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Canadian Journal of Law and Technology

Abstract

While technological and economic changes have been the most influential factors in stimulating recent policy and regulatory reassessments in Canada with respect to telecommunications and broadcasting regulation, public interest and socio-political concerns should also remain significant in the design of new regulatory and policy responses to convergence and competition. When the CRTC announced that it would refrain from regulating broadcasting in new media for a period of five years, this occasion illustrated the increasing inapplicability of the sector-specific legislation from which the mandate of the CRTC is derived.

The first model addressed is the present sector-specific policy and regulatory treatment of communications, which accommodates certain new pressures, such as increased competition and privatization in the telecommunications sector, by using the power to forbear from regulation. However, this route lacks appropriate treatment of technological innovations, particularly with regard to the blurring of the distinction between carriage and content. The second model explores the possibilities involved in the present trend towards generalized regulatory convergence in communications, with its increased reliance upon harmonized competition law and policy. While this direction takes account of technological and economic shifts, there is little attention to how public interest or socio-political concerns may be adversely affected by the trend. The third model, a multilayered, -object-specific policy and regulatory regime, has been proposed herein as an alternative that better accommodates recent shifts in communications due to convergence and competition. This model is recommended as an alternative policy strategy whereby regulatory supervision and effective governance are available where appropriate. The purpose-specific model also best responds to technological, economic, public interest and socio-polit- ical considerations, the balance of which should be considered a guide for adjudicating policy modifications in such essential areas as communications technologies and the information industry.

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