Going round and round and round…

It’s mid-December and it’s that customary time for me to write a year-end wrap-up post.

Never before have I wanted to wrap up a year like this one.

For almost 10 years, I have entitled my year-end wrap up blog post using lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game”. As the year 2020 winds down, and much of the world continues to operate in a state of partial lock-down to reduce the spread of COVID-19, going “round and round and round” seems even more appropriate than ever.

In 2020, I have published around 106 blog posts (so far), up 50% over the past few years. In “A summer like no other” [Sept 2, 2020], I observed that my summer blog production (July and August) was triple the normal levels. Like many, I am spending more time in front of a computer and as most have discovered, telecommunications policy has come to be a critical issue as people work, study, shop and play at home.

The archives for this blog now include more than 2925 articles, chronicling trends and issues as far back as 1997. As I look at the analytics, I continue to find it interesting to see the search terms being used successfully to find these older, but often still relevant, pages.

We are hoping to be starting the New Year on a new web host and with a new site design. Like many of you, I’m looking toward a fresh start for 2021. Be sure to let me know what you think of the new look.

Unlike some armchair industry observers, I continue to be optimistic about the state of Canada’s telecommunications industry. A couple months ago, I celebrated 40 years working to build advanced competitive communications networks in North America. As I said at that time, I still wake up to new challenges that make it a pleasure to get to work each day.

I have found it to be particularly satisfying to see the role played by affordable and advanced communications in improving virtually everything we do. Those capabilities have never been needed more than over the past year. I am especially proud of the efforts by many Canada’s service providers to create targeted plans to close the homework gap among lower income families with school aged children.

I have said it before and it merits repeating: it has never been easier or cheaper to communicate. I can talk with my kids and video-chat with my grandchildren halfway around the world every day as though they are around the corner. For more than 9 months, I have been living and working in a rural area using a fixed wireless connection that does not meet the government’s speed targets, but I have found the service able to support multiple simultaneous HD video streams and to conduct business video chats, including hosting a variety of webinars and sessions for The Canadian Telecom Summit.

I have written a number of posts through the years calling for us to do more to develop a better understanding of those Canadians who have not yet adopted information and communications technologies. As I have written, “most government programs continue to focus on increasing “supply”, extending access to broadband. We need to ensure there are strategies to drive “demand”: increasing adoption rates among groups that could subscribe, but have not. That is a problem across all geographies, and is perhaps more pronounced in urban markets.”

Most of us would like to close the books on this year of the pandemic and many are looking forward, optimistically, to a more promising year ahead.

I am in that camp.

Last month, in his closing remarks at The 2020 Canadian Telecom Summit, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said “I want to close by saying that these have not been easy times, but they have shown just what Canadians and our industries are made of. At no time have I been more proud of being the Minister of Industry.”

I am reminded of the exchange between characters in the 1995 film Apollo 13. Joe Spano, playing the role of NASA Director says, “This could be the worst disaster NASA’s ever experienced.” In response, Ed Harris, playing the role of Flight Director Gene Krantz replies, “With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”

Throughout the past year, despite difficult operational and financial hurdles, Canada’s communications industry delivered world leading services that enable most Canadians to manage their lives and livelihoods through the pandemic. One might argue that the manner in which the telecom sector responded to the challenges of the year 2020 has been the industry’s ‘finest hour’.

To paraphrase Minister Bains, let me say that at no time have I been more proud to be associated with the telecommunications professionals driving Canada’s economy toward better times.

I hope you and your families have a happy, healthy, safe and peaceful holiday season.

I look forward to engaging with you in the New Year.

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