Several reports from the speech have focused on these telecom issues, suggesting that government is sounding “more ambiguous and indefinite” on telecom foreign investment. I don’t see it – the government has been saying the same thing for months. For example, the Globe points to this comment from Paradis calling for a:
predictable regulatory framework that ensures an appropriate balance between competition and investment
as evidence that lobbying from incumbents has had an impact on Conservative thinking.
that requires having a predictable regulatory framework that both supports competition and promotes the growth of successful telecom companies that will build the bulk of the infrastructure.
As for foreign investment and other spectrum issues, Paradis stated:
As part of an integrated regulatory approach to the spectrum auction, we continue to examine tower sharing and roaming and foreign investment. Foreign ownership, meanwhile, remains an important piece of this puzzle, and one that I am personally committed to getting right.
That might sound ambiguous, but in November 2010, Clement said:
how spectrum is allocated and who is eligible to compete for it â€” and pay for it â€” are interrelated issues. And so we will consider foreign investment rules and decisions around the 700 MHz auction together, as part of an integrated regulatory approach. While I was consulting, it became clear another important element of the regulatory framework is the issue of tower sharing and roaming.
The similarities don’t end there. Both speeches say roughly the same thing (in the same order and often with the same words) on broadband, growing the ICT sector, and other digital economy issues. The speech also makes a commitment to reintroducing Bill C-32, but that is taken directly from the Conservative platform.
None of this should come as a surprise since Paradis was just named to the portfolio and the Speech from the Throne isn’t scheduled until Friday
. I don’t think there is a hidden agenda here – talk of an integrated regulatory approach means addressing spectrum and foreign investment at the same time and both will happen in 2012. Analysts may try to read between the lines to determine policy direction, but the significance of the speech does not lie there. Rather, the fact that Paradis gave the speech at all – choosing to focus on the digital economy for his first public event as Industry Minister – is the real story along with how it stuck to the same themes, policies, and structure as Clement. For those looking for big changes with the change in Industry Minister, the message for now is to expect more of the same (without the tweets).
Two things are certain … Internet subscription prices need to decrease while the physical structure and capacity needs to be expanded.
On the surface this seems to be mutually exclusive, which is the argument of the incumbent ISPs, but it need not be so. Like everything else electronic equipment related, costs continue to decrease while capability grows. At the same time power efficiency of that equipment reduces consumption costs, or at least mitigates any electricity price increases.
Another issue at hand is the question of foreign investment. The incumbent ISPs argue that allowing greater competition will decrease their ability to serve less profitable areas of the country, thus derailing the needed growth of our digital economy. A simple answer to that is requiring any new entrants to build out to those areas to earn the right to operate in Canada.
I am neither for or against foreign investment in principle as long as the much needed digital infrastructure for this country is built and operated in a cost effective manner. If Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, etc. want to provide that then all the better. It is in their interest then to step up and commit before the gates of competition are opened to others who will.
Regarding foreign investment, I wouldn’t want a foreign power having control over Canada’s transportation infrastructure. Where you can go, how fast you can go, when you can go there, how much can you be hauling, etc, are questions that must have answers that are in Canada’s best interest. A large foreign-owned telecom could find itself in the position to answer these kinds of questions for Canada’s communications infrastructure, especially if the government’s position is 100% laissez-faire free market.
The current solution is that, in theory, Canadian ISPs compete with each other to provide the best price & service, combined with some basic, sensible regulation from government. Unfortunately Canada only has a few telecoms, and little to no competition. If they could monetize a telephone network made up of tin cans on a string, they would. While government *can* regulate improvements, the most common result is bare minimum compliance with the letter of the regulation, and the more regulations there are, the easier it is to lobby to kill off what little competition there is (as with wholesale UBB).
I don’t want a mere foreign-owned version of Bell, but any competition in the current last-mile monopoly/duopoly is good competition.
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