In the aftermath of the CRTC’s hearing on a consumer wireless code and the government’s announcement of its plan for future spectrum auctions, a debate has raged over the competitiveness and health of the Canadian wireless market. Scotia Capital released a report last week titled “Canadian wireless myths and facts” that argued the Canadian market is healthy and that “it is time for the regulators to declare victory on the policies they adopted five years ago”. Meanwhile, Open Media issued a report titled Time for an Upgrade: Demanding Choice in Canada’s Cell Phone Market that places on the spotlight on many of the ongoing problems in the market, with a particular focus on consumer complaints. The report includes many recommendations for regulatory and policy reform.
The reality is that both the regulators and politicians have either expressly or impliedly acknowledged that the Canadian wireless market is uncompetitive. Last week, Industry Minister Christian Paradis promoted the government’s past moves on wireless competition, but admitted that “there is much more to do.” Meanwhile, the Competition Bureau told the CRTC in its submission on the wireless code of conduct that:
certain impediments continue to diminish the effect of competitive forces in this industry. First, certain industry practices have tended to impose costs on consumers who wish to avail themselves of competitive alternatives. Second, consumers are not always provided with sufficient information in an adequately clear manner to make informed purchase decisions.
This post seeks to extend the debate and respond to some of Scotia Capital’s claims. It identifies ten reasons why there is ample evidence that the Canadian wireless market remains woefully uncompetitive when compared with peer countries around the world with higher costs, price gouging, and restrictive terms.
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I’m a big fan of Chris Selley, the National Post writer behind Full Pundit, a daily look the Canadian editorial and opinion columns (last year Selley was also a vocal supporter of the much-needed Fire Ron Wilson campaign). The Full Pundit features a summary of the most notable editorial writing in Canadian media accompanied by quotations from the original works. I’m quite sure that Selley does not ask for permission to quote from those other works since fair dealing for news reporting purposes permits their use without the need to do so. Yet if someone wants to post a quote from Selley or anything else written by the National Post, they are now presented with pop-up box seeking a licence that starts at $150 for the Internet posting of 100 words with an extra fee of 50 cents for each additional word (the price is cut in half for non-profits).
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Industry Minister Christian Paradis this morning unveiled a series of new measures related to spectrum auctions. The long-overdue 700 MHz spectrum auction will be run in November 2013. A full list of background docs and policies can be found here.
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The government is characterizing its Bill C-56 as an anti-counterfeiting bill, yet this week NDP MP Charmaine Borg framed it more accurately as “ACTA through the backdoor.” During Question Period on Monday, Borg asked Industry Minister Christian Paradis directly if the bill paves the way for ratification of the discredited treaty:
Mr. Speaker, last July the European Parliament rejected the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement over serious concerns about the regressive changes it would impose on intellectual property in the digital age. Yet on Friday, the Conservatives introduced a bill in the House that would pave the way for the ACTA without question. Canadians have concerns about goods being seized or destroyed without any oversight by the courts. Will the minister now be clear with Canadians? Are the Conservatives planning to ratify ACTA, yes or no?
Paradis refused to respond to the ACTA ratification question:
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The movie Argo may have picked up the biggest prize in last week’s Academy Awards ceremony, but it was the Best Documentary Short winner that had many on the Internet buzzing. Inocente, a film about a 15-year old homeless girl who dreams of becoming an artist, took home the Oscar and in the process became the first Internet crowdsource funded film to win Hollywood’s biggest award. Last year, the film raised $52,527 on Kickstarter, a crowdsource funding website that has raised over US$100 million to support the creation of independent films.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the emergence of crowdsource funding – or crowdfunding – points to the power of the Internet as an important source of financial support for independent creators, whether film makers, musicians, software programmers, or authors. Crowdfunding enables creators to raise funds through small contributions from the public by publicizing their project using the Internet and social media sites. Crowdfunding success stories encompass new products, companies, and community initiatives, but movies have fared particularly well.
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