The Ottawa Sun
Monday, November 18, 1996
page 16

New CRTC boss floats Net folly

- wants to control Internet content -

by Rob Hall, rob@shop.net

In a TV interview last week, Francoise Bertrand, the new chairwoman of the CRTC, made some disturbing remarks about the Internet that obviously shows her lack of understanding of it.

In a nutshell, she wishes the CRTC to control content of the Net. When asked how, she flails all over the map, from wanting to use software at the client's end to making the ISP community responsible for all content viewed by their users.

Although there exists software to help parents screen pornography from their children, it relies on one major voluntary fact: The site being visited must also participate in the program. Should you visit a site not participating, say one in Finland, this screening software will not work. Now will any software currently available screen for "Canadian content".

The more disturbing side of it is that she wishes to make Internet service providers responsible for any content not approved by the CRTC. From hateful material and pornography, to anything not produced by a Canadian, ISPs should be liable, because after all, "That are the ones who are brining it into the home."

Never mind that it is actually the people themselves that choose what they see, who they connect to, whether they view Canadian content or not. The Internet is NOT like cable TV, where the viewer has no choice in what they view. Just the opposite. The viewer (or in this case surfer) has 100% of the choice in what they see and read.

And how are you going to make ISPs responsible for ensuring that a surfer views the required 50% of content from a Canadian producer? Are ISPs now supposed to monitor where a user goes, and cut him off? Imagine a message telling you "Sorry, you can't download the new version of Netscape until you view more Canadian content."

And how shall we help foster more Canadian content? Her answer to this is to license (tax) all ISPs and put the money into a pool. Considering that the nation's two largest national ISPs, Hookup and iStar, are both losing money hand over fist, saddling them with more taxes seems a sure way to pound a final nail in their coffin.

Who in their right mind would want to be in the ISP business? New license fees and liability not only for what your users put on their websites, but also for whatever they view from other sites, most often located outside of Canada?

What Bertrand fails to note, is that Canada is already leading the way in not only Internet technology, but also content. Companies such as Fulcrum and Corel currently lead the pack in software on the Internet. Others like Newbridge and Nortel provide much of the hardware that the Internet currently operates on. Canadian sites are among the most visited in the world.

You see, under the current open-market situation, non-Canadians are choosing to view Canadian content and sites, not by force, but by choice. Simply put, we are the best. Any government interference that might prevent us from leading the world would be disastrous.

Perhaps it's time to do away with the CRTC. I have no wish for a government bureaucrat to mandate what information I am allowed access to. Perhaps we should simply close our borders to any outside traffic.

I personally like to think that Canadians are intelligent enough to choose all by themselves what they view. I know I am.


Copyright © 1996 by the Ottawa Sun. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.