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    Conservatives To Discuss Net Neutrality, Broadband at Convention

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    Tuesday June 07, 2011
    The Conservatives hold their convention later this week with 80 resolutions being considered for possible debate in the plenary session. The resolutions are proposed by local chapters and at least two focus on Internet access and net neutrality. Resolution P-063 (Durham) on broadband states:

    We believe in the need for a strong Internet link to Canada together in the 21st Century, as
    railroads did in the 19th Century and aviation did in the 20th Canada must claim a leading position in an increasingly networked world.

    The Conservative Party will:

    i) Support internet broadband initiatives, to bring universal access to all Canadians, especially in rural and Northern communities
    ii) Support an open and accessible internet with appropriate safeguards and enforcement mechanisms against illegal activities. 
    iii) Support network neutrality, giving each user a fair share of bandwidth to use in communicating with any other user with any protocol.
    iv) We support an innovative and competitive market place while promoting private sector infrastructure investment.
    v) We support initiatives promoting telepresence and telecommuting to overcome geographical barriers.

    Resolution P-064 (Wild Rose) states:

    The Conservative Party recognizes the vital importance of internet connectivity to full Canadian participation in global economic, social, and cultural communities. The government should create an environment that encourages private sector investment to increase broadband infrastructure, especially in rural and remote areas of Canada.

    Only a limited number of the resolutions will be considered in plenary.
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    The Digital Challenge: 1500 Days to Universal, Competitive Broadband in Canada

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    Friday May 06, 2011
    The CRTC issued its universal service decision this week, which included analysis of funding mechanisms for broadband access, broadband speed targets, and whether there should be a requirement to provide broadband access as part of any basic service objective. Consumers groups and many observers were left disappointed. The CRTC declined to establish new funding mechanisms (relying on market forces) or changes to basic service and hit on a target of 5 Mbps download speed (actual not advertised) to be universally available by the end of 2015. Critics argued this left consumers on their own and suggested that the targets were underwhelming, particularly when contrasted with other countries.

    While I sympathize with the frustration over the CRTC's decision to essentially make broadband a "watching brief," I wonder why Canadians should expect the CRTC to lead on broadband targets and funding. Universal access to globally competitive broadband (in terms of speed, pricing, and consumer choice) is a perhaps the most important digital policy issue Canada faces and it should not be viewed through a narrow telecom regulatory lens. 

    Rather, it is a government policy issue, one that requires a serious commitment by elected officials. With a new Conservative majority government, the era of excuses (the Liberals did nothing, minority governments make this issue too difficult) are over. Given the fixed date for elections, there are roughly 1,500 days left in the Conservative mandate. July 2015 provides the real target date for addressing the competitive and access concerns associated with Canadian broadband.

    It provides four years to open the market to new competitors, facilitate the introduction of new wireless broadband alternatives, encourage the market to offer fibre connections in all major markets, foster new local competitors, leverage the role of high speed research and education networks, consider using spectrum auction proceeds to fund broadband initiatives, and address anti-competitive pricing models. It allows the government to set a realistic but ambitious target for broadband speed, pricing, and competition that allows Canada to reverse a decade of decline and once again become a global leader. Canadians can look at the benchmarks today in terms of current access, pricing, competition, and global ranking and use them to judge the change over the next 1,500 days. This is the challenge for the government - not the CRTC - and the clock is running.
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    OECD Broadband Rankings: Canada Ranks 28th out of 33 Countries Based on Bell, Rogers & Shaw Data

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    Tuesday April 19, 2011
    The OECD published its latest comparative broadband Internet data last week, confirming yet again that Canadian consumers pay more for less when it comes to Internet access. While some will undoubtedly claim that the OECD methodology is faulty, it should be noted that the data is provided to OECD member governments before publication. For this survey, the OECD focused on three of Canada's largest ISPs - Bell, Shaw, and Rogers - covering 18 of their offerings at a range of speeds and pricing points.

    The focus should be on the numbers, which tell a discouraging tale. Among the findings on price of Internet services (all as of September 2010):

    Speed
    Rank
    Overall
    28th out of 33
    Below 2.5 Mbps
    17th out of 24
    Between 2.5 an 15 Mbps
    28th out of 33
    Between 15 and 30 Mbps
    29th out of 33
    Over 45 Mbps
    23rd out of 28


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    Bell's Sunny Broadband Claims

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    Tuesday February 08, 2011
    Bell offers its perspective on UBB in a debate with TekSavvy in the pages of the National Post (a similar debate occurs in the Globe - Waverman vs. Beers).  The Bell response includes the claim that Canada is a broadband leader:

    At the same time, Canada has increasingly become a world leader when it comes to broadband. When it comes to actual download speeds, Canada ranks third in the G20, behind only densely populated Korea and Japan. And prices are low — in fact, for higher-speed services, lower than in both the U.S. and Japan.

    I'm not sure where these claims come from - Canada does not appear in the top 10 on Akamai's latest State of the Internet report for Internet speed and no Canadian city makes Akamai's top 100 for peak speed. The OECD report ranks Canada well back in terms of speed and price as does the Berkman report.  The NetIndex report ranks Canada 36th in the world for residential speed. Moreover, the shift away from the OECD to the G20 has the effect of excluding many developed countries with faster and cheaper broadband than Canada (while bringing in large, developing world economies that unsurprisingly rank below Canada on these issues). While there is probably a report somewhere that validates the claim, the consensus is that Canada is not a leader.
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