What a clusterfuck telecom regulation in this country is.
It's more apparent this past week than most.
First, and most noisily, was the
blow-up over UBB
thought it would be just fine if the Huge Incumbent Telco ISPs
could impose data caps and per-gigabyte billing on the small
independent ISPs that use the incumbents' last mile to deliver
internet access. This lead to an online outcry of epic proportions,
which admittedly somewhat mystifies me, given that some 96% of
internet-using Canadians are customers of the Huge Incumbent
Telcos and so already have data caps and UBB.
This was followed on by the Federal Court ruling that
meet the Canadian ownership requirements for a telecom company,
giving them 45 days to either become
adequately Canadian or pull the plug on their upstart mobile
network. Wind, the most promising of the wireless startups to come
out of the last spectrum auction, has the majority of its debt held by
Orascom, an Egyptian multinational. Having bought the requisite
spectrum, Wind's application to start offering mobile phone service
was rejected by the CRTC, but the government intervened to "vary"
the Commission's ruling, permitting Wind to begin operations.
Now, 14 months and better than 140,000 subscribers later, the only
mobile phone company that poses a credible threat to the
usurious cellphone rates of the incumbents has had the rug yanked
out from under them.
Canada's telecom sector closely resembles its banking industry --
dominated by several huge, well-heeled incumbents which form a
de-facto cartel. None of them are interested in disturbing the status
quo, much preferring to enjoy raking in profits through extortionate
rates that consumers must pay if they are to participate fully in
modern society. The notion of substantial foreign ownership of
our telecom sector doesn't exactly fill me with glee, but it might
be preferable to the stifling lack of competition that currently
Innovation, in both the mobile and internet spaces, depends on having
adequately fast and reasonably-priced network access.
Until independent ISPs have their own last mile and can bring
their services directly to the consumers, and
until independent cellphone companies manage to get a
toehold and can stand up against the incumbents,
the ability of Canadians to use the cutting-edge applications of both
technologies will continue to lag.
And until we have some real alternatives to the incumbents in our
telecom offerings, we'll continue to get screwed.