Category Archives: government

National broadband is anything but a failure

Railroad construction: what a waste of taxpayer money, am I right?

Railroad construction: what a waste of taxpayer money, am I right?

Telecom consultant Mark Goldberg had some fun the other day in slagging suggestions (like mine) that the Canadian government might want to get more directly involved in the country’s broadband and wireless markets. He pointed to an article by Jeffrey Eisenach, an economist for the American Enterprise Institute and professor at the George Mason University School of Law, that criticizes Australia’s efforts to build a super-fast government-owned National Broadband Network.

With $7.3 billion being spent so far to connect just 260,000 premises - about five per cent of the nation’s households, representing a cost of $28,000 each - it’s “a failed experiment” that never should have happened. The best way to get great services and prices, Eisenach argues, is to continue letting companies compete against each other. “As the Australians… have learned the hard way, however (sic), there is nothing romantic about pouring billions of dollars down a broadband rathole – especially when, as the U.S. experience has amply demonstrated, the real path to better broadband lies in letting the market work.”

Where to begin? Perhaps it’s best to start with some background. The AEI is a well-known conservative think tank that has received funding from many of the biggest U.S. corporations including GE, Kraft, Ford and, of course, the AT&T Foundation, according to Right Wing Watch. Its board has included executives from the likes of ExxonMobil, American Express and Dow Chemicals. If there’s a pro-big business position to be taken, the AEI has probably taken it. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 12, 2014 in australia, government, internet


Federal budget also a technological snoozer

It looks like Bitcoin is about to be regulated in Canada.

It looks like Bitcoin is about to be regulated in Canada.

The pundits warned us it was going to be a boring federal budget and well, they weren’t wrong, especially when it comes to technology. In that vein, the Canadian government on Tuesday delivered a fiscal plan highlighted by a repeat of a previously announced effort, a vague promise of another, the renewal of an ongoing program and a few other minor tidbits.

There were no surprises when it comes to wireless, with the budget confirming the Conservatives’ plan to amend the Telecommunications Act “to cap wholesale domestic wireless roaming rates to prevent wireless providers from charging other companies more than they charge their own customers for mobile voice, data and text services.” Industry Minister James Moore first announced this intention - which will ultimately make it easier for smaller wireless companies such as Wind to use the networks of Bell, Rogers, Telus and other incumbent operators - back in December.

The budget also repeated a proposed change, announced at the same time as the roaming plan, that would allow the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and Moore’s department of Industry Canada to levy fines on companies if they violate established rules such as the Wireless Code. It’s worth noting that the CRTC has been asking for this ability since, well, at least 2008. Better late than never, obviously. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in government


The NSA isn’t history’s first Big Brother

eye-of-providenceIf you’re seeing banners on websites proclaiming “the day we fight back,” it’s because there’s an online protest happening on Feb. 11 (today) over the spying programs being conducted by various government security agencies. Advocacy groups, organizations and companies such as the Electronic Frontier Federation, Mozilla and Reddit (plus Open Media here in Canada) are urging people to contact their respective lawmakers and demand changes that will curtail such programs and restore at least some degree of personal privacy.

It’s a noble goal to be sure, but it bears mentioning that this sort of mass surveillance - led most vigourously by the U.S. National Security Agency - isn’t entirely new. It has, in fact, existed for much of the modern age, albeit in a very different form. Indeed, the church and organized religion were the NSA well before there was even such a thing.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, much of the population in Western countries identified as religious. Regardless of faith, each congregation had its own set of rules to follow, as set out either by literature (e.g. the Bible) or by its respective clergy. Regardless of differences, the fundamentals were usually the same: if you didn’t follow the rules here on Earth, you wouldn’t get access to the afterlife - or you would, but it would be filled with eternal torment. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in government, NSA


Harper and wireless: Is it Lost or Breaking Bad?

Is Stephen Harper really Walter White?

Is Stephen Harper really Walter White?

This past weekend, Breaking Bad cashed in big time at the Golden Globe awards with wins for both best drama and lead actor, with the inimitable Bryan Cranston finally getting accolades at the annual event for his fantastic portrayal of anti-hero Walter White. Anyone who has watched the show, which wrapped up last year, probably felt the kudos were well deserved - it truly was one of the best series to ever grace the airwaves.

What I liked most about Breaking Bad were how seemingly minor details were introduced in one episode, only to be revisited in later ones to further flesh out and illuminate the ongoing plot. It was these sorts of things - like Walter spelling out his birthday numbers with bacon - that really impressed upon viewers that the writers knew exactly what they were doing all along.

On the flip side, there’s the Canadian wireless market. In discussing the federal government’s long-running quest to bring more competition to the industry, most pundits - regardless of what end of the spectrum or ideology they subscribe to - have generally agreed that there’s been little rhyme or reason coming out of Ottawa. By all accounts, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his crew have been making things up as they go, as the current disarray seems to prove. Rather than Breaking Bad, it’s been more like Lost - a show that didn’t really make sense but promised an epic resolution, yet failed to pay off in the end.

But what if everyone is wrong and the government’s plot really isn’t like Lost? What if, like Breaking Bad, the whole situation really has been meticulously planned and crafted, and is in fact playing out perfectly?

I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 15, 2014 in bell, government, mobile, rogers, telus, wind


With Wind done, so are Ottawa’s wireless hopes

Wind CEO Anthony Lacavera, in happier times.

Wind CEO Anthony Lacavera, in happier times.

Wind Mobile pulled a shocker Monday evening by announcing it was withdrawing from the wireless spectrum auction set to begin on Tuesday. The move is a huge blow to the federal government’s efforts to boost competition and lower prices for consumers, as well as the cherry on top of the giant flop that is its wireless policy.

Wind attributed the pullout to a refusal by its owner Vimpelcom to fund its spectrum bids. With the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars likely needed, the parent has evidently decided to cut its losses. As has been reported numerous times, the Russian company would either like to have full ownership and control of Wind, or it would like to be able to sell the operation to whoever it likes. The Harper government isn’t allowing the first option, likely because Vimpelcom is Russian and much of Wind’s gear is made by China’s Huawei, and it’s also barring the second from happening because the likely buyers would be Bell, Rogers or Telus. The feds don’t want to introduce the possibility of foreign spying through telecommunications gear, and they don’t want the industry to become even more concentrated.

Wind is thus a “stranded” investment and, without the ability to get some of the key 700 Mhz spectrum that’s about to be auctioned off, the company is effectively dead on the vine. Without adding more spectrum - and the 700 is “the good stuff” that has a long range and can penetrate walls easily - Wind will find it harder and harder to deliver quality service to customers who are gobbling up more and more data, as well as offer fast fourth-generation LTE. Moreover, as new phones are released that utilize that particular part of the spectrum, the company will likely find itself shut out of some of the latest and greatest handsets. Its competitors, in the meantime, will only be improving their services and offerings - and they already have giant head-starts. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 14, 2014 in government, mobile


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