Telecom by yum9me (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/53jSy4

Telecom by yum9me (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/53jSy4

Telecom

Bell Canada manhole cover by Amr Malik (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/4zqkxc

CRTC Chair Blais Calls Out Telcos For Double-Talk on Internet Fibre Investment

CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais participated in a fascinating question-and-answer session at MIT this week in which he bluntly spoke out on a wide range of topics including cultural issues, copyright, and Internet policy.  I’ll have a future post on his culture comments (his copyright remarks noted that the zero rating decision may help solidify ISPs’ status as common carriers), but his frank response on Internet investment was particularly noteworthy.

Readers of this blog may recall one of my posts from June 2016 in which I noted that Bell told the CRTC and the government that requirements to share fibre networks could reduce their investment in the sector, but that a top executive told investors that it was going to continue to build fibre networks since they were critical to the company’s future, offering significant cost savings and higher revenues. It would appear that the CRTC took note of the same contradictions. When asked about the CRTC fibre decision at roughly the 34 minute mark, Blais responded:

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April 26, 2017 5 comments News
What is on Television Tonight by Trey Ratcliff (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/t1pU6

The Internet as Cable: The Risk of Treating Telecommunications as Cultural Policy

Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly travels to California this week with an agenda that includes meetings with Internet giants such as Google and Facebook. Given the recent announcement in the budget that the government plans to “review and modernize” the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act, the discussions may help shape an issue that could have a profound impact on the Internet in Canada as there are concerns the government may attempt to shoehorn Canadian cultural policies into telecommunications law.

My Globe and Mail column notes that Ms. Joly’s consultation last year on Cancon in a digital world revealed there is a strong appetite within the traditional Canadian culture lobby for bringing policies such as cultural taxes and mandated Cancon requirements to the Internet. The groups claim the Internet is rapidly replacing the conventional broadcast system as a means of distributing cultural content and that the longstanding analog rules should be shifted into the digital environment.

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April 19, 2017 5 comments Columns
Stop ACTA 21 by Martin Krolikowski (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/bs3Yxp

With U.S. Retreat from Online Privacy, Canada Needs to Safeguard the Internet in NAFTA Talks

The North America Free Trade Agreement renegotiation is likely to start within the next few months as the U.S. triggers provisions that will re-open Canada’s most important trade deal.  With U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross emphasizing the need to address digital economy issues, I wrote about a digital economy-era NAFTA in last week’s Globe and Mail, noting that there were some issues (including online contract enforcement and consumer protection) that should relatively uncontroversial.

In light of yesterday’s U.S. Congressional decision to overturn online privacy rules, it is worth revisiting the NAFTA renegotiation issue and consider whether Canada will need to safeguard its Internet policy. I noted last week that the U.S. was already likely to target two Internet-related privacy measures: data localization and data transfers. Data localization, which could mandate retention of personal information on computer servers located in Canada. has become an increasingly popular policy measure worldwide as countries respond to concerns about U.S.-based surveillance and the subordination of privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens and residents. The Trans Pacific Partnership included restrictions on data localization requirements at the insistence of U.S. negotiators and those provisions are likely to resurface during the NAFTA talks.  Similarly, limitations on data transfer restrictions could surface, restricting the ability to establish privacy safeguards and placing Canada in a difficult position with the EU requiring restrictions and NAFTA prohibiting them.

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March 29, 2017 5 comments News
MTS by Steve (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dWPScb

Bains Gives Bell-MTS Merger a Pass Despite Competition Bureau Finding Serious Wireless Market Problems

The Canadian government has prioritized innovation as a marquee policy issue. There are  signals that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains will use the upcoming budget to overhaul the myriad of innovation funding and support programs that have cost billions of dollars with only a limited return on investment. There is no reason to doubt the commitment to innovation, but a national strategy must involve more than changes to how the government doles out cash incentives.

Yet when presented with the opportunity to address a core component of any serious innovation strategy – the communications sector that provides the foundation for the digital economy – Mr. Bains last week took a look at a market that the Competition Bureau found suffers from coordinated behaviour among the three dominant providers and simply whiffed. The decision to approve the merger of BCE and Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS) with only minor tinkering seems certain to increase wireless pricing for Manitoba residents and eliminate one of the few competitive bright spots in Canada.

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February 21, 2017 5 comments Columns
Our Beloved Phone Company by Dennis S. Hurd (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/8v9Mm9

Why the Wireless Industry Fears Bill Transparency and Bans on Unlocking Fees

The National Post has a story today on a research note written by Maher Yaghi, a telecom analyst, warning about the “regulatory risks” of the CRTC’s review of the wireless code. The article focuses on a single analyst, but there is a long tradition in Canada of the industry saying one thing to the regulator and another to the business community (see, for example, Bell’s position on investing in fibre networks) so the comments likely reflect industry concerns. What regulatory risks might arise from changes to the wireless code?

Yaghi cites two concerns that lay plain why the industry has been fighting potential changes. The issue is not, as some would have you believe, increased regulatory costs. Rather, the fear is that changes would create better informed consumers who would seek cheaper pricing and be freer to take advantage of marketplace competition.

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February 14, 2017 11 comments News