By Lindey Pinto
May 25, 2011
Will the CRTC try to regulate online video content?
The CRTC announced today that are asking Canadians to provide data and information on 'online broadcasting services', also known as over-the-top or OTT content, due to their potential impact on the broadcasting system.
The CRTC is doing this at the request of "the most significant members of the Canadian communications industry" -- the 'Over-The-Top Services Working Group' -- which comprises executives with stakes in the television industry.
This seems strange to me, given that the CRTC has in the past declared that they would not regulate the Internet directly and instead take a hands-off approach. Hopefully this consultation will remain a "fact-finding exercise" and will not, in hindsight, be the first step toward regulation that protects old media models by impeding OTT providers' ability to participate in the digital economy. Should the latter be the case, the Internet's level playing field would surely be jeopardized.
When the CRTC released its first net neutrality (Internet openness) regulations in 2009, they seemed excited about the idea of "rapid and uncontrolled innovation in computer communications" and indicated that "citizens [should] have full access to that innovation". If OTT is the result of that innovation, it ought to be allowed to proliferate, even if that does challenge broadcasting models.
While broadcasters argue that television is needed to promote Canadian content, one could also make the case that the best way to protect Canadian content, and citizens' access to it, is to allow individuals to express themselves and business to compete freely on the open and affordable Internet.
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