by a House of Commons committee.