- Design policies to ensure robust competition and, as a result maximize consumer welfare, innovation and investment.
- Ensure efficient allocation and management of assets government controls or influences, such as spectrum, poles, and rights-of-way, to encourage network upgrades and competitive entry.
- Reform current universal service mechanisms to support deployment of broadband and voice in high-cost areas; and ensure that low-income Canadians can afford broadband; and in addition, support efforts to boost adoption and utilization.
- Reform laws, policies, standards and incentives to maximize the benefits of broadband in sectors government influences significantly, such as public education, health care and government operations. Continue reading
At the end of the last post, I promised to pass along some info about two new research studies that dig further into a) digital have-nots; and b) the billions of dollars the US economy may be flushing away by ignoring broadband illiteracy.
“Everybody don’t have coffee shops.”
A community worker and broadband researcher working with a young man in Philadelphia. A new report describes forcefully how much the urban poor are losing out by being digitally excluded. The authors describe the outcome as a “de facto non-adoption tax” on low-income Americans (photo: Amalia Deloney).
These two studies are fascinating. In their very different ways, they provide detailed insights into the social costs of excluding large numbers of people from the broadband population. Broadband Adoption in Low-Income Communities, prepared by the Social Science Research Council and released this March, is qualitative, based on 170 in-depth interviews. The Economic Impact of Digital Exclusion takes a mostly quantitative and equally serious approach (the bib alone is 8 pages). It’s the work of a Philadelphia-based non-profit advocacy organization, Digital Inclusion Group (DIG), in collaboration with economic consultancy Econsult Corp.
Social injustice in the digital age
These studies don’t just offer new data. They re-frame some big ideas about broadband in two very important ways. Continue reading
Proficiency in the use of digital technologies
The FCC’s Broadband Plan is coming to Congress on March 16 and it’s already making a difference. It has us talking about broadband in an unaccustomed way. Not just can we get faster, cheaper broadband. Not just can we get it to everybody. No, the FCC team recognized early in the game that even the most generous supply-side solutions would never solve the problem of the missing one-third – the proportion of Americans without broadband, which is roughly the proportion of Canadians without broadband.
Wanna buy a nice black box that will change your life?
New research is getting to the bottom of some interesting demand-side issues – particularly about broadband holdouts. Survey researchers have developed good tests for gauging the technical skills of respondents while they’re being interviewed over the phone. But there has long been a puzzle as to how to treat responses like “I’m just not interested in broadband” – a puzzle shared by both researchers and policymakers. Continue reading
Thanks for your comments on my previous post, Elie. Some reactions follow.
First, let’s dispel any notion that getting us out of the broadband dark ages in Canada has one simple fix. You seem to suggest we need to choose between government investment in fiber and tougher ISP regulations. What we need is a combination of strategies that includes both public and private investment in infrastructure, especially but not exclusively in fiber.
We also need to re-regulate the Internet access market to prevent the broadband ISPs from engaging in undue preference and other discriminatory practices, smuggled in under the guise of network management practices. The ISPs will continue to fight off any such re-regulation if it favors network neutrality. (They’ve also recently invested in a consulting study that questions the claims Canada is a broadband laggard – from a list that includes the OECD, the ITIF, the ITU, Akamai and the Cisco BQS study. The author claims (p.87) that “these examples [of data from certain countries] demonstrate the dramatic differences that can occur when service speeds are measured using different methodologies.” That’s exactly the point. They all reach the same overall conclusion anyway: Canada is a broadband laggard, QED.) Continue reading
Or how you gonna make ‘em love the Broadband Internet if they don’t know what the hell you’re talking about?
Last week we were awash – again – in breaking news, official announcements, and new research concerning the Internet and broadband. ICANN and the US Dept of Commerce loosened the apron-strings that bound them together for 11 years. Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s new CEO, has transformed the Joint Project Agreement into an Affirmation of Commitments that will finally (he claims) give the rest of the planet a say.
The FCC held an open meeting devoted entirely to its interim report on the National Broadband Strategy. These guys aren’t fooling around. Check out this page – a conversation with Chairman Genachowski, video of the full meeting, slides, background papers, etc. The Chairman called this open meeting “an extraordinary, unprecedented process.”
The fine folks at the Saïd Business School and the Universidad de Oviedo, who brought us the world’s first comprehensive study of broadband quality (underwritten by Cisco), have just released their 2009 report (press release here, pdf of report here). The good news: 62 out of the 66 countries analyzed have improved the quality of consumer broadband services since last year. The bad news: Canada has dropped in the general ranking from 26th place to 30th. More bad news: the BQS study is based on 24 million measures, taken in 66 countries, of actual throughput, and scored using a weighting for downlink, uplink and latency, according to their importance for next-generation services like consumer telepresence. Huh? Bad news? Continue reading
I’ve been working on a presentation for this Tuesday (Sept 22) as part of an Ontario Bar Association confab – New Media: The Emerging Landscape. I’m up for a 40-minute two-hander with Peter Grant. Our session is provocatively entitled The Future of New Media Cancon.
Two very different ideas are on a collision course in the phrase “new media Cancon.” On one hand, Cancon is a regulatory concept with a long, venerable history. It represents decades of painstaking work by the CRTC and others (like PG); it also represents the birth of the Canadian music, film and TV industries where none existed before.
On the other hand, new media Cancon is a contradiction in terms. When the notice was issued last October for the Commission’s 2008-11 proceeding, it was immediately evident this wasn’t going to be a “new media proceeding,” as everyone called it. It was a proceeding about broadcasting, designed to explore how the broadcasting industry could be spared the ravages of that disruptive technology called the Internet. Continue reading
The CRTC hearing on ISP traffic management practices has just ended. It provided no reason for optimism about development of a next-generation broadband infrastructure in this country, a resource that could bring unprecedented benefits to the entire economy. Instead, this proceeding and the new media proceeding treated regulation of the Internet as an exercise in damage control, and the advent of broadband as a nuisance that’s getting in the way of Canadian culture.
The Commission, the big ISPs and constituencies such as the cultural lobbies just don’t get it. For all their differences of opinion about the details, they share the view that the Internet is just another form of broadcasting. I’m particularly stunned that some of our most sophisticated and articulate fellow citizens, such as performers represented by ACTRA, see the Web strictly as a mechanism for job creation – jobs for them, not the rest of us. Continue reading
The OECD has released its broadband report for 2008. The numbers paint a very unflattering portrait of our standing in the 30 member countries.
Michael Geist provides a good summary of the findings, entitled “OECD Report Finds Canadian Broadband Slow, Expensive.” In his conclusion he writes:
Most Canadians recognize the critical importance of broadband networks for communication, commerce, education, and access to knowledge. Canada was once a global leader, yet today the marketplace suffers from high prices, slow speeds, and throttled services that have led to an unmistakable decline in comparison with peer countries around the world.
While I agree with Geist’s overall assessment, I’m not at all sure that “most Canadians” have any clue about the importance of broadband for our future or how much we’re being short-changed in the present.
Affordability, the forgotten metric
One of the most unflattering ratings is reflected in the graph above. I took the subset of G7 countries from the wider OECD coverage to illustrate a point about Canada’s so-called global broadband leadership. It’s one thing to be faced with prices 2.6 times higher than those in the US. It’s quite another thing to have our government leaders make claims such as the following – in the 2009 budget:
To this day, Canada remains one of the most connected nations in the world, with the highest broadband connection rate among the G7 countries.
Across the 30-member OECD – as opposed to the G7 – Canada rates 28th on the affordability index, second only to Mexico and Poland. And affordability is, as Geist puts it, “the most telling metric, since it confirms that Canadians pay more for less.” “Most connected” is bafflegab. Price matters. Continue reading