A Canadian Press article appearing in The Globe and Mail reports:
A Parti Québécois member of the national assembly is trying to drum up support to create a distinct Quebec identity on the World Wide Web.
Daniel Turp has started a petition to convince the ICANN, the international authority responsible for Internet domain names, to create an extension that would be unique to websites in Quebec.
Mr. Turp says one way to identify a nation is for it to have its own web extensions and that if his efforts are successful, Quebeckers would use the extension .qc.
“Quebeckers would use the extension .qc” is a very interesting phrase. The implication is that Quebecers wanting to put up a web site would have no choice in the matter. In the unlikely event that this .qc TLD were recognized, I’d be very surprised if the government didn’t try to restrict its use to sites in French, and only French.
Québec’s Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101, had this same requirement for business signs when it was introduced in 1978. The charter was challenged to the Supreme Court in 1988 and the Court ruled that the charter could require that French be the predominant language on a sign, but not that it be the only language. Perhaps the same thing would happen if the government tried to restrict the use of a .qc TLD to French-only sites.
Although I believe the Québec government would like nothing better than their own French corner of the Internet, calmer heads would point out that this would put considerable limits on the potential audience the .qc sites might enjoy. A French-only .qc TLD could quickly become balkanized.
There are nearly 450 million people in North America. I don’t think businesses will willingly let government interference limit them to a potential audience of 10 million. It all hinges on whether the government would try to restrict residents and businesses from using other TLDs. If one could use any domain, I doubt anyone would care whether .qc were language-restricted or not. The provincial government, Québec-based political organizations, and separatists would be the primary residents of the .qc TLD.
In my opinion, the regional TLDs are only useful for regional sites. If you’re a business eager to sell to an international clientèle, you want a .com domain anyway. While the provincial government would wet its pants at the prospect of a gouv.qc URL instead of the current gouv.qc.ca, few others will really care.