Canada sucks when it comes to the digital innovations

h/t to gizmo for pointing this out to me. For a mild-mannered broadcaster, one of their blogs is blunt and absolutely correct.

Here are three things that suck about being Canadian right now:

  1. Last week the CRTC sided with Bell against a group of small Internet Service Providers who want to offer their customers unthrottled connections where what they download is their own business and not subject to interference.
  2. In last week’s throne speech the Conservative government renewed their intention to “modernize” Canadian [Crown] copyright law. Their effort to do so last session was Bill C-61, a woefully unbalanced and retrograde piece of legislation that led to the greatest citizen backlash to any proposed bill in recent memory. Yet there has been no indication from new Industry Minister Tony Clement that a much-needed public consultation will take place. The best he has offered is the possibility of a “slightly different” version of the bill.
  3. Twitter has just announced that they are killing outbound SMS messaging in Canada due to exorbitant and constant rate hikes from Canadian cell providers (former Industry Minister Jim Prentice vowed to get tough on SMS price gouging, then backpeddled). Cell phone rates in Canada are among the highest in the world, and the result is that mobile penetration is pathetically low and that emerging new cultural platforms like Twitter are being hobbled.

These decisions absolutely blow my mind. In this post, I’ll address the implications for #1. Our weakling telephone companies are able to restrict trade in a massive way, squeezing out third party purchasers of broadband. So much for the mom-and-pop ISP. The telecoms can use existing deficiencies in fibre optics as an excuse to packet-shape. But they’ve eliminated the incentive to ever increase the transmission pipes. More importantly, the CRTC action has enormous free speech implications because Bell/Sympatico can sloooow down any criticism of its practices. Additionally, telecoms essentially can eliminate innovations in P2P. Sure the overwhelming use of P2P always will be illegal activities. However, P2P is also becoming a standard for sharing large and legitimate datasets. Climate change or bioinformatics information are good candidates for P2P. Has the Canadian federal government been deaf to the whole net neutrality debate?

3 Responses to “Canada sucks when it comes to the digital innovations”

  1. Liam says:

    In many ways I can understand why the government is hesitant to regulate private networks, I want my VOIP packets to be prioritized ahead of my YouTube videos. In this case I think the boundary is blurred because of the huge power the incumbent telcos have in terms of access to the customer, hence why the public consultation mentioned for next year should be interesting.

    In many ways the problem stems from the ‘unlimited’ nature of some ISPs previous plans. Unlimited is a myth, so if sufficient numbers of customers use it as such, then the usage assumptions go right out the window.

    Most have made a step in the right direction recently by eliminating or charging more appropriately for their unlimited plans. If they can charge for bandwidth usage, hopefully they’ll better tie the upgrading of their infrastructure to how much they actually sell.

  2. sieber says:

    It’s logical to want some packets prioritized over others but I’d rather not have a telco deciding that for me. Telcos have monopoly status, particularly in a geographically big country like Canada. So they’re similar to utility companies. It’s quite acceptable for a government to step in and regulate a monopoly’s activities.

    It’s true that charging for bandwidth is a new business model. But having the extra money doesn’t mean they’re going to invest it in bigger or more efficient pipes. Fibre aside, the telcos are now raking in money from the SMS charges. Will we see any of that in terms of improved services (that people can afford)? Not likely.

  3. Jones says:

    Charging for bandwidth is understandable, but restricting certain types of packages is not. Some people actually want to use other web protocols such as FTP, Telnet, and so on.