News

Minneapolis Data Privacy Listening Session by Tony Webster (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/2hUwUZj

“We Don’t Have Any Specific Analysis”: CUSMA Negotiators Surprising Admission On Key Privacy Issues

Earlier this week, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology began hearings on Bill C-4, the bill designed to implement the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement. I appeared before the committee to discuss digital issues (more on the appearance in an upcoming post), but just prior to my panel, the team of lead negotiators from Global Affairs took questions from Members of Parliament.

The questioning opened with a stunning exchange between Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner and chief negotiator Steve Verheul on the privacy analysis (or lack thereof) conducted by Canadian officials:

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February 27, 2020 4 comments News
News on the Tablet by Dennis Sylvester Hurd https://flic.kr/p/b2fsCa (public domain)

Broadcast Panel Chair Says Canada Already Licenses News Organizations So Why Not Internet Companies?

Janet Yale, the chair of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel, appeared earlier this week before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to provide an update on the report. Her opening remarks directly addressed concerns regarding the regulation of news, claiming that there has been some confusion on the issue. Yet far from clearing up any “confusion”, Yale proceeded to inaccurately describe the state of news regulation in Canada and advocate for an expansive regulatory framework for Internet-based news aggregators:

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February 26, 2020 6 comments News
Launch of the TELUS Future Friendly Foundation by Province of British Columbia (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/Q6bxZW

Who Runs Canadian Telecom Policy Anyway?: Why the Telus Threats at the CRTC Will Backfire

The big headline story from the first week of the CRTC hearing into the wireless market was undoubtedly Telus CEO Darren Entwistle closing hours of testimony with a threat to slash investment and jobs if the Commission follows through with a mandated MVNO model. Entwistle told the CRTC:

There’s been a lot of conjecture related to disinvestment or reduced investment. It’s been a high topic related to what will happen as it pertains to MVNOs being introduced or another 25 percent price reduction being enforced, having already bettered the existing one that’s in place. And there are some views that this is just theatre perpetrated by the incumbents, in that if mandated MVNOs come to fruition or there’s an enforced second tier 25 percent reduction we will go on with status quo investing.

So one of the additional things I would like to file with you in confidence that I brought here today is a Board resolution at TELUS signed by all of our Board directors instructing management to pursue an investment reduction plan and a job reduction plan and a philanthropic giving reduction plan should these eventualities present themselves. And we’re discussing numbers where the reduction, and we’ll go public with it, but I’ll file with you the Board resolution, in the vicinity of a billion dollars of reduced investment over the next 5‑year. The reduced employment is in the zip code of 5,000 jobs over the next 5‑years.

In other words, in a bid to demonstrate that this was not theatre, Entwistle engaged in theatrics by pointing to a resolution from a board of which he is a member that supports his case.

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February 25, 2020 20 comments News
Sonic at the North Shore by Dan Bergstrom (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/59yoAZ

The Broadcast Panel Report and Canadian Stories: Take the Cancon Quiz

The Motion Picture Association – Canada this week promoted the Canadian link to Sonic the Hedgehog movie, the top grossing movie in the world at the moment. Much of the movie was filmed in British Columbia, generating millions in production spending and creating nearly 1,500 jobs. Normally, this would be viewed as a good news story and indicative of the global competitiveness of film and production in Canada. Yet the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report downplays the importance of this production, crafting policy recommendations that emphasizes the importance of supporting Canadian stories as a critical aspect of its approach.

Indeed, the willingness to violate net neutrality norms, impose discoverability requirements, and establish a global levy system for websites and services around the world is primarily based on the argument that Canadian policy must work to promote the production of Canadian content. This policy goal is framed as the need for Canada “to continue to assert its cultural sovereignty and Canadians can continue to express their identity and culture through content.”

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February 21, 2020 5 comments News
United Nations of smartphone operating systems by Jon Fingas (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/goVRFZ

Deja Vu All Over Again: Looking Back at Two Decades of Bell, Telus and Rogers Battles Over the Canadian Wireless Market

In the weeks leading up to the CRTC hearing on wireless services, there was no shortage of corporate lobbying, opinion pieces from telecom company consultants downplaying concerns about the competitiveness of the Canadian wireless market, and comments from company executives threatening to reduce investment if the CRTC mandated new competitions through MVNOs. Those claims have continued this week throughout the hearing.

Independent studies from around the globe have for years (here, here, here, here, here) found that Canadians face some of the highest wireless prices in the developed world. Yet if the usual claims of a fiercely competitive, reasonably priced wireless market provides a sense of deja vu, consider:

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February 20, 2020 5 comments News