Internet Tax proposed by CRTC would raise cost of online access for everyone in Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, and 70% of Canadians have all said no to an Internet Tax that would raise monthly bills, deepen digital divide, and force vulnerable Canadians offline
Today the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released a report promoting the implementation of an Internet Tax — a policy that would raise the cost of Internet access for all Canadian Internet users, and that was already rejected by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and more than 37,000 Canadians.
According to the CRTC itself, Canadians already pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for Internet access. Nearly one in five Canadians do not have a home Internet connection, and that number rises to one in three low-income Canadians.
Earlier this year, the CRTC rejected the opportunity to bring more affordable choice to our telecom markets. Now, they’ve gone further and suggested ways to actually increase our Internet prices. By proposing this policy, the CRTC reveals that not only are they oblivious to the results of Canadian Heritage’s consultations on this exact issue, but that they’ve also lost sight of their own mission, which includes ensuring affordable communications services. Minister Joly cannot take this report seriously when her own extensive consultations made it clear that Internet affordability is the top concern for Canadians.
This proposal is a disastrous idea that will raise monthly bills and force the most vulnerable Canadians offline. The proposal to apply a tax on Internet Service Providers will be a cost sure to be passed to Internet users. Canadians have said in no uncertain terms that they cannot afford for the cost of Internet access to raise any higher. Any Internet Tax disproportionately punishes low-income Canadians, and will inevitably worsen and deepen our digital divide.
Today’s report was provided in response to an Order in Council from Minister Joly to study the future of programming in Canada. But both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly have already rejected the idea of a broadband tax to pay for Canadian content.
"We're not going to be raising taxes on the middle class through an Internet broadband tax. That is not an idea we are taking on," said Prime Minister Trudeau in June of last year.
And in September, Minister Joly said: "Broadband coverage is uneven across the country. We pay some of the highest rates in the world. Our government won’t increase the cost of these services to Canadians by imposing a new tax."
The Internet Tax proposal was initially floated during discussions around Heritage Canada’s “Canadian Content in a Digital World” consultation in 2016, and was met with huge public outcry. An Innovative Research Group poll from February 2017 shows a full 70 per cent of Canadians are against such a levy.
Additionally, today's CRTC report also reintroduces suggestions for a "Netflix Tax" — requiring over the top (OTT) providers to be treated the same as broadcasters, and also contribute into these funds. This Netflix Tax idea was rejected by the previous government, and remained off the table as the one proposal Minister Joly refused to even entertain during the 2016 #DigiCanCon consultation.
The Internet Tax has sparked fierce criticism from experts and Indigenous advocates, who warn that the cost will be passed onto Internet users. Denise Williams, head of the First Nations Technology Council warns the Internet Tax “will hit Indigenous communities the hardest,” and expert Michael Geist says it will place “connectivity beyond the financial reach of low-income Canadians.”
More than 37,000 Canadians have signed on to an OpenMedia petition opposing the Internet Tax.