Mark Goldberg

The Canadian Telecom Summit

Fox Group Dispatch

And the painted ponies…

As we get to the end of the year, I like to reflect on the past as part of my planning for the year ahead.

I noticed that I have clearly not been as prolific on this blog. Last year, I observed that I wrote 132 posts, down from 139 in 2012. I wrote just 109 posts in 2014, but the reduction was likely due to three factors in play: I am spending considerably more time on Twitter [follow me: @mark_goldberg]; there is a difference in the political climate; and, I did my best to spend much of the summer and parts of the past month focused on family.

Still, my creative juices were stimulated by continuing intervention in the marketplace by legislators and the extremely active CRTC agenda, especially in the last third of the year.

As frequent readers know, I continue to believe that Canada is overdue for a comprehensive review of our overall communications policy framework. The last Telecom Policy Review delivered its report in 2006 and at the time, recommended that its work should be refreshed every 5 years. The next panel should look at overall communications policy, including Broadcasting.

Would a government strike such a panel in an election year? Consider that the last Telecom Policy Review Panel was created by a Liberal government and it delivered its report to the new Conservative minority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, about 3 months after he took office.

I am carrying forward a number of resolutions from year to year.

My wish list for 2015 continues to seek support for a national program to increase the adoption of computers and broadband in low income households with school-aged children. Computers for Schools is a great program, but kids do their homework at home. And kids can’t compete with their classmates if they don’t have access to a connected computer at home. In any case, our schools are going to need significant upgrades as well if we want to keep up with our neighbours to the south. As I have written in the past, “almost half of all households in Canada’s lowest income quintile lack a home computer. Affordability is keeping a million households from digital connectivity.”

Our national digital agenda needs to move forward more aggressively. Although Canada hopes to incent service providers to offer 5 Mbps service by the year 2017, the US has doubled its target speed to require 10 Mbps service for service providers that seek funding from the Connect America Fund. Canada needs to do better.

While I am setting objectives for next year, I guess I still wouldn’t mind losing 20 pounds, but I don’t mind having a soft landing spot for my grandson to rest when we take naps “watching the games” together on Sunday afternoons.

Let me wish all of you the best in the year ahead. I look forward to engaging with you in 2015.

Have a safe, healthy and peaceful holiday season. Together, next year we can hopefully exceed all of our targets.

Releasing more spectrum

At the close of the financial markets, Industry Minister James Moore released a series of rulings on wireless telecommunications spectrum, making more airwaves available for Canada’s fixed and mobile wireless communications services providers.

Two months ago, in the wake of Minister Moore’s response to submissions filed in the 3500MHz process, I wrote “The consultative process works“. Today, Minister Moore followed through with his October 9 commitment: “Under no circumstances will our government take spectrum licences away from any local Internet service provider that is providing Internet service to rural Canadians.”

It is gratifying to see Industry Canada responsive to the appeals by rural municipalities and service providers focusing on low density communities.

In other decisions released today, the Minister dealt with the AWS-3 auction process, the AWS-4 consultation, the 24/28/38 GHz consultation and launched a consultation on the 600MHz band. There was also a decision released on backhaul spectrum.

More mobile spectrum, being made available for service providers to try to stay ahead of consumer demand for broadband wireless access.

Minister Moore has overseen spectrum management actions that have significantly increased the amount of spectrum accessible for deployment by competitive service providers.

On Twitter, he released a graphic just prior to the announcement, claiming that competitors share of spectrum has grown from 2% in 2006 to 25% in 2015.

The US wireless association, CTIA, released an infographic last week that shows why service providers need more spectrum. Consumers are upgrading their devices, watching more video and continuing to download more bits at faster speeds – driving a continual need for carriers to invest in network capacity.

Still, should we be concerned about how spectrum is managed in Canada?

The 2006 Telecom Policy Review Panel observed:

Canada is one of the few OECD countries where a politically appointed minister remains responsible for spectrum licensing and management.

The key benefits of having an independent regulator include:

  • providing more stability in processes
  • providing a greater degree of continuity
  • allowing for arbitration
  • having more effective enforcement powers
  • freedom from political pressure.

These benefits had been cited from an OECD report.

The Panel believes the increased convergence of wireless and wireline telecommunications and broadcasting technologies calls for a more consistent and unified regulatory approach. Such an approach could be facilitated by moving the current spectrum regulatory and licensing functions of the Minister of Industry to the CRTC. This move would be consistent with international practice. A recent OECD report recommends that Canada should adopt the same approach. This would increase the transparency of spectrum regulation and provide the CRTC with a better overview and insights into the wireless developments.

The Industry Minister has substantial discretion in spectrum policy, as recently affirmed by the Federal Court in its rejection of an application by TELUS to overturn the Minister’s repeated refusals to approve TELUS acquiring Mobility’s wireless licenses. However, such power can create concerns for the reasons set out by the OECD and echoed by the 2006 Telecom Policy Review Panel.

Spectrum management is not getting any easier.

Canada’s arbitrary division of responsibility based on broadcast versus telecommunications use may complicate the availability of frequency blocks with propagation characteristics that are extremely attractive for mobile communications. Just as the Canadian industry itself has seen broadcast and telecommunications convergence, we have increasing pressure to migrate more broadcast spectrum for telecommunications use.

At a recent investor conference, executives from CBS and Fox said they would consider migrating off the airwaves to sell their broadcast spectrum.

It is another reason why we need a new review of our converged communications policy. As I have written so many times, we are long overdue for a fresh look.

Perhaps the Minister could consider creating a new expert panel – even before an election – to make recommendations that can be reviewed for implementation by the next government.

Cyber security in the boardroom

Should Fortune 500 firms be looking to add cyber security expertise to their boards?

That is a question raised by Alec Ross, a Senior Fellow at the Columbia University School of International & Public Affairs. In an interesting piece “Sony Hack Attacks Presage New Warfare: The Weaponization of Code“, Ross observes that “Any big company can be brought to its knees by an aggrieved party.”

One thing that needs to go on every Fortune 500 board chairman’s to do list is to start a search for a board member with cyber expertise. About 10 years ago it became near-mandatory for every board of directors to have a member with expertise in the audit function. In five years, any board of directors without a board director with expertise in cyber will be perceived as a shortcoming of corporate governance.

At The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit [June 1-3, Toronto], there will be a special session looking at “Cyber Security” moderated by Radware’s VP of Security Solutions, Carl Herberger.

As Ross wrote, “every large company needs to recognize that cyber offense is easier than cyber defense.” Policy makers and corporate leaders need to understand what can be done – indeed, what needs to be done – to bolster cyber defense capabilities.

The value of community broadband

There are many voices calling for increased initiatives by municipalities to build and operate broadband internet infrastructure as a public utility, but until this week, very little in the way of economic analysis to fully examine whether the benefits justify the costs.

A paper [pdf] released this week finds that local efforts produce small economic benefits, but cause a notable increase in the size of local government.

In “Community Broadband, Community Benefits? An economic analysis of local government broadband initiatives“, Brian Deignan of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University found that “publicly supported broadband networks lead to over 3 percent more business establishments, while reducing worker income by 1.3 percent, all else being equal. The networks have no discernible effect on private sector employment, but they increase local government employment by around 6 percent.”

He recommends fostering private sector investment:

In light of the financial difficulties some public networks experience and the limited economic benefits they offer, public involvement is more wisely directed toward fostering private sector innovation as opposed to maintaining a more active role. Local initiatives that maintain an active role for local government can lead to a misallocation of resources if they ignore market signals and cause taxpayers to bear the uncertainty of the broadband market as opposed to private shareholders.

According to the paper, “the private sector impact of [public broadband] infrastructure investment is not large enough to ignore the growth in local government and the financial stress that publicly supported broadband puts on a community.”

Registrations open for The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit

Before many of us take a break for the holidays, we wanted to let you know that registrations are now open for The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit, taking place June 1 – 3, 2015 in Toronto.

Hear from the leaders
Keynote speakers include a host of Canadian and global industry leaders. Visit our website often to see the program as it continues to develop.

The Canadian Telecom Summit, now in its 14th year, is Canada’s leading ICT event, attracting more than 500 of the most influential people who shape the future direction of communications and information technology in Canada. For 3 full days, The Canadian Telecom Summit delivers thought provoking presentations from the prime shapers of the industry. This is your chance to hear from and talk with them in both a structured atmosphere of frank discussion and high-octane idea exchange and schmooze in a more relaxed social setting of genial conversation.

Covering the entire industry
Once again, you will have the opportunity to interact with executives of leading service providers, equipment suppliers, applications developers, policy makers, regulators and major customers.

In-depth panels will examine:

  • Cyber Security: perils, protection and the role of ICT;
  • Big Data & Analytics: managing and exploiting a treasure trove of information;
  • Competition in Telecom;
  • Customer Experience Management;
  • Mobile Commerce: the future of banking and shopping in Canada’s digital economy;
  • The Internet of Things: Hyperconnectivity;
  • Turbo-charging network performance: Achieving quantum improvements in service;
  • and of course, the not-to-be-missed Regulatory Blockbuster.

Plan to attend
If your interests lie in the Telecommunications, IT or Broadcasting sectors, you need to attend The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit. Mark the dates on your calendar: June 1 – 3.

Take advantage of our early bird registration rates by reserving your place now.