Canada’s so-called communications crisis

Two weeks ago, Michael Geist told the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications that “the Canadian telecommunications scene is in a state of crisis.”

I just don’t buy the doom and gloom portrayed in this testimony. It struck me as a conclusion based on statements that were well past their “best before” date.

Take for example the comments on the Blackberry in Canada:

Research In Motion has expressed frustration with Canadian pricing, predicting that carriers could sell eight or nine times more BlackBerrys if they lowered the data prices to levels found elsewhere.

People really need to be careful about old quotes like this. They are easily taken out of context.

Consider the fact that Canadians are already the world leaders in per capita ownership of Blackberrys. According to Jim Balsillie:

Canada was the birthplace of the BlackBerry platform and Canada continues to generate the highest per capita penetration of BlackBerry smartphones in the world today. We are fortunate to be located in a country with a thriving wireless industry that continues to offer businesspeople and consumers world-class wireless data services. RIM works with hundreds of carriers internationally and I am proud to say that the Canadian carriers and our collective success are well respected within the worldwide industry.

Great superlatives that go a little over the top. But at the core, it begs the question: if Canadian wireless data pricing is so out of whack, how are we leading the world in Blackberry penetration?

More stale dated material is found in the example of why we supposedly need new net neutrality laws. Once again, he pulled out the old TELUS union website blocking – an incident that happened 4 years ago and one that continues to serve as the poster-child for Canada’s net neutrality movement.

Several years ago, TELUS blocked access to a union [sic] that was supporting a website during a labour dispute. In the process, it blocked more than 600 other websites.

I actually consider this example as clear evidence that no new net neutrality laws are required. Although there was no CRTC proceeding, the TELUS incident appears to have been a violation of Section 36 of the Telecom Act, even though TELUS eventually obtained court sanctions that forced the site to be taken down. Moreover, the carrier has been publicly criticized repeatedly, and they have made it clear they will not take such measures in the future.

The marketplace and current laws worked to resolve the issue pretty quickly.

As I pull out of my driveway each morning, I watch people run through the all-way stop sign in my neighbourhood. Do we need new traffic laws to stop that?

No new laws are needed; just enforcement of the existing one.

A crisis in communications? Hardly.

For a more complete perspective on the state of Canada’s communications industry, you should attend The 2009 Canadian Telecom Summit, which opens on Monday in Toronto.

Have you registered yet?

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