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

Kodi by DownloadsourceES (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/pd6LVo

Canadian Telcos Take Aim At Kodi Addon Site With Shocking Search: True Purpose to “Destroy Livelihood of the Defendant”

Canadian telecom giants Bell, Rogers, and Videotron have escalated their copyright fight against the sale and distribution of Android set-top boxes and websites that facilitate distribution of addons for Kodi software. Kodi boxes – Android set-top boxes pre-loaded with the open source Kodi media player software – have become increasingly popular in recent years. The set-top boxes turn standard televisions into “smart TVs”, enabling users to access their own content and a wide range of video content found online. By all accounts, this includes authorized content such as YouTube, Netflix or other online video providers, as well as unauthorized streaming services that offer access to unlicensed content. The set-top box providers do not make the content available themselves, but rather sell a device preloaded with software that can be used to access both infringing and non-infringing content. In the case of “addon” sites, the sites point to addons or plugins that can be added to the Kodi media player software to make it easier to access online content.

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August 4, 2017 28 comments News
Super Bowl Tickets by Michael Dorausch (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/7CjXzW

Inconsistent Arguments and Questionable Claims: Bell Launches Yet Another Action Over CRTC’s Super Bowl Simsub Ruling

Jean-Pierre Blais’ term as CRTC chair was marked by dramatic changes in how policies were developed and in the substance of the policies themselves. As I wrote on his departure, Blais placed the Internet at the centre of the communications systems and worked to gradually revamp broadcast safeguards in an effort to make the Canadian system more globally competitive. With the appointment of new chair Ian Scott and vice-chair of broadcasting Caroline Simard, the established stakeholders will unsurprisingly test the new leadership to see if a change in approach is on the way. Yesterday, Bell took a major step in that direction as it asked the CRTC to rescind its order banning simultaneous substitution from the Super Bowl broadcast in Canada.

Bell had already filed a legal action, asked the government to intervene in the case, and ramped up lobbying pressure from the U.S., but the government rightly declined to overturn the decision with the case still before the courts. I’ve written extensively about the issue, making the case for why the CRTC got it right (if anything, it did not go far enough as simultaneous substitution has become less relevant as more subscribers cut the cable cord). After the Super Bowl broadcast, I argued that the viewership data largely vindicated the CRTC. Indeed, Bell’s data confirms that it massively over-estimated the impact of the simsub loss. In advance of the broadcast, it forecast a $40 million loss. It now claims an $11 million advertising loss, a fraction of its earlier estimate.

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August 2, 2017 5 comments News
Blais at MIT, InternetPolicy@MIT‏ @MIT_IPRI  Apr 27, 2017, https://twitter.com/MIT_IPRI/status/857701694561452032

Putting the Internet at the Centre: Taking Stock of Jean-Pierre Blais’ Term as CRTC Chair

Barring a last minute extension, CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais’ term will come to an end this week. For those new to the CRTC, it is difficult to overstate just how much changed both procedurally and substantively during his five years as chair. For some context, consider a 2006 invitation I received to participate on a panel at the Telecommunications Invitational Summit, a by-invitation-only event that brought together many in the industry for off-the-record, Chatham House Rules discussions on issues of the day. I was grateful for the invitation – I was there to defend the then-emerging issue of net neutrality – but recall being shocked walking into the venue to see senior telecom executives shooting billiards and having a drink with CRTC commissioners.

It is fair to say that those off-the-record bonding-style events between the regulator and the regulated became a thing of the past under Blais. In fact, weeks after he was named chair of the CRTC, I was called into his office in one of several meetings he had with consumer and public interest voices as his first order of business. I had a mixed history with Blais to that point (he was the lead on copyright policy at Canadian Heritage for many years), but he left no doubt that bringing a public interest voice and perspective to the CRTC was his top priority.

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June 12, 2017 9 comments News
More than $2 million to keep young adults from care connected by Province of British Columbia (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/TnHNkA

Canadian Government on Wireless Services: High Prices, Low Adoption, and Unaffordable For Too Many

Earlier this year, the Liberal government granted approval for the merger between BCE and MTS, eroding the competitive wireless market in Manitoba. In response, I argued in the Globe and Mail:

The Conservative government was criticized for failing to fix Canada’s uncompetitive wireless market, but at least it recognized the problem and did not shy away from challenging the Big Three. By contrast, Mr. Bains was faced with a sure thing – higher wireless prices for consumers and a less competitive, innovative marketplace – and blinked. Unless there are some new pro-competitive policies on wireless yet to come, the approval of the BCE-MTS merger guarantees that the government’s innovation strategy will start with a weak foundation.

It turns out, there was more to come. This week, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains put the wireless market back in the spotlight with a speech that left little doubt that the Liberal government has reached the same conclusion as its predecessor, namely that the Canadian wireless market continues to be marked by insufficient competition leading to high prices, low adoption rates, and a lack of affordability for consumers with low household income.

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June 7, 2017 5 comments News
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 8 comments News