Canadian Law

Net Neutrality Simplified

Imagine this situation – You want to rent a blockbuster and your internet provider’s film rental site offers this film for $6.99 in HD whilst another film rental site offers it for $4.99, also in HD. And thinking that because they’re both listed as HD you rent from your internet provider’s competitor only to notice pixelization caused by slow download speeds.

Now imagine you’re completely fine paying more to rent films and one day hear about this great flick that everyone’s raving about on the internet. But you can’t find it on your internet provider’s film rental site and have no choice but rent it from one of your internet provider’s competitors, subjecting yourself to the aforementioned issues.

This would be the norm if net neutrality was abolished.

Internet providers with a larger market share would use this status to demand payment for access to their customers and would shut out film rental companies that didn’t pay up, including the companies set up by their competing internet providers.

You’d be at the mercy of media conglomerates fighting each other, as they hinder the speeds of each other’s services and fight for the exclusive rights to certain films, music, and services.

You’d have dropouts whilst streaming and slow transfer issues accessing your own files on cloud services because these services didn’t pay up or is owned by the competitors of those that did. And this would only get worse when you’re on the go and use wi-fi services from different providers at your favorite hotspots.

Seriously, travelers would also see their speeds drop if they happen to choose an American hotel whose internet is throttled, especially when they throttle sites on which operating system and security software updates are hosted.

They’re not lowering their prices, they’re making it harder for people to access services that do and making content providers pay to access their share of the market, in many cases resulting in a reduction of royalties for artists, composers, writers, etc. And who knows if publicly funded internet like those at public libraries will be subject to internet traffic management practices?

How exactly is this progress?

As it stands, Net Neutrality in Canada is supported by the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission, several last mile internet providers and three political parties, the Liberals, NDP and Green Party. And both Rogers and Bell made statements that they would end throttling in late 2011 and early 2012.

Netflix is currently keeping track of the speed of our internet providers accessing their services and publishing their results on their Netflix ISP Speed Index site and I’m guessing if push comes to shove more of those sites will appear.

Hopefully, the internet providers in the states will figure out this is all counterproductive because people that eventually find out that they’re being throttled needlessly get more demanding and all it takes for their competition to nab their customers are anti-throttling policies.

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New Law Proposed In Ontario

In case you missed it yesterday, the Government of Ontario has proposed new regulations in regards to the resale of concert and event tickets within the province.

As stipulated in an official June 26th press release, the proposed measures include:

  • Banning the use and sale of ticket-buying software – also known as ticket bots – that are used to block legitimate fans and scoop up the best seats the moment an event goes on sale
  • Forbidding the sale of tickets on the resale market that are not owned or possessed by the seller (i.e. speculative tickets)
  • Continuing to restrict the resale of tickets unless they are verified by the primary seller, or the reseller offers a money-back guarantee.

Also included in the proposed measures are new rules in regards to transparency:

  • Primary ticket sellers would be required to disclose the number of tickets that would be available through the general on-sale, as well as the capacity of the event
  • Ticket resellers and online resale platforms would be required to disclose the original face value of the ticket and precise seat location, as well as the identity of a commercial reseller
  • All ticket-selling businesses would be required to disclose the all-in price of a ticket up front, plus clearly indicate the currency.

The “Ticket Sales Act” will be introduced to the Provincial Parliament in the fall.

Ontario Wants Help To Curtail Ticket Bots

The provincial government of Ontario is now consulting the public in regards to ticket bots.

“Ticket bots” enable companies and individuals to purchase large numbers of tickets to popular events almost instantaneously, requiring many regular consumers to pay significant more to see their favourite team, musical act or theatrical performance, as seen on CBC’s Marketplace.

A survey can be found by clicking here until March 15th, 2017.

Ebay Asks Canadian Users To Sign Petition

Ebay is asking Canadian users to support their petition to raise the de minimis threshold from $20 on postal importations for personal use.

Most postal shipments imported into Canada for personal use valued at less than $20 in Canadian funds are exempt from taxes and duties. And although this amount was acceptable when it was adopted in the 80’s, many nations have adopted higher de minimis thresholds since.

The current de minimis thresholds for American residents is US$800 and when European Union residents import merchandise for personal use their de minimis threshold is €150. Considerable amounts compared to the Canadian rate.

In late 2016, a petition had been submitted to the Parliament and the government responded by saying it is assessing their options :

“The Government is working to facilitate trade and streamline administrative burdens, and has undertaken concrete actions to facilitate low value shipments. In 2013, as part of the Beyond the Border Initiative, Canada and the U.S. harmonized processes to expedite the customs administration of low value shipments and waived the requirement for a certificate of origin for such shipments to benefit from preferential tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Furthermore, in 2011, three generic tariff classifications were introduced in the Customs Tariff to facilitate the processing of low value non-commercial imports arriving by post or by courier.”

Please consider signing this new petition by clicking here. Thank you.

No to Internet Tax !

Apparently Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly is considering an Internet Tax to fund Canadian content, according to University of Ottawa professor Micheal Geist. And unfortunately for Canadians this tax may make internet access more expensive.

There are currently two taxes being considered ; One on content providers like Netflix and iTunes and another general sales tax on internet access. And although the previous tax may sound better than the latter, one has to wonder if all music, television programs and films purchased or rented online would be subjected to this tax, including those that are made available through the internet television providers.

SiriusXM subscribers are already subject to taxes and a “Music Royalty and Regulatory Fee of 14.2%”. But would the service also be subjected to this additional tax ? Will Apple Music subscribers need to pay for this additional tax ?

We currently pay nothing to listen to radio and to watch television offline. We also already pay taxes on compact disc, DVD and blu-ray purchases, which would not be subject to this new tax. It therefore makes no sense to charge people more taxes for the same content, especially when it involves the streaming of purchases matched or uploaded to a Cloud service.

Why does the government not fund Canadian Content by taxing Canadian broadcasters that run adverts online, when they stream foreign content ?

I’m sure Rogers and Bell would likely oppose this because they’d likely rather see the foreign services taxed instead. But the foreign services have no legal obligation to collect these taxes and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement would disallow this requirement, if passed.

We also currently pay taxes on our internet provider subscription fees so any additional tax would simply make it unaffordable for many Canadians.

Canadians spent on average $203 per month on communication services in 2014, according to a CRTC Report released in 2015, an increase of approximately 6% from 2013 ($11.92). And according to CBC News, there was a 10% increase on wireless and internet services specifically from 2013.

To dissuade use of foreign services like Netflix and iTunes, Canadians are also already subject to data caps and the proposed tax would simply make the unlimited internet plans less affordable.

Many Canadians also still pay a “Digital Services Fee” on their cable, satellite and television subscriptions, a fee that cannot be justified now that an analog service has been fazed out.

Could the government not demand this fee be replaced with a Canadian Content Improvement Fund fee instead ? Or will this obsolete fee be buried like that of Bell’s $2.80 Touch-Tone fee, which netted Bell $80 Million in 2013 according to CBC News ?

At the moment Bell is claiming the Digital Service Fee is collected to improve their services. But isn’t that what their investors are paying for ? Why their customers are being asked to pay more per month for television ?

Prior to September 2014, cable and satellite television subscribers in Canada paid a monthly 1.5% fee to the Local Programming Improvement Fund, which netted $106 million in 2011 for television stations in markets smaller than a million. And although this fee was discontinued, these subscribers barely noticed because they were asked to pay more for their television subscriptions shortly after.

The average monthly rate for television services paid by Canadians climbed from $65.25 in 2014 to $66.08 in 2015, according to CBC News ; A difference of 83 cents per month when the average monthly rate for Canadians for the Local Programming Improvement Fund was 50 cents. And with the mandated “skinny package” changes some have seen their monthly rates rise significantly since the spring of 2016.

I believe it makes more sense to apply a Canadian Content fee of a dollar or two to the sale of television antennas, digital converter boxes, digital television receivers/set top boxes, satellite/internet radio receivers and streaming media players in Canada, although some members of the public would likely not enjoy the prospect of paying it in addition to a Provincial environmental handling fee and having both fees taxed.

Perhaps a monthly fee of 1.5% on unlimited internet packages or bundled packages over $150/month would be the path of least resistance because it would likely be negligible to the subscribers of these specific bundles or packages.

Warning – Gift Card Scam

The Canada Revenue Agency does not accept or solicit iTunes gift cards as payment.

Apparently the scammers now ask for payments using iTunes gift cards, that they resell online using legitimate services.

If you receive a call instructing you to pay back taxes in gift cards, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or prepaid debit cards, hang up and call 1-888-495-8501 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday.