Toward a national digital strategy

Verizon’s policy blog had an entry last week that I think is as relevant in Canada as it is for Verizon’s US readers. Kathy Grillo writes:

We all share the same ultimate objective: to ensure that broadband helps all Americans reach their full potential, while addressing important social challenges, providing the foundation for job creation and economic growth and, of course, giving consumers the opportunity to choose their own Internet experience.

The challenge is not in reaching a consensus on the objective; it is a question of how we get there.

Sound familiar?

Verizon sets out five elements to stimulate broadband deployment and increase consumer choice:

  1. encourage demand by increasing computer ownership, computer skills, digital literacy, and online education;
  2. incent new uses of the Internet that serve societal needs, such as energy savings, improved education, public safety and better and less expensive healthcare;
  3. encourage continued innovation and investment to increase the options in networks, services, devices and applications;
  4. recognize and encourage wireless broadband platforms as important in reaching unserved and rural areas through more efficient tower-siting processes and the identification of additional spectrum;
  5. government intervention must be technology-neutral and must put choice in the hands of consumers, rather than subsidizing providers directly, targeted precisely to the needed effort.

The end-user direct subsidy approach is one that I have written about over the past few years, including our opening remarks at The 2008 Canadian Telecom Summit, nearly two years ago.

How will Canada approach extensions to the evolution of our digital strategy? Will tomorrow’s Throne speech provide guidance? If there are no new initiatives to be funded, as suggested by John Ivison of the National Post, how will the government provide appropriate incentives for the private sector to carry the torch?

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