Mark Goldberg

The Canadian Telecom Summit

The Canadian Telecom Summit

Fox Group Dispatch

A role for provinces in digital policy

The separation of powers between provinces and the federal government has been a leading news story in Canada, triggering a decision by Kinder Morgan to suspend funding of the Trans Mountain Expansion project pending certainty of the company’s ability to complete the $7.4B pipeline.

I thought it might be worthwhile taking a look at the role of federal-provincial relations for digital services.

In 1989, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in AGT v. Canada (CRTC) that Canada’s major provincial telephone companies were federal undertakings and in 1994, in Téléphone Guèvremont v. Québec (Régie des télécommunications), the Court extended that to jurisdictional determination to the smaller independent companies as well.

Ever since, Canada has avoided many of the fractured regulatory challenges faced by service providers south of the border, dealing with state utility commissions for intra-state services and the Federal Communications Commission for federal services.

That doesn’t mean that provinces are excluded from Canadian communications policy and regulations. Section 13 of the Telecom Act requires provincial consultation prior to the Minister issuing a policy direction or an order to “vary or rescind” a CRTC decision “or refer it back to the Commission for reconsideration”.

Disputes still arise, as we have seen recently when the Government of Quebec sought to have internet service providers block access to certain gambling websites. The CRTC has asserted that service providers can only block traffic if the Commission has given prior authorization, not the province.

Still, there are meaningful roles for provinces to wade into digital policy. As Ontario heads into an election in less than 2 months, what kind of digital leadership might emerge as platforms are being released?

The NDP released its platform [pdf] yesterday, entitled “Change for the Better”. It reads like “More of the Same”. The 100-page document only touches on digital policy in one area, duplicating decades of federal programs by announcing a 10-year, $100M per year rural and northern broadband program. The platform mentions “health” 161 times without ever discussing e-health, distance or remote monitoring, electronic health records or privacy. There is no mention of digital literacy or media literacy. Nothing about use of computers or networking or programming in schools. No digital skills training. No programs to put computers or connectivity into low income households, especially households with school aged kids.

It is disappointing that the platform is silent on other important areas that should be ripe for digital innovation – health, education, social safety net, skills development – all areas that should have been considered by a provincial party, especially a provincial New Democratic Party. The words “digital” and “computer” don’t appear at all in the platform.

When TELUS [Internet for Good] and Rogers [Connected for Success] launched programs to offer computers and connectivity for low-income households, one of the challenges was identifying the eligible households. Rogers ended up working with local community housing agencies; TELUS is working with provincial community service ministries in Alberta and BC.

Provinces can demonstrate leadership on digital issues without wading into areas of federal jurisdiction.

Which party and which province will demonstrate it is prepared for 21st century transformation?

On Wednesday June 6, The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit will have a panel called “Cultivating an Innovation Economy”, moderated by Namir Anani, CEO of the Information & Communications Technology Council of Canada.

The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit takes place June 4-6 in Toronto. Register before the end of April to save $250.

An easy way to save more than $250

More than 60 leaders who shape Canada’s ICT industry will speak at The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit, June 4-6 in Toronto. The event will include over a dozen keynote addresses offering insights into the future of Canadian ICT, examining the services, technologies, consumer & business trends and regulatory & policy initiatives that drive the information economy.

This year, in addition to the ever popular Regulatory Blockbuster, we are featuring sessions devoted to:

  • Cyber Security: Securing your data; protecting your privacy
  • Customer Experience Management
  • The 5G journey: IoT, connected cars, mobile video and more
  • Network Innovation & Service Delivery: Transforming networks & applications for nexgen services
  • Cultivating an Innovation Economy
  • Artificial Intelligence: Should we embrace or fear what’s coming</li>

With so much public attention focused on telecommunications & broadcast issues, no other event is quite like The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit in covering the industry from every angle.

Now in its 17th year, The Canadian Telecom Summit has become Canada’s most important annual ICT event, attracting attendees from around the world.

For 3 days, The Canadian Telecom Summit delivers thought provoking presentations from the prime movers 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 network in a more relaxed social setting of genial conversation.

After being immersed in a full program of keynotes and panel discussions, plan to attend our not-to-be-missed Cocktail Reception. This is a chance to unwind, enjoy some delicious food & drink, catch up with colleagues and make new professional acquaintances.

Come meet with leaders from services and equipment suppliers, applications developers, policy makers, regulators and major customers.

Book your seat early.

The Canadian Telecom Summit is the only event you need to attend. For the complete agenda, visit the conference website or download the brochure.

Save $250 by registering before May 1.

Special Networking Events: All participants are invited to join us for our annual cocktail reception Monday evening, June 4.

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

Security and Privacy: a delicate tension

There is a delicate tension involved in balancing personal privacy interests and public security interests.

At The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit [June 4-6 • Toronto], we will be exploring these issues with a panel, “Cyber Security: Securing your data, protecting your privacy.” The panel will be moderated by Chris Anderson, Principal of Castlekeep Inc. (a consulting firm that provides Information Technology risk, control and security advisory services to its clients).

Joining Chris will be:

  • Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Distinguished Expert-in-Residence, leading the Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence at Ryerson University;
  • Deborah Evans, Associate Chief Privacy Officer at Rogers Communications;
  • Sean Forkan, Vice President and Country Manager (Canada) for VMware; and,
  • Carey Frey, VP, Telus Security and CSO at TELUS.

In an opinion piece published last week in the Globe and Mail, Ann Cavoukian wrote “Privacy controls must be placed back into the hands of the individual.” In it, she calls for technologists to develop technologies that will preserve our privacy.

In a world where personal information may increasingly be transmitted and used in multiple locations simultaneously, protecting data privacy may be possible only if the information itself becomes intelligent and capable of making appropriate decisions about its release, on behalf of the data subject.

What are the custodial roles of the obvious and not so obvious players for security, transparency, trust? What is the role for regulators? What penalties should exist for failures?

What would you like to see discussed?

In addition to this panel, The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit is featuring sessions devoted to:

  • The Evolution of Emergency Communications: NG-911, Wireless Public Alerts;
  • Customer Experience Management;
  • The 5G journey: IoT, connected cars, mobile video and more;
  • Network Innovation & Service Delivery: Transforming networks & applications for nexgen services;
  • Cultivating an Innovation Economy;
  • Artificial Intelligence: Should we embrace or fear what’s coming; and,
  • Regulatory Blockbuster

Lawyers should note that 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.

Download the latest brochure. The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit is just 2 months away. Have you registered yet?

Bold, visionary, decisive & inclusive

Connecting Canadians was the name of a $305M federal government program in 2014 that promised to “provide 98 percent of Canadian households in rural and remote regions of Canada with greater access to broadband Internet”.

At the time, Industry Minister James Moore said:

As we move toward Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, our government is proud to launch a new program that will connect 280,000 Canadian households to high-speed Internet. Connecting Canadians is about ensuring that Canadians, whether they live in urban centres or remote regions of the country, have access to the latest wireless technologies and high-speed networks at the most affordable prices possible.

Despite this bold statement, there really was nothing in the “new program” that did anything to ensure Canadians in urban centres would “have access to the latest wireless technologies and high-speed networks at the most affordable prices possible.”

Like federal and provincial government programs that preceded Connecting Canadians and those that have followed it, funding has been provided to extend networks to rural and remote areas. This is an important role for the federal government, but it is not enough to achieve the objective of ensuring that all Canadians have affordable access to the latest wireless technologies and high-speed networks.

Greg O’Brien wrote an important commentary yesterday on, “$200 million for 5G. Still zero million for those who can’t afford any G.”

How many don’t have milk in their fridge – or don’t have a fridge, let alone a smart one? How many people who live in Canadian cities and don’t worry about parking their self-driving cars because they can’t afford one – and who will never read the news about 5G – or much of any news – because they can’t afford internet access?

And then that made us wonder why three different governments can each find $67 million to help fund something that doesn’t really need additional public help – but none of them can figure out a way to build a program to get broadband access and devices to those who can’t afford them.

I have been writing about this theme for much too long, as I describe in “An affordable broadband strategy.”

For a decade, I have suggested that an affordable broadband strategy may need more in the way of government leadership and not as much in the way of funding. We need more research to better understand the digital divide. That may merit creating and coordinating a broadband research agenda to better understand the factors that are keeping 1 in 6 Canadian households from subscribing to a broadband connection.

As I wrote last year, the March 2017 Federal budget held out promise that the government was finally starting to look at “who” needed broadband assistance, not just “where”. A year later, we have not yet seen the outcome that work.

The WEF suggests “encouraging experimentation with flexible approaches and removing regulatory or other obstacles may be an effective way forward, in addition to revising tax policies and providing direct subsidies.”

Over the past 2 years, some ‘obstacles’ have been imposed in Canada that could conflict with an environment that should encourage such experimentation, as described in “Connecting the unconnected.” for example, the World Economic Forum writes “Some have questioned zero-rated services on the belief that such services run counter to net neutrality. Others point out that some access is better than no access at all, even if users cannot choose which apps and services are ‘free’.”

Are regulatory decisions being guided by clear and transparent policy directions?

The Executive Summary of the report from The National Broadband Task Force (established in January 2001) stated “The principal mandate of the Task Force was to map out a strategy for achieving the Government of Canada’s goal of ensuring that broadband services are available to businesses and residents in every Canadian community by 2004.” The report holds up well considering it was completed more than a decade and a half ago.

I have written before that Canada is long overdue for a review of digital policy matters. Recall that the Telecom Policy Review panel called for a fresh look every 5 years. The report from the Telecom Policy Review Panel was released 5 years after the report from the National Broadband Task Force. That was 2006.

In the recent budget, I didn’t notice funding for a review panel.

Earlier this week, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains observed “Technology is changing the way we live, work and engage with one another, and we are in a global innovation race. To prepare for the future, we must be bold, visionary and decisive.”

We also need to be inclusive. One in six Canadian households still don’t have a connected computer.

To win the ‘global innovation race’ we need to ensure that all Canadians have an opportunity to participate.

The promise of satellite communications

Earlier this week, FCC Chair Ajit Pai spoke [pdf, 66KB] at the annual dinner for the Satellite Industry Association. Included in his remarks was a statement supporting the projected tripling in size of the space industry, taken from a recent Morgan Stanley report. The “largest opportunity comes from providing Internet access to under- and unserved parts of the world”.

The FCC Chair spoke of the significant opportunities arising from the latest generation of satellites, saying that we are at “an inflection point for satellite broadband”:

Breakthroughs are already happening.

Just two weeks ago, Viasat began offering 100 Mbps broadband service in the United States with unlimited data. This was made possible by high-throughput satellites that use spot-beam technology and frequency re-use to dramatically increase capacity. Other companies have applications before the FCC for similar high-throughput satellite service.

He also indicated that re-usable rockets are reducing the cost of launching a large satellite “from $200 million to $60 million and could go much lower.” As a result, a lot more satellites are on the physical and planning horizons. Constellations of non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellites, using Low-Earth, Medium-Earth, and Highly Elliptical Earth Orbits offer the potential for faster, lower latency internet services.

Samer Bishay of Iristel and Allison Lenehan of Xplornet will be speaking at The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit. Both of these industry leaders are working on solutions to deliver high throughput broadband services in rural and remote areas of the country, and each have included satellite technologies as part of their portfolio of technology solutions.

The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit is taking place June 4-6, in Toronto. Have you registered yet?