Canadian Regulator Backs Down in Fight With Netflix, Google

The U.S. streamers refuse to give the CRTC sensitive business data

The Candian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has quietly dropped its threat to revoke a new media exemption for Netflix and Google to operate in Canada because the U.S. digital players refuse to hand over proprietary business data on confidentiality grounds.

Instead, the country's TV watchdog will erase recent written submissions by Netflix and Google to the regulator and appearances by their top lobbyists at CRTC hearings into the future of Canadian TV. "Netflix’s intervention and supporting documentation will be removed from the public record of this proceeding on October 2, 2014," CRTC secretary general John Traversy wrote to Netflix director of global policy Corie Wright in a Sept. 29 letter.

Traversy made the same overture to Google public policy and government relations counsel Jason Kee in a separate Sept. 29 letter.

The CRTC's embarrassing about-face follows Netflix's Wright refusing to hand over confidential business data after a Sept. 22 appearance before a regulatory panel, despite orders to do so.

The Canadian regulator argued that the U.S. companies have to comply with its business information request orders so the CRTC can assess how Netflix and Google and its YouTube platform operate in Canada and impact local players. But Netflix and Google wagered that they operate beyond the CRTC's jurisdiction under the federal Broadcasting Act.

The U.S. companies also bet that consumers will oppose the CRTC throttling distribution of their popular video content in Canada to enforce quasi-judicial powers.