My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on the release last week of the results of a CRTC public online consultation on new media that will feed into hearings on the issue early next year. Given that it was a consultation on new media, the Commission established a special website last spring for the month-long consultation and commissioned noted pollster Nik Nanos to serve as moderator and report back on the results. The Nanos report does not cast judgment on the success of the consultation – it merely reports the factual results – but there is no hiding the fact that by Internet standards the consultation failed to attract a large audience. Over the course of an entire month, the website generated just over 2,500 unique visitors with an average of 84 visitors per day. Only 284 Canadians registered with site, posting a total of 278 comments.
I argue that while the Commission should be commended for trying, it is clear that public consultations are no field of dreams – it takes more than a "if you build it, they will come" approach. With the increasing desire of governments and businesses to use the Internet as a tool for public feedback, it is worth examining why the consultation failed to spark significant interest.