Mark Goldberg

The Canadian Telecom Summit

Fox Group Dispatch

Just 3 weeks left to save

For 3 days, the leadership of the telecom, broadcast & IT industries will converge on June 6-8 at the Toronto Congress Centre for The 2016 Canadian Telecom Summit. Join your peers, suppliers, policy makers, regulators, customers and competitors in attending the industry’s most important gathering, to discuss the key issues and trends that will impact this critical sector of the economy.

Other conferences promise but don’t deliver. Only The Canadian Telecom Summit allows you to hear from the leading ICT executives and influencers and provides the opportunity for you to interact with them and your colleagues. Don’t be disappointed by attending imitation events.

For 15 years The Canadian Telecom Summit has been the place for Canada’s ICT leaders to meet, interact and do business. As in past years, this year’s Summit will feature high-octane interaction, top-level keynote speakers and thought-provoking panel discussions.

Transforming our digital world: The journey to universal connectivity
As connectivity expands to include all households and the billions of devices and machines in our homes and businesses, how does Canada stake out a leading position in an increasingly digital world?

As always, The Canadian Telecom Summit features cutting-edge topics. This year, we are featuring sessions devoted to:

  • Cyber Security: pre-emption, protection and response
  • Big Data & Analytics: Data! What’s it good for?
  • Customer Experience Management
  • Strengthening Canada’s Digital Advantage in a Hyper-connected Global Economy
  • The Future of Work
  • Regulatory Blockbuster
  • The Network Revolution: unrivaled performance + legendary support = unparalleled service
  • Personalizing Entertainment & Information: the ongoing video revolution

The Canadian Telecom Summit has something for everyone! It leaves no stone unturned in bringing you the most substantive and comprehensive line-up of speakers and topics. Hear from senior executives from across the industry. Meet with your suppliers, customers and peers for 3 full days of thought provoking interaction.

Save more than $200 by registering by February 29. Book your place today!

Continuing Professional Development
Lawyers: The time spent attending substantive sessions at The Canadian Telecom Summit can be claimed as “Substantive Hours” toward the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements.

Looking at the under-connected

A new study reports that we need to look at more than just the question of having internet access; we need to look at how people are connected.

The US study found that many low- and moderate- income families rely on mobile-only access (23%) and more than half (52%) of those low- and moderate- income families with home Internet access say it is too slow. A quarter (26%) say too many people share the same computer, and one fifth (20%) say their Internet was cut off in the last year due to lack of payment.

The study, “Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Low-Income Families” was released by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, an independent research and innovation lab that focuses on the challenges of educating children in a rapidly changing media landscape.

Study co-author Vikki Katz, an associate professor of communication at Rutgers University, said “It’s no longer a simple question of whether or not families are connected to the Internet, but rather how they are connected, and the implications of being under-connected for children’s access to educational opportunities and parents’ ability to apply for jobs or resources.”

The study‘s key findings:

  1. Most low- and moderate-income families have some form of Internet connection, but many are under-connected, with mobile-only access and inconsistent connectivity.
  2. Families headed by Hispanic immigrants are less connected than other low- and moderate-income families.
  3. The main reason some families do not have home computers or Internet access is because they cannot afford it, but discounted Internet programs are reaching very few.
  4. Low- and moderate-income parents use the Internet for a broad range of purposes, but mobile-only families are less likely to do certain online activities.
  5. Children from low- and moderate-income families use computers and the Internet for a variety of educational activities, but those without home access are less likely to go online to pursue their interests.
  6. Parents feel largely positive about the Internet and digital technology, but many also have concerns.
  7. Children and parents frequently learn with, and about, technology together, especially in families with the lowest incomes and where parents have less education.

As discussions continue on how how to improve broadband adoption (leading up to the CRTC’s review of basic telecom services), this report contributes another perspective. For example, some have suggested that many households that don’t have a traditional computer with internet connection configuration may be better served with mobile devices. This study found that mobile only households are 30 percentage points less likely to shop online (36% vs. 66% of those with home access), 25 percentage points less likely to use online banking or bill-paying (49% vs. 74%), 14 percentage points less likely to apply for jobs or services online (42% vs. 56%), and 12 percentage points less likely to get news or follow local events online (70% vs. 82%).

It isn’t just a matter of getting everyone on-line by connecting the “un-connected”; we need to look at the “under connected” as well.

Is social media better at breaking than making?

I was led to an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman after following a tweet from Norman Spector:

Much of the article consists of an interview with Wael Ghonim, the Google employee in Egypt whose Facebook page was credited with helping to launch the Tahrir Square demonstration leading to the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government.

In December, Ghonim, who has since moved to Silicon Valley, posted a TED talk about what went wrong. It is worth watching and begins like this: “I once said, ‘If you want to liberate a society, all you need is the Internet.’ I was wrong.

I thought it would be important to capture Friedman’s hightlight of Ghonim’s views on social media:

  • “First, we don’t know how to deal with rumors. Rumors that confirm people’s biases are now believed and spread among millions of people.”
  • Second, “We tend to only communicate with people that we agree with, and thanks to social media, we can mute, un-follow and block everybody else.”
  • “Third, online discussions quickly descend into angry mobs. … It’s as if we forget that the people behind screens are actually real people and not just avatars.”
  • “And fourth, it became really hard to change our opinions. Because of the speed and brevity of social media, we are forced to jump to conclusions and write sharp opinions in 140 characters about complex world affairs. And once we do that, it lives forever on the Internet.”
  • Fifth, and most crucial, he said, “today, our social media experiences are designed in a way that favors broadcasting over engagements, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversations. … It’s as if we agreed that we are here to talk at each other instead of talking with each other.”

The article is worth a full read and be sure to watch the TED talk. Do you agree with Ghonim’s conclusion?

Five years ago, I said, ‘If you want to liberate society, all you need is the Internet.’ Today I believe if we want to liberate society, we first need to liberate the Internet.

Looking at who, not where

In the upcoming CRTC “Review of basic telecommunications services” hearing, most of the attention will be focused on the question of adding broadband to definition of “basic service”.

As I have written before, from the outset, the CRTC has framed its review from the perspective of geography, seeking to “gather information from the industry to better understand which telecommunications services are being offered across Canada and whether any areas in Canada are underserved or unserved.”

In seeking public comments on solutions, we continue to see the terminology of a geographic bias. “What action, if any, should the Commission take where Canadians do not have access…” and “What action, if any, should the Commission take in cases where its target speeds will not be achieved…”

Such approaches, a bizarre artifact of the earliest monopoly telephone era, have created a bias in government spending programs and regulatory cross-subsidies that see urban consumers, regardless of financial means, pay more for telecom services in order to subsidize rural users, regardless of financial need.

The Toronto Star writes “Anti-poverty advocates call for affordable Internet“. The article describes how ACORN, will be putting a human dimension before the Commission. [ACORN will be represented as part of a group called the Affordable Access Coalition, represented by PIAC.]

ACORN has released a study, “Internet for All: Internet Use and Accessibility for Low-Income Canadians” that calls for:

  • $10/month product for high speed (15 megabits/second or equivalent to high speed in area);
  • Families and individuals below the Low Income Measure as eligible to qualify;
  • Subsidized computers for qualifying families and individuals.

As the Toronto Star article indicates, Rogers has a $10 high speed internet product available to the 58,000 households in Toronto Community Housing, and in cooperation with Compugen and Microsoft, the group offers a $150 computer.

I have been writing for too long that broadband affordability is not a geographic issue. Five years ago, I estimated that as many as 2 million households in Canada lacked a computer. Canada’s 3 biggest cities had more than 600,000 households with no computer.

When the CRTC examines the question of broadband as a basic service, it needs to ensure that any measures it takes recognize the question of urban affordability for low income households. It would be a mistake, and counterproductive, to increase the cost of service in urban centres to subsidize rural and remote regions without first considering affordability and means.

Removing choice for low income

The Times of India reports that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, TRAI, is expected to issue an order this week that will prohibit differential pricing for data services, a move that will impact Facebook’s Internet.Org Free Basics service and Airtel’s Zero service.

I have written extensively on these issues over the years:

There are other postings as well.

As I wrote in 2011, “It is difficult to understand how consumers can benefit from restrictions in the types of offers available to them.”

I continue to have difficulties with the idea that consumers are somehow better off with fewer choices in the marketplace. Banning zero rating provides no benefits to anyone. Prices go up for some users and go down for no one. Consumers have less choice, not more.

More than 8 years ago, in a piece called “Leading a horse to water“, I asked “Are there some applications that might lend themselves to a toll-free model in order to reach the rest of the market?”

For example, would home health care warrant installing a broadband connection as part of a monitoring service? The broadband access would be enabling underlying service, but the costs would be incurred by the health care agency, not the infirmed. Like toll-free calling, the application provider would pay the charges.

We need creative, market approaches to increase the levels of adoption of digital connectivity among low income households. Limiting choice, such as removing services like Free Basics, looks like a step in the wrong direction.