ISPs are not broadcasters, Supreme Court rules
Published Thursday, February 9, 2012 4:53PM EST
OTTAWA - Internet service providers should not be treated as broadcasters under the law, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed Thursday.
The Federal Court of Appeal found in 2010 that ISPs are not subject to the Broadcasting Act, and the top court dismissed an appeal of that ruling.
At the heart of both decisions was the concept that an Internet service provider is not involved in broadcast content.
"When providing access to the Internet ... (the ISPs) do not take part in the selection, origination, or packaging of the content," the justices wrote in a unanimous judgment.
They emphasized that an entity or company actually had to do more than simply provide access to broadcasting for it to fall under the Broadcasting Act.
The issue of whether Internet service providers have responsibilities to the broadcasting industry writ large has been debated since 2008, when the federal telecom and broadcasting regulator reiterated it would not subject ISPs to regulations.
Some groups argued that ISPs should be contributing financially to the creation of Canadian content.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission referred the matter to the Federal Court of Appeal.
When that court said no, groups representing actors, producers, directors and writers appealed to the Supreme Court.
The major cable and satellite companies, such as Bell Canada and Rogers Communications, opposed the idea in court of their ISPs being considered broadcasters.
But there is one caveat for the ISPs: the Federal Court of Appeal warned that if ISPs begin to actively make content decisions and lose their neutrality, they might indeed be subject to regulation.