Mark Goldberg


#CTS19: Opening remarks

On Monday June 3, 2019, these observations were part of the opening remarks, delivered by Michael Sone and me, at The 2019 Canadian Telecom Summit:

We are indeed living in heady times. The pace of technological change in networks, in devices, in computing power – it’s almost trite to say – is beyond astounding.

Last year from the podium I remarked that we humans are very good at building dynamic algorithms, designing smarter systems, and miniaturizing the heck out of everything, to make our lives more convenient & productive, and wring ever-greater efficiencies out of our hectic routines. But has all this convenience, efficiency and productivity made us happier? Does being able to do more, and do it more quickly in a furious state of hyper-connectedness bring us greater satisfaction? Are the things that really matter to us – our family and community relationships – enhanced because of unprecedented advances in ICT?

Ever since the advent of the nuclear age in the 1940s, it has been eminently clear that we are decidedly less competent at dealing with the ethical ramifications of what our big brains and prodigious intellect are able to invent. We are masters of design & innovation, but often ham-fisted when it comes to handling unintended consequences.

It should be obvious that with every advance in technology, we face difficult choices. The commercialization of the Internet 20 years revolutionized human interaction, yet also brought with it challenges of security & privacy that were under-appreciated at the time, yet are all-too-obvious today. And we’re playing catch-up.

On the one hand, technology allows us to harness systems that invest more power in our hands as consumers, yet that same technology forces us to make tough choices. We want the benefits of on-line everything but we don’t want Google to track us. Or perhaps some of us do. We want to post the significant and the mundane details of our lives on FB, but bristle at the power that Mark Zuckerberg commands and the often poisonous environment that pervades much of social media. Many have no doubt concluded that they have sold their souls to the digital devil.

As the French philosopher, Rene Descartes said: “The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues”. I thinks this sums up nicely what we have before us.

And the overriding question we continually face are we prepared to sacrifice our autonomy on the altar on innovation?

Today, we are at the cusp of a revolution that is ushering in the era of Artificial Intelligence, video analytics and next generation robotics. Self-driving vehicles have moved out of the laboratory and onto the streets. All has not gone smoothly. While pursue these things with gusto we necessarily must take a step back and consider and debate what we have wrought.

And that’s some of what we’re going to do here at The 2019 Canadian Telecom Summit.

Last year, I said “It is challenging to be in a business that is constantly in transition, requiring continuous investment in new technology and continually facing disruptive threats.” Those words are even more true today.

Next week marks 27 years since Canada endorsed a policy of encouraging facilities-based competition. And 13 years ago, at The 2006 Canadian Telecom Summit, then Minister Maxime Bernier issued a Policy Direction to the CRTC directing it to “rely on market forces to the maximum extent feasible as the means of achieving the telecommunications policy objectives, and when relying on regulation, use measures that are efficient and proportionate to their purpose and that interfere with the operation of competitive market forces to the minimum extent necessary to meet the policy objectives.”

Innovation Minister Bain’s proposed Policy Direction was Gazetted earlier this year on March 9 and the Act requires 40 sitting days of either House of Parliament before it can be finalized. The countdown brings us to this week.

As I said last year, I was not convinced the CRTC complied with a rigorous adherence to the Bernier Policy Direction with some of its decisions; a valid question might be “how will the CRTC respond over the next decade?”

Personally, I’m not convinced that increased regulation can deliver more competition. To me, that is an oxymoron. But we will have plenty of opportunities to discuss such matters over the coming days. I suspect we will also be talking about Canada’s Digital Charter, launched by Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains just a week and a half ago. As I wrote on its release, the Digital Charter raises the level of dialog on some very substantive issues. Not everything has been figured out, but that just means there will be good reasons to continue to get together at events like The Canadian Telecom Summit to help resolve the issues. Minister Bains will be our closing speaker on Wednesday. So I guess we have 2 days to get it all worked out.

And now, it is time to look at Converging networks: a foundation for innovation leadership, the theme of this year’s conference.

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