Canadian ISPs exempt from broadcasting regs for online video

MIchelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 15-02-2012

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that ISPs are exempt from the country's Broadcasting Act, confirming a previous decision made by The Federal Court of Appeal.
The upshot? Even if they carry online video services to end users, they are not subject to broadcasting regulations.
The Broadcasting Act passed in 1991 and covers broadcasting policy for Canada; the regulatory powers of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC); and the operating procedures and policies for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
"Do retail Internet service providers ('ISPs') carry on, in whole or in part, 'broadcasting undertakings' subject to the Broadcasting Act when, in their role as ISPs, they provide access through the Internet to 'broadcasting' requested by end-users?" the court case aimed to answer.
That answer has turned out to be "no." And unsurprisingly, media and content companies interested in claiming the same kind of usage control over Internet-based services as over other types of licensed video conduits oppose the high court's decision. Just as unsurprisingly, cable and satellite companies like Bell Canada, TELUS and Rogers all support the final judgment--
But lest the ruling could be seen as a boon in the future when it comes to pay-TV operators getting around regulations for TV Everywhere, multiplatform content initiatives, there was a caveat: "the Federal Court of Appeals warned that if ISPs begin to actively make content decisions and lose their neutrality, they might indeed be subject to regulation."
In other words, if operators roll out their own branded TV services over IP, broadcasting regulations would kick in over the service itself. But they are not held accountable for over-the-top (OTT) offerings from third parties.
The debate is similar to a debate in the United States regarding Net neutrality and the role of the ISP as a carrier of services. The FCC has found ISPs to be exempt from scrutiny as telecom providers on a number of fronts, including when it comes to Internet-based voice (VoIP) and video.