Mark Goldberg

Fox Group Dispatch

Do as I say, not as I do

Once again, politicians have decided not to hold themselves to the same standards that are imposed on the rest of us.

The Toronto Star reports that the government has decided to reject an all-party recommendation that Canada’s privacy laws be extended to apply to political activities.

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (“ETHI”) had released a report (“Addressing Digital Privacy Vulnerabilites and Potential Threats to Canada’s Democratic Electoral Process”) [pdf, 7.3MB] in mid-June with 8 recommendations, including: “That the Government of Canada take measures to ensure that privacy legislation applies to political activities in Canada either by amending existing legislation or by enacting new legislation.”

The report noted comments made to the Committee by Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, who observed:

So while I am currently investigating commercial organizations such as Facebook and Aggregate IQ, I am unable to investigate how political parties use the personal information they may receive from corporate actors.

In my view, this is a significant gap.

This is hardly the first time that politicians chose to exempt themselves from legislation that applies to the rest of us. Four years ago, I noted that Parliamentarians created an explicit carve out from rules applying to electronic communications.

As the ETHI report noted, “Canadians would have greater confidence if they knew that their political parties were not exempt from privacy legislation and that they have legal responsibilities similar to those imposed on public and private organizations under the Privacy Act and PIPEDA.”

If the rules are too onerous for politicians to apply to themselves, how are we to believe they are appropriate for the rest of us? Conversely, if the regulations are necessary, then why don’t they apply to all?

Slim pickin’s

Yes, I know that this blog has not had a lot of recent additions.

In August, I had a couple distractions (aged 4¼ and 20 months) and with the High Holy days last week and next, I have had other matters top of mind.

Thank you for your patience.

In the meantime, I hope you are following my Twitter stream for items that I have found to be interesting to share.

I have been following a few issues on Twitter:

As well, I have been looking at a few issues associated with the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review.

In the meantime, Michael and I are starting to look at early planning for The 2019 Canadian Telecom Summit.

These issues and more should lead to some interesting posts over the coming weeks. What else would you like to see?

Our offices will be closed Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday for Yom Kippur. To those observing, let me wish you a meaningful fast.

Shana tova – 5779 – שנה טובה

For many, Labour Day weekend marks the end of one year and the start of another. Summer vacation is over and a new school year begins, renewing the calendar for so many families.

This year, just one week after Labour Day, the new moon on Sunday evening marks the start of Rosh Hashana [literally, “head of the year”], welcoming the Jewish year 5779.

Rosh Hashana starts a 10 day season of personal reflection, culminating in Yom Kippur, taking place this year on the evening of Tuesday, September 18 and continuing until night falls the following day. In religious services, we hear the stentorian blast of a shofar [ram’s horn], triggering a period of introspection, examining the past year while looking forward to improvement in the year ahead. There are, of course, family dinners that customarily feature a number of traditional foods, like honey [for a sweet year]. It is very different from the kind of festivities and partying that mark the secular transition from December 31 to January 1.

It is my hope that 5779 will be marked by peace, good health, by personal and professional growth and may it also be a year of inspiration for all of us.

Our offices will be closed on Monday and Tuesday (September 10 and 11) and closed again the following Wednesday (September 19) to observe the holy days.

שנה טובה ומתוקה

Are broadband subsidies ever finite?

A recent CBC story about PEI caught my eye: “Province issues RFP for high-speed internet in rural areas”. The province has launched a new Request for Proposals [RFP pdf, 655KB], seeking “Expansion of Broadband Internet Services across PEI”.

The vision and objective of this RFP is to enhance broadband internet services in underserved areas of the Province. The initiative is intended to address the telecommunication infrastructure gaps that still exist across PEI.

According to the RFP, approximately 31,000 civic addresses are considered to be underserved. The RFP hopes to attract proposals that will improve “access to broadband internet services at speeds up to 50 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads”, clearly aiming at the CRTC’s broadband service objective. It is worth noting that the CBC article incorrectly refers to the CRTC targets as being “mandated”.

How will this new PEI project be paid for?

The funding support models are still under consideration, but will likely involve some award component to build out the delivery network with sufficient capacity, reliability, and scalability to fulfil the RFP objectives… Federal Government funding support has also been explored and may become a component. The [Government of] PEI has advised that the proposed solutions may not move forward without federal funding approvals.

Ten years ago, I wrote a piece (“PEI leads horses”) about the PEI government entering into a contract to make the province the first to have broadband internet service available to 100% of its residents.

At the time, I observed:

Here is the real rub. Despite having some of the highest levels of access to broadband internet, PEI has the lowest adoption of service at only 43%. Well under half the people who could have broadband internet are finding it worth paying for.

Policy makers need to look beyond the raw numbers of people who have access to DSL or cable-based broadband. We need to be concerned about the affordability of service to lower income Canadians regardless of where they live.

PEI doesn’t have as much of a problem with broadband access as it has with broadband adoption.

Since that time, broadband service adoption has nearly doubled, reported to be 83% in 2016, according to last year’s CRTC Communications Monitoring Report, moving the province into the middle of the pack, ahead of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Ten years ago, I suggested “PEI may end up being a great case study of how our current approach to broadband access is leading citizens to the fountain without helping them find it worth taking a drink.”

The latest RFP might provide inspiration for development of another study: How many times will governments be called upon to subsidize broadband access projects for the same region?

Are broadband subsidies ever finite?

Americans and Canadians both want 5G, but policy is lagging

The follow piece appeared in RCR Wireless.

Most often, we read of differences between the United States and Canada, but in one area, the people of both nations agree: neither country can get enough of mobile wireless services. Consumers devour more mobile wireless data each year, and mobile operators beg the government to release more spectrum and to streamline rollout requirements.

Moreover, the US and Canada are interdependent internet economies. The US Department of Commerce reports that trade in communications technology (ICT) services and “potentially” ICT-enabled (PICTE) services is booming. U.S. PICTE services exports to Canada totaled $27.8 billion, or 52 percent of all U.S. services exports to Canada and 7 percent of total. The United States imported $13.9 billion in PICTE services from Canada, equal to 46 percent of all services imports from Canada and 6 percent of total PICTE services imports. This digital economy is vital to tech workers on both sides of the border. With so much being at stake in both countries—billions of dollars in revenue and millions of jobs—it boggles the mind why telecom regulators are dragging their feet on spectrum.

The 5G Journey was a key theme of this year’s Canadian Telecom Summit. 5G, the next generation mobile network standard, is expected to have ultra-low latency and a download speed of 20 gigabits (GB) per second. That’s 20 times faster than the current 4G download speed of 1 GB per second. But unlike 4G, where humans mainly drove adoption, it will be IoT devices and massive machine-type communications (mMTC) like smart meters that will likely benefit most from the data-bandwidth and latency improvements that 5G communications offers. Software talking to software will drive usage of the 5G network and that will forever change what services are delivered. “With 5G we are talking about completely new business models being created. The real excitement about 5G is how people will innovate on it. The rollout of 5G will unleash a real-time economy. For the first time we can provide on-demand service based on the value of that transaction to the user,” said Alexander Brock of Rogers Communications, a Canadian cable-wireless-content conglomerate.

5G will power self-driving cars but government is taking the slow lane when it comes to releasing spectrum. There is no need to prove the value of spectrum or to prove the need to lessen its scarcity. Canada’s 2014 auction of 700 MHz brought in nearly $5.3 billion, and the 2015 sale of AWS-3 spectrum brought in $2.1 billion. Since commercial spectrum auctions began in the 1990s, the US has earned more than $100 billion on licensing the airwaves. While it is good news that the US has teed up a rulemaking for mid-band spectrum, it is a long time in coming. Canada is slowly moving toward a 3.5GHz spectrum auction planned for the year 2020.

In Canada, Rogers, Telus, Shaw and Bell are in the trial stage of 5G. In the US, Verizon and AT&T are on track to have 5G networks up and running in a handful of cities by the end of 2018. T-Mobile has promised that if it can buy Sprint, it will also be in the running. However, the US is behind China and South Korea and needs to move quickly to catch up.

In addition to spectrum, both countries struggle with optimizing the framework for rollout on the ground. Compared to Japan, South Korea, and the European Union, both the US and Canada have low population density, meaning that it costs more for service providers to roll out 5G compared to other developed countries. There is a tendency for cities to hoard wireless resources, leaving little for the vast rural areas. City leaders often demand usurious prices to access city infrastructure, such as street poles and other vertical real estate which are otherwise used for city signage and lighting. Onerous processes often delay construction of new antenna sites.

5G also levels the playing field between networks in that wireless becomes a substitute for wireline technologies. Just as fibre, coax, and cable networks deliver massive amounts of data under the ground, 5G networks delivers data through the air at similarly competitive speeds. The increasing availability of wireless technologies will pressure the prices of wireline broadband. “Competition will drive 5G in Canada. We need the government to get spectrum in the hands of carriers as soon as possible so we can go after each other,” added Brian O’Shaughnessy, SVP and CTO of Converged Networks at Shaw Communications.

Whereas 4G enabled content and service delivery largely from Silicon Valley, 5G will expand the pie to non-traditional business partnerships and new industries, incorporating new actors and businesses, and enabling new sources of jobs and revenue

With 5G, the economies of the US and Canada can become even more integrated.