An agenda for the year ahead

A new year. A fresh start. What should be the telecom priorities for the year ahead?

Driving internet availability and adoption need to be at the top of any list. The government has said that Canada’s future depends on connectivity. The CRTC set an objective in 2016 for 90% of Canadian homes to have access to a 50/10 unlimited broadband plan by 2021. The Commission reports that 91.7% had such access and Canada is on target to achieve universal access by 2031.

Still, there is a big difference between having universal access to broadband, and attaining universal adoption of that service.

It is one thing to have access to a service, but something quite different to get people to sign on. Think of it as that old “lead a horse to water” kind of thing. How do we get them to drink?

I have written before that “Connections are easy; Adoption isn’t.” Connectivity is a relatively simple engineering problem. Throw enough money at a construction problem and there can be a solution.

Driving universal adoption is a lot more complex. For most people, it is difficult to imagine why anyone wouldn’t get online if their home has access to broadband. That is why there has usually been an assumption that price must be the factor. As I have written before, “Too many people superficially think that increasing adoption is simply a matter of lower prices, but research has shown there are far more factors involved.” In “The broadband divide’s little secret”, I wrote “after introducing Connected for Success, Internet for Good, Connecting Families and other targeted programs, we have learned that getting people online isn’t just a matter of price.”

Hopefully, 2023 will begin to bring better research into understanding those factors inhibiting broadband adoption among different groups in order to develop appropriate responses. It is fertile ground for academic research.

A lot more work needs to be done to address hate and illegal content on the internet, a topic that came to the fore last summer when the public learned about the government funding a notorious purveyor of hate to develop an anti-racism program for Canadian broadcasters. (You can’t make these things up.) For more than 15 years, I have been writing about this issue. The government is exploring new legislation but I am not yet convinced that this is the appropriate approach. Add this to the 2023 agenda.

Online hate ties to an overall theme of online safety. These factors can impact adoption among people who have been wary to get connected. Can we develop techniques to improve privacy and online safety and security to improve confidence for all?

Those are a few of the items that top my 2023 agenda.

What would you add?

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