[Geist]: Canada’s Telecom Policy Review

I recommend reading Michael Geist’s article in today’s Toronto Star about the recent report of Canada’s telecommunications policy review. A good summary of the headlines, but more importantly, insight about the parts the mainstream media missed. If you aren’t up on current issues around net neutrality, broadband access and its implications for culture and citizenship I highly recommend paying attention to Geist’s work.

My comment to his blog (title cut off, why no comment preview?) was to link this telecom policy review and the role of the CRTC in an open network world to the questions surrounding the recent announcement by Toronto Hydro Telecom to pursue ubiquitous municipal WiFi in Toronto.

Is it time to consider broadband a public utility?

The question of accessibility, openness and neutrality become much more critical in an open-network marketplace for ideas and culture. If the barriers that the CRTC has maintained for a generation to foster and cultivate a place for Canadian voices and culture in a big media broadcasting world are coming down or made irrelevant by an open-network social-media society, this has massive implications. I believe that the barriers to access for every Canadian need to come down along with those regulatory barriers. In fact, I would say that removing barriers to access are a precondition to removing regulatory barriers for the telecoms.

To my mind, broadband accessibility should be a critical concern for both cultural and economic reasons. Without broadband access to every harbour in Newfoundland or farming community in Saskatchewan, the broad diversity of Canada’s culture and the voices and point of view of its people will not be part of the social media conversation. Thankfully, as the Toronto Hydro Telecom example shows, the technologies for ubiquitous broadband are becoming more cost effective all the time, and public utilities have a role to play in filling out the gaps in the net.

I welcome anything that articulates this issue and raises its profile in the public debate. What’s your POV?

UPDATE: Check out this post by Om Malik on EU broadband efforts. Canada is doing quite well compared to the US. We are competing with Europe and Asia. Don’t get me started on South Korea.

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