After several years of little movement, Industry Minister David Emerson focused on the broadband agenda during the fall, obtaining new funding for high-speed connectivity nationwide. While Emerson deserves kudos for focusing on this issue, developments elsewhere suggest that other jurisdictions are even more ambitious. Municipal wifi continues to attract attention – Tempe, Arizona will become the first U.S city to offer citywide, free wifi access. By early next year, the service will be available throughout the city, with all residents able to use the Internet for free for two hours each day.
Plans in Macedonia are even more impressive as it has launched an initiative to provide country-wide wifi access. The system will not be free, but will cover an amazing one thousand square miles.
As ISPs move away from principles of network neutrality toward differential pricing based on applications and content (check out the comments of a Bell South executive and rumours of Rogers blocking BitTorrent and podcasts), the role of government becomes ever more important. Politicians searching for a vision to capture the imagination of Canadians during this election campaign should reject the prioritization of greater network surveillance embodied in MITA and instead set out a vision of greater network access.