Court vacates FCC’s Open Internet Order, echoing Klass vs Bell

platform-notice-2

[Correction added on AT&T sponsored data]

It’s shaping up to be a tough year for network neutrailty.

verizon-faceIn its disposition of Verizon v FCC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled yesterday that the FCC’s Open Internet Order is mostly null and void. Not because of the substance of the debate – that end-users need to be protected from the incumbent ISPs – but because of a jurisdictional flaw. The case was brought by Verizon, which now that they’ve more or less won, is saying they actually support an open Internet. When you read the policy blog post in question (“Verizon reiterates its commitment to the open Internet“), you have to marvel at Verizon’s capacity for managing self-contradiction. Continue reading

The Wireless Code vs the CWTA’s bafflegab: is there a winner?

lord-cwta-bs-2

Bernard Lord, CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association

~~~

“Canadians would be willing to pay more for cellular services, study says.”

If you read that headline in the Globe and Mail on Monday, did you jump to the same conclusion I did? That the CWTA commissioned a consumer survey in which they asked about price points for wireless services? And found somehow that Canadians would pay more… than they’re already paying?

It turns out you had a good reason for your cognitive dissonance. No Canadians actually said to an interviewer, yes, I’d like to pay more. That’s because there was no consumer survey, and any suggested personal agency or willingness to pay was a lobbyist’s plant, based on a piece of economic theory about consumer surplus that bears no relation whatsoever to how any person I know feels about their cellphone bill. What the Globe meant, but didn’t know so, is depicted in the graphic below. The difference in the price that consumers would be willing to pay, if they had to, and the amount they pay now, is the consumer surplus – aka I wish I could pay Bell Mobility even more.

economic-surpluses

Continue reading

The wireless consultation: it’s still about competition (3)

This is the 3rd instalment of my comments on the CRTC’s wireless code consultation.

In part 2, I strayed into some wireline data to make a larger point about shortcomings in the CRTC’s handling of two major duties: conducting research and communicating with the public. Today I want to add some followup on the issue of competition.

Tuesday marked the official end of the online portion of the public consultation. In the Toronto Star, that milestone warranted a piece from personal finance columnist Ellen Roseman, who talked with the Commission’s new consumer chief, Barbara Motzney. Continue reading

A better CRTC: educate us, poll us, don’t consult us (2)

(Continues from previous post.)

Last time, I took the Commission to task for trying to build excitement over the level of cellphone penetration in Canada in their consultation video. Why? Because the only metric that really counts in 2012 is the takeup of smartphones: smartphones do data, feature phones don’t. Let’s consider penetration in a more meaningful context.

Penetration. Data released by the OECD in December 2011 says Canada is 24th out of the 34 member countries in terrestrial mobile wireless broadband subscriptions, as indicated in this chart (OECD broadband portal, spreadsheet 1d):

OECD: wireless broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants

Notice this dataset covers mobile devices like laptops using a dongle for Internet access. As it has done elsewhere with wireline broadband, the Commission has cherry-picked a more inclusive number (cellphones in general), rather than a more meaningful number (data-capable mobile devices). And that’s not the only way the Commission is glossing over problems… Continue reading

CRTC’s wireless code: educate us, poll us, don’t consult us (1)

“The Wireless Code is being developed through a public consultation, which includes this online consultation and a public hearing in February 2013.” – CRTC, Nov 13, 2012.

_____

Update (Nov 24). My blog is now running on the Canada edition of the Huffington Post. This post went up this morning in the Business section, which seems to have become my new home, alongside stories on the fracking ban lawsuit and the richest Canadians. I love having occasional dealings with real-life editors, despite their fondness for changing my post titles. This post e.g. has become What’s the CRTC Trying to Pull? (Another thing: As a guy who helps students learn about dangling participles and comma splices, I’ve always been curious as to why the HuffPo, the New York Times and everybody else on the planet with a red pen insists on changing “%” to “per cent.” As in strike “50%” in favor of “50 per cent.” Why?)

Wireless code, great – online consultation, not so much

Back in the summer of 2010, the CRTC decided to get the public’s input online as part of its proceeding on the “obligation to serve.” Big mistake. Continue reading

Dumb things you can do with smartphones (1)

***

or not…

____

Personal messaging, king of the classroom

On campuses from sea to shining sea, it’s that time again. Your children are in a classroom somewhere, staring intently into the iPad you bought to improve their minds. You fondly imagine them looking up course terminology in Wikipedia while they listen to lectures, take notes and flip through coursekits. My kid, the multitasker, one step closer to law school thanks to Steve Jobs.

Dream on, sucker. Your kid’s on Facebook, not Wikipedia… or whatever messaging platform they prefer for keeping in touch with all their friends, all the time, no matter what.

smartphones

LT, shown here using the Skyward grip, keeps the gf's happy with her lightning response times

_____

The inappropriate use of mobile phones and other digital devices is gaining attention. Last week FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski counselled a back-to-school gathering of students to be “moderate with digital media.” He cited research according to which the average teenager consumes 11 hours of media content a day, and sends a text every 10 minutes he or she is awake (reported by NYT; pdf of speech here). Genachowski mentioned the dangers of texting while driving, as well as less lethal practices associated with academic performance: “How many of you use the Internet to do things like check your Facebook page or play video games, which keep you from doing your school work?”

200 million: the number of text messsages Canadian mobile phone users send every day (source: CWTA)

That’s the first mistake made by well-meaning authority figures: assuming kids believe their “distractions” are actually distracting them from anything, schoolwork included. This is, after all, the age of multitasking and nobody has embraced that lifestyle choice more than teens and young adults. What they don’t know or won’t acknowledge is good research has shown convincingly that our brains don’t like multitasking. Chronic multitaskers who think they can message, compute, listen, socialize and watch TV all at once are living in a fool’s paradise, and we’ve got the brain scans to prove it. Continue reading

Cellphone etiquette: absence makes the heart grow much fonder

I spend a lot of time here in my Starbucks office, a busy location near the centre of the universe (Yorkville). starbucks, bloor, office

I’ve been coming here since the day this location opened, over a decade ago, when there was still a Chapters.

The clientele includes people from the neighboring boutiques, like Gucci, so it’s handy for shopping… along with undergrads from U of T, street people, academics, seniors, tradesmen ripping up the street, not quite a cross-section but getting there.

I’m mesmerized by the cellphone culture. I wish Roland Barthes were still here to tell us why 80% of women under 30 carry their phone in their hand, at all times, thrust out at the world, some in a feisty overhand grip, some in a reveal-all come-on, even as they balance hot drinks and purses the size of duffle bags. Are they saying, I’m here, I’m equipped? Or, I’m cyberlinked to somewhere much cooler?

starbucks, bloorBut for now, what I really want to know is why almost everyone – demographically speaking – finds it acceptable to sit with a colleague or loved one or BFF while their smartphone sits conspicuously on the table between them, just begging to be called or texted. Apparently nothing is sacred any more and whatever you might have to say to close the sale, or console the GF about the BF, will never be as important as the hoped-for message that could arrive at any moment. Continue reading