Mark Goldberg


www.mhgoldberg.com





The Canadian Telecom Summit
2014 ISP Summit
Nov 3-5, 2014
Toronto
2014 ISP Summit

Fox Group Dispatch
Digitcom

Legislating against hate

An article in the National Post reports the government considering new legislation that would make it an offence to condone terrorist acts online.

Sources suggest the government is likely to bring in new hate speech legislation that would make it illegal to claim terrorist acts are justified online.

… the new legislation was crafted before this week’s events and is not “trauma tainted.”

A number of years ago, I had been active in exploring issues associated with policing illegal content on the internet. We have explored the technical capability as well as many of the policy and purely logistical issues associated with hate on the internet.

Over the past 8 or 9 years, there is a lot of information that has been gathered. It might helpful to review what has been written on this website as the issue may become prominent over the coming months.

A partial bibliography of related blog posts can be found here:

The Canadian Telecom Summit explored the issue of illegal content on the internet.

Are there bounds on freedom of speech in an internet world? Should there be?

Canadian small businesses online

Are Canadian small businesses really lagging on the web?

CIRA, the dot-CA folks, marked “BDC Small Business Week” by publishing a blog post yesterday complaining “Canadian Small Businesses are Lagging in Online Presence“.

Once again, we were told that “Three-quarters of Canadians research purchases online, but only 41 per cent of small businesses have an online presence”.

The inference is that if 75% of Canadians are researching their purchases online, then presumably 75% of small businesses should be there to respond to the consumer queries.

But lets look at the source data. The CIRA Fact Book says

Only 45.5 per cent of Canadian businesses have a website. For Canadian small businesses – a significant portion of Canada’s private sector – this number drops to 41.1 per cent. While low, this percentage is on par with American businesses. In 2013, Google reported that 58 per cent of U.S. businesses do not have a website.

What’s that? Do you see what they did there? Mixing Canadian figures with the inverse of the US numbers?

We have 45.5% of Canadian businesses with a website, compared with only 42% of US businesses. Canadian businesses aren’t lagging and they are doing better than just being “on par with American businesses”; Canadian businesses are ahead of their US counterparts.

The source data for the CIRA Fact Book is Statistics Canada (Table 358-0193).

Size of enterprise 2012 2013
Total, all enterprises 45.5 46.2
Small size enterprises 41.1 42.3
Medium size enterprises 83.2 83.3
Large size enterprises 91.8 91.4

It starts to get really interesting when you look beyond the summary data and ask StatsCan to breakout the data by industry classification. Then we can see which sectors are really bringing down the averages. For example, only 27% of “Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting” businesses have a website, but that is a 50% improvement over 2012. Food and beverage stores are stuck around 22% and only 1 in 5 gas stations have a website.

The StatsCan data tells us that 100% of large enterprises reporting as Industry Code “Gasoline stations” have a website, but only 18% of the small businesses in that category have a site. That makes sense. I am more likely to look for a service station under the brand name, not the numbered company that happens to own the particular franchise location.

“Transportation and warehousing” is another category that has a significant difference between the small business figures (17%, interesting that this is down from 19.3% in 2012) and the large enterprise web presence (nearly 95%).

It is important to look at this data in combination with the number of businesses in each category in order to understand where the biggest challenges and opportunities can be found.

We need to do more to improve digital literacy among businesses and consumers. And, we need to improve conditions for businesses to adopt digital technology. But we also need more data and better analysis before proclaiming that Canadian small business is lagging.

Still stuck in neutral?

Happy anniversary.

It has been 5 years since the CRTC introduced its ground-breaking regulatory policy on Internet Traffic Management Practices. At the time, Konrad von Finckenstein, the CRTC Chair, hailed the policy, saying “Canada is the first country to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to Internet traffic management practices.”

It can be lonely being first.

Last year, I wrote about an OpEd in Forbes that warned net neutrality rules could block innovation that can offers more services at a lower cost. In the Forbes article, Everett Ehrlich, Bill Clinton’s former undersecretary of commerce wrote that net neutrality could be keeping consumer bills higher than they might be otherwise:

Moreover, getting rid of “neutrality” would lower consumers’ bills. That’s because the Internet is something economists call a “two-sided market.” A newspaper such as USATODAY is such a two-sided market – it charges advertisers to reach its readers, and it charges its readers to see its advertisements.

If a newspaper wasn’t allowed to take money from its advertisers, the reader would have to pay more. It’s the same with the Internet; if a provider can’t charge the big websites for a premium connection (if they want one) then the consumer has to pay instead, meaning consumers subsidize the companies sending big data packets.

Ehrlich called for Tom Wheeler, the incoming FCC Chair, to “end this tired debate” in the United States: “The rules that governed e-mail two decades ago won’t bring us the new services that lie ahead, and an Internet stuck in ‘neutral’ isn’t going anywhere.”

South of the border, the debate has hardly ended.

Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, writes in this week’s edition of his Information Age column that by lobbying for ‘net neutrality’ regulations, big technology companies pave the way for authoritarian governments to censor the Internet.

In 2012, for example, the browser company Mozilla warned that the Internet “is just too fundamental to our lives to leave it to governments to decide its fate.” Now, Mozilla — along with other fair-weather friends of the open Internet such as Facebook, Netflix and advocacy groups such as Public Knowledge — is busily lobbying Washington under the “net neutrality” banner to regulate Internet companies under telecommunications laws designed in the 1930s for the AT&T monopoly. They want the Internet to become a utility, with regulators setting prices and rules. Silicon Valley’s embrace of regulation at home undermines its case against the ITU.

Citing Eli Dourado, a George Mason researcher on Internet governance, Crovitz argues that the reality of international politics means the US has a hard time “arguing that regulating for neutrality and common carriage is OK, but regulating for security, content and payment is not.”

The International Telecommunications Union has just begun meetings in Busan, South Korea that could result in a vote over the future of the internet.

There was a risk for Canada in being first.

Five years later, how many countries have followed Canada’s lead? Should we be reviewing the policy framework for traffic management and content delivery examining whether our rules are appropriate? Does our leadership in regulation enable Canada to take a leadership role in the deliberations in Busan?

Canada may have been first, but one might ask if Canada can be considered a leader if other countries haven’t followed behind. Are Canadians – consumers, creators and carriers – well served by the current “comprehensive approach to Internet traffic management practices”?

Does net neutrality help advance our digital economy, or keep us stuck in neutral?

Is the net neutrality framework another area that should be reviewed by a communications policy review panel?


Update: [October 21, 3:00 pm]
There is a good piece in the MIT Technology Review today by former FCC Chief Economist Gerald R. Faulhaber and former FCC Chief Technologist David Farber.

David Clark of MIT, an early chief protocol architect of the Internet, has said that “the network is not neutral and never has been,” dismissing the assumptions of net neutrality supporters as “happy little bunny rabbit dreams.” Early Internet operators routinely discriminated in favor of traffic that was sensitive to latency, and similar options are available today. The phenomenal success of the Internet suggests that the technologists who have been running it really don’t need help.

They conclude “Yes, the open Internet is in danger. But not from lack of neutrality—from the prospect of the FCC regulating it like a 20th-century utility.”

An intelligence economy

Namir Anani, President and CEO of Canada’s Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), wrote a thoughtful piece last week about the Internet of Things (IoT): “IoT, The Impending Intelligence Economy.”

As Namir writes, there are already more internet connections than there are people on the planet.

As more devices get connected to the Internet from health sensors, home heating and lighting systems, to large-scale manufacturing and smart cities—the sum of data offered by such a connected world is growing exponentially. Cisco Systems estimates that approximately 12.1 billion Internet-connected devices were in use during April 2014, and that figure is expected to grow to above 50 billion by 2020.

ICTC will be conducting forward looking research to explore key policy enablers for Canada to lead in deriving benefits from an intelligence based economy.

Businesses are increasingly relying on intelligence to offer new products and services and increase their scope and scale. To out-compete in this global economy businesses need to out-compute. The confluence and integration of cloud, big data, social collaboration, mobile and apps is rapidly reshaping our digital economy to an intelligence economy.

What opportunities will emerge for Canadian businesses, governments, communities and consumers? Will there be sufficient spectrum? Can we increase access to skilled talent? What enhancements are needed to ensure privacy and security? How do we create the right conditions for continued investment in next generation networks?

Over the past few years, The Canadian Telecom Summit has explored some of the issues associated with more and more devices being brought on-line for machine and sensor connectivity. We will be working with ICTC to build a panel for The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit to examine Canada’s intelligence economy.

What other issues / angles would you like to see us cover?

Be sure to mark the dates on your calendar: June 1-3, 2015 in Toronto.

The consultative process works

This past August, Industry Canada launched its “Consultation on Policy Changes in the 3500 MHz Band (3475-3650 MHz) and a New Licensing Process in Rural Areas“. At the time, Industry Minister James Moore said:

Our government committed to putting unused spectrum licences to use, and today we are following through on that pledge. Today’s announcement also means that rural communities will benefit from enhanced access to high-speed Internet services. We will continue to put the interests of consumers first to ensure that Canadians have more choice and better services from their wireless service providers.

While there were good intentions to improve Internet service in rural communities through the proposed new rules, in fact, something went awry. There were sections in the consultation that appeared to be taking spectrum being used by rural ISPs and re-purposing the frequencies from fixed wireless to mobile. The potential impact would be to turn off high-speed fixed wireless internet service to large swaths of rural Canada.

Canada’s rural broadband service providers were taken by surprise. Xplornet, Canada’s largest rural internet service provider, was quick to point out a “fundamental disconnect” between the Minister’s statement and the proposal:

Under the proposal, Industry Canada would take away from rural Internet service providers, like Xplornet, the spectrum that is already in use today for the benefit of Canadians, and give it to the cell phone providers who are sitting on stock piles of un-deployed spectrum in these areas.

As the implications started to sink in, rural providers warned that hundreds of thousands of rural Canadians – rural voters – could have their internet disconnected, and could be forced back onto dial-up.

In the past, Minister Moore has communicated his desire for a “use it or lose it” policy when it comes to spectrum. Such a policy takes back spectrum that is not being deployed by the licensee. The current consultation however, contained provisions that meant rural internet service providers could effectively “use it AND lose it”.

How?

Because significant stretches of rural areas were being re-designated as “urban” under the proposed policy and a subsequent re-allocation of spectrum would mean rural ISPs that bought and paid for newly re-designated “urban” spectrum would lose it in order for mobile providers to have more spectrum for “future use”. Remember, this was spectrum that was originally designated as Fixed Wireless Access, specifically for uses like high-speed broadband, not mobile.

Comments in response to the consultation were due October 8. I have heard from a number of ISPs and a large number of rural communities and municipal associations in areas affected by the proposed policy, that they submitted comments urging Industry Canada not to take back the spectrum being used to deliver much needed fixed wireless broadband to thousands of rural constituents. Many of those communities most affected are in the heartlands of traditional federal Conservative support.

On October 9, Minister Moore issued a statement:

On August 19, 2014, Industry Canada launched a consultation asking Canadians for their views on how best to use the 3500 MHz band of spectrum, which is the spectrum band that represents the most affordable wireless high-speed Internet access for many rural Canadians.

Since then, I have received thoughtful feedback from local municipalities, Internet service providers and individual Canadians. Regrettably, some have falsely suggested that this consultation will somehow result in rural Canadians losing broadband services.

These suggestions are completely false. Under no circumstances will our government take spectrum licences away from any local Internet service provider that is providing Internet service to rural Canadians.

The decisions resulting from this consultation will ensure that the 3500 MHz spectrum band is deployed in the best interests of Canadian consumers, especially those living in rural areas.

Without this statement, the potential for rural Canadians to lose broadband was very real. The reclassification of many Tier 4 areas as “urban” (per Section 6 and Annex A of the consultation), despite a preponderance of rural Canadians in these areas, meant the spectrum being used for internet service was at risk of being taken away from that use. Rural Canadians might have been disconnected from the digital world.

The Minister’s statement provides a welcome clarification: “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 was a quick response, assuring communities that rural broadband subscribers will not be sacrificed to feed the insatiable hunger for mobile spectrum.

Most importantly, the Minister’s statement demonstrates that the consultation process works. Minister Moore clearly heard the comments from regions across Canada, and took the important step of acknowledging and responding positively to their concerns.

It was the right thing to do to reassure Canadians.

Still, the devil is in the details.

In the final policy and licensing framework, how will Industry Canada reconcile the Minister’s words from his October 9th statement, with the clear wording that was contained in the August consultation document?

Will Industry Canada re-write the proposals to grandfather spectrum holdings to ISPs that have deployed service already?

Broadband service for hundreds of thousands of rural Canadians is at stake. In responding to the consultation, the affected rural communities have shown that they can be mobilized over this issue.

How will the final policy and licensing framework reflect the Minister’s commitment to continuity of fixed wireless broadband service?