Internet policy review threatens higher cable bills
By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance
The federal broadcast regulator has launched extensive hearings that explore whether the internet has become another channel for broadcasting and need to have its own Canadian content rules and other guidelines for its future evolution.
It all sounds sufficiently high concept and non-threatening, but for consumers - specifically the millions of cable customers in Canada - this process has a potentially pricey outcome: if a tax is imposed on cable companies to help pay for the production of new Canadian content, that will almost certainly be passed along to end users. That means internet access will become more expensive at a time when few households are able to pay more for anything.
That sort of economic hurdle is all the more problematic in light of the fact that in the last budget, the federal government earmarked $225 million to expand broadband capability to under-served areas, especially in rural regions of the country.
Exercises in policy contemplation may be commendable in principle, but given the financial distress of broadcasters (who have been hard hit by a collapse in advertising sales) and the tough times most Canadians are now facing in making ends meet, now may not be the time to indulge intellectual curiosity - or to charge higher fees on what has become an essential service.