Mark Goldberg

Fox Group Dispatch

Participating in a responsible way

The CRTC’s rules of practice and procedure include a process for awarding costs to public interest groups in order to encourage participation in its various public proceedings. The cost awards can sometimes be quite substantial; there are examples of awards frequently in the order of tens of thousands of dollars and sometimes even higher.

According to the CRTC, “The Commission considers that costs awards are intended to encourage the participation of individuals and groups who represent subscriber interests, rather than private interests.”

Further, “when assessing costs applications, the Commission considers whether a costs applicant has participated in the proceeding in a responsible way and contributed to a better understanding of the matters considered by the Commission.”

A recent article by David C. Lowery on The Trichordist blog raises questions about whether Open Media is indeed a grass-roots consumer focused organization or representing private interests as a “Google funded astroturf group“?

In a recent article on, Open Media encourages readers to use an online tool to call ISED Minister Bains with the goal that “his office will be flooded” with thousands of calls. Is this consistent with participating in a proceeding in a responsible way?

Last year, an Open Media advocacy training presentation on how to frame issues stated “Morals, values, and identity will always defeat facts, reason, logic, and self-interest”.

Is this consistent with contributing to a better understanding of issues?

Quite a week for broadband expansion

It has been a busy week for broadband expansion in rural and remote regions of Canada.

On Monday, as I wrote earlier this week, Teksavvy announced its plans to build fibre to 38,000 homes and businesses in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent in Southwestern Ontario.

Later that same day, Telesat announced the successful launch of Telstar 19 VANTAGE, a high throughput satellite (HTS) that will provide Northwestel with the HTS spot beam capacity needed to improve broadband connectivity for all 25 communities in Nunavut.

Earlier today, SaskTel annpounced that it has expanded internet service to the resort community of Waskesiu Lake.

And closing off the day, ISED and Xplornet announced a $36M project to provide up to 100Mbps wireless broadband service to 35,000 homes in 21 communities in Eastern Ontario. The planned build out is reported to include 480km of new fibre optic facilities, as backbone connections to towers that will be “using 3500 MHz spectrum to bring 5G-ready Internet technology, with download speeds of up to 100 Mbps.”

From north to south, using fibre, wireless and satellite, it has been an interesting week for investment in broadband service expansion in rural and remote communities in Canada. Delivering broadband services in Canada’s diverse geography requires a variety of technology and economic solutions. The four major projects announced this week demonstrate some of the creative ways service providers are getting more Canadians connected.

Competition for rural broadband

In March 2017, TekSavvy and Entegrus Transmission (part of the Chatham and St. Thomas, Ontario based electric utility) presented a report to the Chatham-Kent Municipal Council recommending a fibre-based broadband project for the Chatham-Kent region of Southwestern Ontario. A month later, Chatham-Kent’s Council passed a motion to endorse and support a proposal by Teksavvy and Entegrus for Connect to Innovate funding from the federal government. Funding for this project has not been approved yet.

In a related but different project, TekSavvy announced plans earlier today to invest up to $26M to “connect more than 38,000 residences and businesses in the region, starting in Chatham with plans to expand to Blenheim, Ridgetown, Tilbury, and Wallaceburg.” According to TekSavvy, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent intends to invest $6.5 million to facilitate an open-access fibre backbone connecting the communities. This represents about 20% of the $32.5M total project.

Exactly two months ago, Bell and the municipality announced plans to roll out fibre to 38,000 premises, “starting in Chatham and expanding to Blenheim, Ridgetown, Tilbury and Wallaceburg.” In Bell’s press release, the project was described as fully funded by Bell, without taxpayer contributions to the capital cost.

A number of thoughts come to mind.

I found it interesting that the two press releases use almost identical language and list the planned roll-out in the same order. In the TekSavvy release, the Chief Administrative Officer for the Municipality is said to be “heartened that this local company is working with the Municipality in its goal to bring advanced communications services to the community.” The same person is quoted in the Bell press release, saying “the Chatham project is the first phase of bringing Bell’s advanced communications services to the region.”

If broadband adoption rates are in the order of 85% in the area, and Teksavvy captures 50% of the market, then the Municipality contribution works out to a subsidy of just over $400 per Teksavvy subscriber.

The regional municipality has succeeded in recruiting competitive provision of broadband in its collection of smaller towns. What isn’t clear is why taxpayers are funding one of the competing networks and whether this changes the economics of building in some of the lighter density areas within these communities.

Being a mensch

Be a “mensch.”

A very basic instruction to our kids. It means being a decent human being. A person of integrity and honor.

My brother and I were talking about some characteristics of menschlichtkeit. Treating everyone with respect is a big one. I recall going to a dinner for a job interview about 30 years ago and as we were being escorted to our table, a napkin fell from the tray of a busboy who was clearing dishes. I picked up the napkin and handed it to the service staff member. Many years later, I was told that this simple act won me the job before the actual interview ever took place.

How do you treat everyday people, the waiters and busboys, the flight attendants, the cleaning crews, strangers you have never met? Are you a “mensch” or do you reserve your acts of common decency just for your friends or those who can immediately impact your career?

Why is this so foreign to engagements on social media?

Complete strangers, who I envision are writing from their parents’ basement while hiding behind mythological-based pseudonyms, feel compelled to issue coprolalic comments as a response to posts with which they disagree. We led a generation to believe that the internet meant a democratization of interaction with everyone; some trolls help demonstrate the corollary: while they may have ability to have their message broadcast, people still retain the ability to ignore them. If people want to bleat obscene and derogatory epithets with anonymity, I am happy to aid in preserving the obscurity they desire and so richly deserve.

I have often referred back to a post I wrote nearly a dozen years ago called “4 degrees of impersonal communications.” It continues to baffle me that people generally take more care in communications when the conversation can most easily be private and candid, such as in face-to-face conversations, compared to the anti-social language and tone so commonly found in online fora.

As an exercise, look at the replies to almost every tweet from FCC Chair Ajit Pai (such as his announcement on the proposed Sinclair/Tribune transaction) to see the level of abuse he routinely attracts. Sifting through noise must be exhausting.

I am happy to engage, debate issues, share my experience, provide guidance. But there are limits to what I will tolerate in my 4 degrees.

Summer time has given me an opportunity to spend more time away from the computer screen, unwind and reflect.

Last fall, I wrote advice to my kids to “find a career doing something you love doing; aim to be the best at what you do; find people who share your values to do it with; and, remember that family should always come first.”

Among those values I hope they share with their friends and co-workers is to always be a “mensch.”

I wish I could find more tools to impart that simple rule to others.

For now, this post will have to do.

How smarter policy can create smarter cities

Over the holiday weekend, I had a chance to read a recent post from the Verizon Public Policy blog, calling for reforms in policies governing antenna siting and access to rights-of-way in order to accelerate deployment of 5G networks. Verizon says a “fundamental building block for the networks of tomorrow are small cells that will be deployed on light poles and other ‘street furniture’ throughout cities.” One of the biggest challenges facing service providers is getting approvals to deploy small cells on a reasonable and timely basis.

As we heard at The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit [watch the 5G panel here], the deployment of 5G networks is a journey, with incremental deployment of more cell sites and more fibre connectivity.

About 6 years ago, I wrote about some of my experiences as a member of a community advisory body assisting my local municipality in the development of a new tower siting protocol. At the time, I was writing about health concerns, saying that we need more towers in order to reduce exposure to RF energy, since that would allow the devices we carry in our pockets to dial down their transmitting energy. “Tell your local municipal councillor that you want more towers – attractive ones, or camouflaged towers – to reduce your exposure to RF energy and improve your mobile service.”

We want towers within sight of our cell phones; just not within sight of our eyes.

For more than 10 years, I have suggested that a city could be “better off with a declaration that it will no longer fight carriers looking to invest and it will get out of the way of service providers that want to improve fibre access to their customers.” Smart cities require advanced communications infrastructure.

If a service provider is looking to deploy capital to upgrade facilities, how should a community respond? Is there an existing communications facilities protocol to be followed? Are there administrative or financial inhibitors that may discourage the decision to proceed or do processes encourage and welcome investment?

A few years ago, I wrote a post called “A little smarter every day“, saying “Building a smart city means creating a culture that works to make the community a little bit smarter every day.”

When setting policies, it really shouldn’t be that complicated:

  • Set clear objectives.
  • Align activities with the achievement of those objectives.
  • Stop doing things that are contrary to the objectives.

If we want to lead in the development of smarter cities, more connected communities and delivery of better services for our citizens, we need to create an environment that encourages service providers and all levels of government to work collaboratively to encourage investment.

It is all part of making our communities a little smarter every day.