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

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 8 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
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