IIA seeks to axe internet streaming review

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) expects the federal government to outlaw Australia's internet streaming industry, for everyone except established commercial broadcasters.

The IIA will continue to argue the case with Senator Richard Alston, minister for information technology, the arts and communication. However, its executive director Peter Coroneos said it would probably be futile.

Specifically the IIA is against the federal government's review into internet streaming legislation, which it feels could restrict "back-door" datacasters from web-casting conventional news and information programs over the internet.

Coroneos was expected to meet with Senator Alston in Canberra today, in what he believed would be a "vain attempt" to halt the review.

He questioned the need for a review at all. "Everyone understands the net," he claimed. "By its nature, it is not broadcasting. It is point-to-point."

Coroneos claimed the industry never anticipated the question of "whether the internet was broadcasting", being raised at a policy level.

According to Coroneos, IIA members were "distraught" by the prospect of an inquiry which could ban their business activities. He said these business people "legitimately" expected to operate as legal players, at least until legislation is passed on January 1, 2002.

Coroneos claimed the government was continuing to play into the hands of free-to-air broadcasters.

"If video and audio streaming (are deemed) to be broadcasting, only the free-to-air broadcasters will be able to deliver the most compelling broadband content over the net," he said.

"This review threatens the basis on which a great deal of money has already been invested," Coroneos claimed, referring to the industry's $10 billion investment in internet-streamed content and broadband infrastructure.

Despite the fact that the review will be conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Authority, an independent statutory body, Coroneos believes the government would continue to have the upper hand in any proceedings.

Senator Alston will draft the terms of reference to be employed in the review, effectively allowing the government to define whether internet streaming is a broadcasting service, according to Coroneos.

He predicted the government may pass more serious legislation in the future, requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to "filter" content streamed to Australia from overseas providers. "If they're serious, this government will do this," he warned.

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