Developing good public policy for telecom

A friend of mine in government once told me that what may be good public policy doesn’t always make for good politics. And vice versa.

I nodded in agreement, but thought that strong political leaders should be able to help lead public opinion to support good policy, and failing that, should be willing to do what is right, not necessarily falling back on the easy route of doing what is popular.

An Intelligence Memo was released last week by the CD Howe Institute entitled “Coronavirus Crisis Shows Value of Robust Digital Infrastructure”.

In that memo, William Robson and Grant Bishop observe that Canadian telecommunications services have “held up robustly” to the unprecedented traffic demand levels created by Canadians shut-in by work-place closures and the isolation measures in the effort to contain the COVID-19 virus. The Intelligence Memo says “Lower quality networks would have buckled under the increased demand.”

“Why did this acceleration in digital activity and heightened virtual connectivity work? Because generations of technological progress and physical investment now deliver unprecedented amounts of data across wires and airwaves close to the speed of light.”

The memo refers to a report from BCG’s Centre for Canada’s Future (about which I wrote in late January), highlighting “the history of capital investments in Canadian telecommunications facilities that have yielded world-leading network quality.”

The memo concludes with a message to policy makers: “Recent experience demonstrates that, whatever discontents the federal government may be channeling, the quality and coverage of Canada’s networks, the cost of services, and the variety of platforms and carriers available, is impressive. Our telecommunications infrastructure is a vital asset. Good public policy should strengthen it.”

If good telecom policy isn’t working out to be good politics, strong political leaders will lead and do what’s right.

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