National Communications Commission (NCC) Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) on Friday said the commission would entrust a private organization with the task of receiving complaints from netizens about inappropriate online content and determining if the content is harmful for Internet users.
Watch Internet Network, a non-governmental organization, is currently tasked with handling all complaints about Internet content and referring them to different regulators. For instance, if the content being complained about is selling banned substances or fake drugs, the complaints would be handed over to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Shyr said the network would be transformed into a more active Internet watch mechanism. Aside from receiving a budget from the commission, the mechanism will be supported by funding from the government agencies regulating sexual equality, youth welfare or health, he added.
Shyr said the monitoring of online content would be conducted by a private contractor, which would handle complaints from the general public. An independent committee is to be formed to decide if the content would indeed harm Internet users, as well as determine what actions to take to repair or prevent the damage.
Regarding the controversies generated by Article 9 of the amendment to the Telecommunications Act (電信法), Shyr said they were misunderstandings caused by inappropriate wording in the article.
The article authorizes the commission to ask Internet service providers (ISPs) to disconnect Web sites with harmful content from the network and to have the harmful content removed. However, critics of the amendment said the article could be a way for the government to suppress freedom of speech.
“We thought the article can help us regulate the ISPs, but the wording gave us powers that we do not intend to have,” he said.
The commission’s proposed amendment to the Telecommunications Act was again turned down by the Executive Yuan earlier this month. Rather than fix the amendment’s wording and resubmit it later, the commission announced that it would submit the draft of the digital convergence act next year that would merge three existing broadcasting acts and the Telecommunications Act.
Meanwhile, Shyr said that cable television services would be charged per household, rather than per set-top box, after the implementation of an “a la carte” pricing scheme for cable TV services in 2017.
“In Taiwan, each household may be partitioned into different rooms for lease. An entire building can share the use of one cable line. Compared with charging by set-top box, charging by household would be less complicated and reduce the impact on the ‘status quo,’” he said.
Shyr added that the commission would lower a cable service operator’s proposed monthly subscription fee for next year if its digital service penetration rate in the third quarter this year fails to increase by 4.5 percent compared with the same quarter last year.
“I think they [service operators] know by now how much they want to charge this year, depending on the amount of service penetration rate,” he said.