The Australian Communications and Media Authority can’t define the internet, or so it seems. The Fin Review today reports on strange goings-on in Senate Estimates

On
Tuesday, the Australian Communications and Media Authority came under
pressure from federal opposition communications spokesman Stephen
Conroy, who pressed the authority for a precise definition of the
internet.

Marcus Bezzi, the authority’s general manager, legal,
said he had a “settled view” on how the word internet should be
interpreted. “It is defined in a number of places,” he said. “There are
many definitions available of the internet.”

Senator Conroy said
it was extraordinary the authority charged with enforcing law relating
to broadcasting was itself not clear on a definition and that this
would cause uncertainty in the emerging market for internet protocol
for internet protocol television, or IPTV…

At this point, you may be feeling a sense of deja vu. That’s right. We’ve been here before. With datacasting. The
Commonwealth, it seems, doesn’t want to define the internet as it
doesn’t want to lose control over technologies that are yet to come.

After
toying with the idea of embracing deregulation, it’s decided that
protecting the interests of established media players is more important
than letting Australians take up new technologies. Not that they
won’t do it, anyway. King Canute was pretty bloody silly in his day and
age. He makes a completely idiotic role model in the 21st
century.

Government could prevent FM radio or colour TV
broadcasts. Satellite television was harder to stop – all you needed
was a big enough dish. Still, Communications Minister Helen Coonan and
her bureaucrats still think you can hold back the online tide. It’s
nonsense, of course. All the Government can do is regulate local media
contest broadcast over the internet. Australians will still be able to
get it from overseas.

Once again, the Government is protecting
the established media players – protecting the value of their assets
and protecting them from competition. And once again the Government is
preventing the emergence of greater choice for Australian consumers and
retarding the local take-up of new technologies – and the emergence of
new media industries.

Peter Fray

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