Technology & Science

Keep internet broadcasting unregulated, Google tells CRTC

Google Inc. says the CRTC should continue to allow the internet and new media to be exempt from federal regulations and "resist the temptation to fix what is not broken."

Google Inc. says the CRTC should continue to allow the internet and new media to be exempt from federal regulations and "resist the temptation to fix what is not broken."

The internet search giant and owner of video-sharing site YouTube, in a submission to the regulatory agency, urged the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to maintain a 1999 decision to exempt broadcasting over mobile phones and the internet from regulation.

At the time, the CRTC said these new media were not used widely enough to merit CRTC rules. But with widespread use of high-speed internet access by Canadians, the CRTC is prepared once again to consider whether new media should be regulated and has scheduled a hearing on the topic in February.

A report commissioned by the CRTC earlier in 2008 concluded new media broadcasting was a significant force and should be subject to the same regulations as other Canadian broadcasters.

The regulator hopes to look at how to define new media, what impact it is having on traditional media, how widespread access is across Canada and whether incentives or regulatory measures should be used for the creation and promotion of Canadian content.

Google's comments come in response to the regulator's call for comments from interested parties before a planned hearing that begins Feb. 17, 2009, in Gatineau, Que. Final submissions were due Friday.

Exempting new media from regulation will keep internet 'awesome'

Google's comments were one of almost 100 submissions that included groups such as Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the National Hockey League, National Film Board of Canada and major broadcasters and internet service providers, including Bell, Rogers, SaskTel and Telus.

Artist collectives such as ACTRA and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada have argued for a tax of some form to be levied on ISPs, a proposal vigorously rejected by ISPs.

Google's 21-page submission, made public Monday, said changes to the existing rules are not neccessary.

"The New Media Exemption is the best regulatory approach to keeping the internet awesome," Google said. "It should remain in place without change.  It should not be varied, removed, replaced, or supplemented with regulation."

Google noted that while user-generated content (UGC) should not be included in regulation, it should be considered when calculating the amount of Canadian content on the internet. In the first 10 months of 2008, tens of thousands of new uploaded videos were placed on YouTube by Canadians per week, representing hundreds of thousands of hours of video, it said.

"If UGC is included in the analysis, there is ample evidence that the objectives are being satisfied without regulation," the company said in its submission.

Google said it contributed to the debate because of its role in providing free access to Canadian content on the internet through sites such as YouTube.

The CRTC's report on new media earlier this year also noted Google's influence, citing a 2007 Decima survey that found 37 per cent of Canadians accessed YouTube for online video. The next most popular destination for online video was Bell's Sympatico website, which just nine per cent of Canadians visited for online video.