Canada's Internet Debate Goes to Highest Court

Canada's highest court to consider whether Internet service providers should subsidize homegrown video online.

TORONTO – Canada’s highest court is to rule whether Internet service providers (ISPs) are pipes, or broadcasters, in a wide-open Internet or wireless phone world.

The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday gave a coalition of union and guilds leave to appeal a lower court decision that deemed ISPs “content-neutral,” and so not broadcasters to be regulated by the CRTC.

That July 2010 ruling from the Federal Court of Appeals thwarted efforts by content producers to create an ISP levy earmarked for Canadian content production online.

The CRTC, Canada's broadcast regulator, asked the lower court to rule on the eligibility of ISPs as broadcasters as it weighed the ISP levy proposal from industry producers, unions and guilds.

“The coalition looks forward to presenting their arguments before the court on this critical issue for the future of the broadcasting system in Canada,” the unions and guilds, which includes ACTRA, the Canadian Media Production Association, the Directors Guild of Canada and the Writers Guild of Canada, said Thursday in a statement.

The debate over the role of ISPs in distributing Canadian content goes to the heart of the Canadian industry's role on an emerging and growing Internet filled with global content.