Competing opinions

Bernard Baruch is credited with the coining the statement “Every man has a right to an opinion but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.”

Important phrase to keep in mind as I read competing opinion pieces: Timothy Denton in the Financial Post and Dr. Robert Crandall in

Tim is a former CRTC commissioner and his piece was authored to respond to an opinion piece by Gael Campan of The MEI in support of its recent research paper (the subject of last week’s blog post “Permissionless innovation: is regulation penalizing infrastructure investments?”. Mr. Denton’s clients include Tucows, the parent of Ting, a company that has been trying to get the CRTC to mandate MVNOs.

Dr. Robert Crandall is is a senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that focuses on the economics of innovation, technological change, and related regulation around the world. Dr. Crandall has taught economics at Northwestern University, MIT, the University of Maryland, George Washington University, and the Stanford in Washington program. His opinion piece is based on data in The Inclusive Internet Index 2019, a study by the Intelligence Unit of The Economist. He has prepared evidence for TELUS in the CRTC’s review of mobile wireless services.

Now in its third year, the index assesses the performance of 100 countries in four categories of inclusion: Accessibility, Affordability, Relevance and Readiness. Each category incorporates key indicators of internet inclusion, including quantitative measures such as network coverage and pricing, and qualitative measures such as the presence of e-inclusion policies and the availability of local-language content.

Mr. Denton’s piece is titled “Some truths about why Canada’s cellphone bills are higher and our adoption rate lower than most OECD countries” but it actually mixes up a lot of facts confusing European regulatory obligations for wireline services (that we also have in Canada) in his discussion of what he (or his clients) think should be imposed for wireless. Like the discredited consultant report from Rewheel, Mr. Denton tries to compare Canada’s mobile service to Finland (“with their vast regions as empty as Canada”), failing to consider that Finland’s population density is 5 times that of Canada. He also refers to wireless penetration using the familiar, but invalid metric “SIM cards per capita”, as though it is a good thing for people to have to carry multiple subscriptions (and forgetting to consider that also means people are paying multiple bills). When looking at unique subscribers, Canada’s figure of 78% is in line with the US (85%) and Europe (86%).

The fact is, Canadians enjoy superior quality network performance, thanks in part to carriers’ capital investment per connection that is nearly double the average of their European counterparts. As Dr. Crandall observes, “Canada has among the highest spectrum prices in the developed world because of these policies, thereby increasing wireless carrier costs and, thus, wireless prices.”

We are entitled to our own competing opinions. But those opinions should be informed by facts.

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