#DigiCanCon consultation results show Canadians need affordable Internet access to support Canadian content in the 21st century
Consultation results demonstrate public opposition to an Internet Tax that would raise monthly bills, deepen our digital divide, and force vulnerable Canadians offline
February 21, 2017 - Results from the federal government’s #DigiCanCon consultation show that Canadians view affordable Internet access as essential to support Canadian content in the 21st century. A 52-page summary by Ipsos Public Affairs notes that “Enable access to high speed broadband Internet for all Canadians” was one of the key messages citizens sent the government during the consultation. This aligns with a recent CRTC decision making Internet a basic service for all Canadians.
The summary reflected strong opposition to proposals that would raise the cost of Internet access, with many participants emphasizing that Internet costs are already excessive. A number of groups representing content producers have been pressuring the government to introduce an Internet Tax to fund Canadian content. However a recent Innovative Research Group poll revealed that while Canadians support Canadian content, 70% oppose an Internet Tax.
“It’s clear from today’s findings that Canadians view affordable Internet access as essential to support Canadian content in a digital age,” said OpenMedia’s campaigns director Josh Tabish. “With participants pointing out that high Internet bills are crowding out families’ ability to pay for Canadian content, the last thing we need are proposals that would make Internet access even more expensive.”
Tabish continued: “#DigiCanCon should be commended for clearly reflecting the concerns of a wide range of stakeholders, including the OpenMedia community. On the whole, this report shows that Canadians support Canadian content and want to find ways to fund its creation. It’s clear from these findings that affordability is a top priority of Canadians and creators who are having difficulty getting online. That’s why the government should firmly rule out an Internet Tax and turn its attention to the positive alternatives.”
Among the comments and key points highlighted by today’s report are:
“Some participants were concerned that Canadians are increasingly paying for access and that the lion’s share of the traditional household’s 'culture' budget is dedicated to paying for access to the Internet and to the digital platforms that distribute content, leaving little for paying for the content itself.” (page 8)
“There is general recognition that increasing the tax burden on foreign and/or Canadian enterprises to fund creative development is likely to have a direct impact on Canadian consumer. They were worried this would result in limiting affordability and access to high-speed Internet connections.” (page 10)
“Many participants noted that citizen choice is inherent in the digital age and that the role of government in ensuring access to seemingly unlimited digital content options came down to enabling high speed, broadband Internet access to all Canadians.” (page 23)
“Canadian culture shouldn’t be an urban luxury. A great part of Canada does not enjoy the digital access the Minister describes. Rural citizens, including many artists, pay a huge surcharge for limited internet access. Taxing that further will cut even more people out of participating in and contributing to Canadian culture.” (citizen comment, page 23)
“Of surveyed Canadians, 93 percent subscribe to the Internet at home or via mobile device, leaving just 7 percent without access at home; this number however jumps to 30 percent without Internet access among those with a household income of less than $25,000.” (page 23)
Today’s report comes on the heels of the government's recent approval of Bell's takeover of Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS), which experts and industry analysts agree will lead to higher wireless prices. OpenMedia says that to lower prices the government needs to fix our wireless market by ensuring smaller providers can access networks owned by the Big Three. With the federal government allowing Xplornet to access Bell’s networks in Manitoba, it's time to expand that ‘Mobile Virtual Network Operator’ model across the country.
A petition calling on government to reject an Internet Tax has now received over 36,000 signatures.