Mark Goldberg

Fox Group Dispatch

… and round, in the circle game

Once again, it is the season to reflect and make forecasts for the year ahead.

I have not been as prolific in my writing on this blog with only 81 posts in 2017, compared with 102 posts in 2016, 103 in 2015 and 109 in 2014. The archives now have close to 2700 posts over the past 20 years. I encourage you to take a walk through the evolution of Canada’s telecom sector by browsing “My back pages” on the side-bar menu. If you like what you have been reading, feel free to try the “Donate” button on the side of this page.

Why am I writing fewer posts? I suppose part of the reason is that I am spending more of my time on Twitter [follow me: @mark_goldberg] and, as the grandfather to two adorable little boys who happen to live 7 time zones away, I have taken a fair number of days to spend time with them. Let me add that I think I have my priorities arranged appropriately.

Like last year (and for many years before that), my wish list for 2018 includes seeing more carriers getting involved in increasing computer ownership and broadband adoption among low income households with school-aged children. As I noted last year, Rogers and TELUS launched programs on their own, but both of these programs would be enhanced by the Federal Government assisting in identifying those households that would benefit the most. Broadband adoption rates are made up of a numerator (demand) and a denominator (supply); much opportunity can be found in stimulating the demand side of that equation.

I am not convinced that Canada’s broadband expansion programs, with ever diminishing returns on government expenditures, are the most cost-effective way to bridge the various digital divides in this country. Hundreds of thousands of low-income households continue to be without computers (let alone broadband) in Canada’s largest cities. Kids can’t do homework if they don’t have access at home to a connected computer. If our objective is to increase broadband adoption, perhaps more homes can be brought online by focusing attention on this community.

I can’t help but wonder what kinds of innovative pricing plans are being inhibited because Canada’s more restrictive regulations on internet access compared with the light touch approach approved last week by the FCC. Canadians have been denied the choice of plans with innovative pricing structures offering mobile TV from one service provider and another carrier offering mobile music. As predicted, the CRTC’s intervention resulted in no customers seeing lower prices while thousands ended up paying more.

Industry Minister Bains recently said “An open internet is critical to our economy and our democracy.” I agree. We need an open internet.

But, I don’t believe that an open internet has been called into question by the FCC. The real question is the level and type of government intervention required to achieve an open internet, while still preserving an environment that fosters innovation and investment.

I’m not convinced Canadian consumers benefit from the CRTC having extended net neutrality rules beyond the elements that were recommended by the Telecom Policy Review Panel. I don’t share the view of some others that the US will lose its status as the innovation leader, and I suspect US consumers will find that they benefit from the framework south of the border.

As observed recently in the NY Times, it will be a fascinating controlled experiment to study how the ICT sector evolves on both sides of the 49th parallel.

While setting objectives for next year, I guess I still wouldn’t mind losing 20 pounds, but on the other hand, I know my grandsons appreciate having a soft place to rest when we take naps, “watching the game” together on the afternoons when we happen to be on the same continent.

For 37 years, I have experiencing (and in a few cases, leading) dynamic changes in the telecommunications sector that have made every day one in which I can say that I love my chosen field of work. In 2018, I look forward to continuing engaging with my readers and followers, hopefully continuing to provoke you with different perspectives on issues facing the sector.

Over the break, please take time to look at the program for The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit (June 4-6, Toronto), which will be looking at “Innovation and Disruption in ICT: reinventing and securing our business and personal lives.” Registrations are now open, in case you want to use up some 2017 budget and save money at the same time. I hope to see you there.

Have a safe, healthy and peaceful holiday season.

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