Why the CRTC needs an overhaul – Part 1

The title says it all doesn’t it?  the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission(CRTC) is broken, and needs to be fixed.  the problem is, is that I’m not sure if it can be.  For those of you who don’t know, the CRTC is the governing body of all radio, TV, telephone, cell phone, and internet traffic in Canada.  The closest to an equal organization in the US would be the FCC, except that the CRTC also controls some things that the RIAA and MPAA in the US controls also.  Sounds great doesn’t it?  This post will truly be a wall of text, so I have decided to break it up into two parts.  The first part will deal with the current hearings going on between the RIAA and Canadian ISP’s regarding the internet.  The second part will be about the CRTC and TV in Canada.  I hope you’ll find it an interesting read.

For those who do not know, the CRTC requires that all TV and Radio stations based in Canada show a certain amount of Canadian content every day.  Canadian content is content that is shot and produced in Canada.  Some stations, like Global and CTV, usually only supply the minimum amount of Canadian content as required by the CRTC, where stations like CBC usually produce a higher level of Canadian content.  To this point, the CRTC has said that the internet is exempt from this rule.  The CRTC is now revisiting this exemption, and is weighing whether or not to require that a set amount of traffic delivered to Canadian PC’s would be Canadian content.

Let me just step back and let that sink in for a second.  Seriously, really sit and think about that.  Okay, done?  Good.

My first, gut response, is that the CRTC has no idea at all what it is doing, or talking about.  Contrary to belief from some US senators, the internet is not a “series of tubes.”  It is an open world and restricting it is next to impossible. 

It is possible to use IP address sources to find which content is coming from a Canadian PC or server, but that would in no way be accurate at all.  A Canadian could be using a US based hosting service, so the content could be Canadian, but coming from the US.  A US customer could be routing content through a proxy server in Canada, which would make the content look like it was coming from Canada, when it really is US produced.

Then lets look at the other side.  How are ISP’s supposed to enforce this?  The current number being thrown around is that 30% of internet content would have to be Canadian made content.  Never mind trying to throttle P2P traffic, what is an ISP supposed to do?  Suppose that there is a way to correctly tag all Canadian content on the internet.  In a scenario where 30% of all content viewed would have to be Canadian, what happens if that quota is not met?  Will ISP’s block all non Canadian web pages until over 30% of the content for the day is Canadian?  Will they cut you off of the internet all together?  Think of it this way.  After literally a decade of fighting, illegally downloading music, TV shows and movies is absolutely rampant across the internet.  If no one can stop illegal copyright violation, how are Canadian ISP's supposed to stop legal content from flowing?

I believe that this is one of the few times that every major ISP in the country, Shaw, Bell, Telus, and Rogers, have all agreed on one thing.  This would be a very bad idea.  Shaw was the first to voice it’s concerns, while the other three followed suit shortly thereafter.  It’s a kind of ISP solidarity that is unprecedented in this country.  They have realized that enforcing this would be impossible, and are telling the CRTC this.  The question is, will the CRTC listen?

Attempting to restrict the content on the internet would be catastrophic to the growth of the internet in Canada.  In a country this size, with such a small, spread out population, the internet has really changed the way that smaller communities, especially northern communities, can communicate. 

To me, this really shows how badly out of touch, and out of date the CRTC really is.  It is an organization that exists solely to protected Canadian interests.  I will never dispute that that is an important function, but in the age where I can find out exactly what is going on half way around the world in real time, the kind of protectionism that the CRTC undertakes is not realistic.  Instead of trying to fight the internet, the CRTC should be aiming to give everyone more access, and easier access to it. And instead of forcing Canadian content down peoples throats, they should be working with Canadian content providers to make good quality Canadian content that people will actually want to watch.  Don’t force the bad on us, but promote the good.  Make it good, and the people will watch.  Two of my favorite TV shows right now are The Border and Flashpoint, made by CBC and CTV respectively.  Both are action  shows, and both are, in my opinion, among the best shows on TV in their Genre right now, in the US or Canada.  CBS in the US has even bought the broadcast rights of Flashpoint from CTV and simulcasts new episodes when they air.

Is it too much to ask for the CRTC to stop trying to force decades old ideals down our throats?  I hope not.  And I hope they get the picture.  the CRTC needs to leave the internet alone.  I hope they are listening.