Opening remarks – 2013

Earlier this morning, at The 2013 Canadian Telecom Summit, these were my opening remarks.

Twenty one years of competitive telecommunications and look at where we are today.

The promise of new competition in mobile services, made possible by the AWS spectrum set-aside 5 years ago, is at risk of collapse as new entrants scramble for capital.

Still, each year, Michael and I have observed that all of us continue to use our various forms of communications more than ever; and each year we continue to increase our raw consumption of bits, of radio spectrum, of fiber capacity.

This continues to be the trend and it continues to raise substantive policy issues as service providers – new entrant and incumbent alike – try to stay ahead of the demand.

How do we create the right policy framework to attract and incent continued investment in Canadian telecommunications? How do we provide a stable, predictable regulatory and policy environment?

How do we ensure that spectrum is made available in a manner that creates an appropriate balance between the various stakeholders’ interests?

How do we balance the need to build more towers with local residents who secretly crave 5-bars of signal, just as long as the tower can’t be seen within eyesight of their homes.

These issues are as relevant to this year’s event as they have ever been.

The sector continues to generate blockbuster business deals that grace the headlines. Whether it is a convergence deal like Bell – Astral, an acquisition like TELUS – Mobilicity, or a business transaction like Rogers – Shaw, companies are continuing to push the limits to gain their own competitive business advantages.

We have been waiting for years for the release of a national digital strategy. As speakers may discuss over the next few days, whether or not Canada ever releases a National Strategy for the Digital Economy, we will need to find options to look beyond the urban/rural divide – especially as we recognize that broadband access has become virtually universal, thanks to wireless and satellite.

We cannot wait for leadership from Ottawa. It is up to us, those of us who have gathered at The Canadian Telecom Summit. We represent the leading stakeholders in Canada’s innovation agenda.

How do we create the right conditions for Canada to lead in a global digital economy?

  • We need to drive a greater degree of digital inclusiveness for all Canadians, young and old, urban and rural, regardless of their economic station.
  • As such, we need programs to increase digital literacy and access for disadvantaged Canadians.
  • We need to drive increased adoption of Information and Communications Technology in business
  • We need to improve ICT adoption in all dealings with government, especially in improving the quality and efficiency of health care delivery.

On my blog last week, I referred to a quote generally attributed to Antoine de Saint Exupéry:

“Quand tu veux construire un bateau, ne commence pas par rassembler du bois, couper des planches et distribuer du travail, mais reveille au sein des hommes le desir de la mer grande et large.”

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather awaken within them a passion for the endless immensity of the sea.”

We need to inspire Canadians, awakening within them a passion and a vision for a better digital-enabled future. That is what I wanted to see in a national digital strategy. Vision. Inspiring Passion.

If government won’t lead, then – let me repeat – it is up to us, those of us in this room, to develop and impart the vision and awaken that passion.

We need to awaken Canadians to long for the endless immensity of the sea – the endless immensity of opportunity in a digital economy.

I know we will hear more on these themes over the coming days.

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