Bell Wants to Criminalize Illegal Online Video Streams, Block Websites and More Reveals Filing

The federal government is set to revamp its broadcast and telecommunications law and recently held a public consultation into the matter, with various Canadian broadcasters sending their submissions.

However, most of these submissions were kept secret and unavailable to the public, despite the government’s claims of an open and transparent process. Some of these submissions from Canada’s major telcos have been finally revealed, in particular the latest from Bell Canada.

Ottawa Law Professor, Dr. Michael Geist, filed an Access to Information Act request to obtain submissions from telecom companies and has shared Bell’s submission publicly for the first time, “for research and news reporting purposes.”

What is uncovered in Bell’s submission is the company’s desire to criminalize illegal online video streaming and those associated with it, plus also revisit website blocking with its controversial FairPlay site blocking initiative.

Bell also wants the Canadian government to regulate online video providers such as Netflix, Amazon and other U.S. providers.

The company’s entire submission is “incredibly one-sided” and Geist says the recommendations would “surely” face challenges by the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Geist concludes with the following:

Rather than regulation in support of greater competition, Bell provides the panel with a prescription for reduced or eliminated regulation wherever possible. In fact, even the provisions that support net neutrality (Bell otherwise ignores the issue) would be lightened with a reversal of where the onus lies on proving wrongdoing and a weakening of Section 36 to facilitate website blocking.

The net effect of the 167 page submission is self-serving in the extreme: higher wireless and entertainment costs for consumers, competitive advantages for Bell, the risk of a trade war with the United States, harms to net neutrality, and an extensive regulatory system aimed at Bell’s competitors. Even in an era where one expects companies to argue in their self-interest, the Bell submission is shocking in the risks it posses to virtually all stakeholders in the Canadian communications world.

You can click here to read Bell’s entire submission to the government panel.