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Internet Tax proposed by Heritage Committee MPs would raise cost of online access for all Canadians

Recent poll showed 70% of Canadians oppose Internet Tax that would raise monthly bills, deepen digital divide, and force vulnerable Canadians offline

June 15, 2017 – Today the House of Commons Heritage Committee will release a report promoting the implementation of an Internet Tax — a policy likely to raise the cost of Internet access by 5 per cent for almost all Canadian Internet users. According to the CRTC, Canadians already pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for Internet access — and earlier this month, Bell, Rogers, and Telus again raised the cost of access.  Nearly one in five Canadians do not have a home Internet connection, and that number rises to one in three low-income Canadians.

The proposal to apply a five per cent tax on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) appears to be the central plank of the committee’s report — a cost sure to be passed to Internet users. The policy was initially floated during discussions around Heritage Canada’s “Canadian Content in a Digital World” consultation late last year, 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.

“This proposal is a disastrous idea that will raise monthly bills and force the most vulnerable Canadians offline.” said OpenMedia Communications Manager Meghan Sali. “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. Many indigenous communities will also be impacted.”

Sali continued: “In supporting this policy, the Heritage Committee reveals that they’re oblivious to the results of the Heritage Ministry’s consultations on this exact issue. Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly will never take this seriously when her own extensive consultations made it clear that Internet affordability is the top concern for Canadians.”

Heritage Canada’s report, published earlier this year, found that while Canadians are open to finding new ways to fund Canadian content, “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.”

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.”

Over 37,000 Canadians have signed on to an OpenMedia petition opposing the Internet Tax.

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