Introduction to telecomm (COMN 3510)


Considerations in Telecommunications

COMN 3510 — Fall  2019

  • Instructor: David Ellis, PhD
  • jdae (at) yorku (dot) ca (send emails during bus hrs only)
  • Student consultations by appointment


Course Description


This course provides an introduction to telecommunications networks and the role they play in our highly connected society. The networks that link our landlines, mobile phones, computers and other devices are expensive to build, difficult to duplicate and in regular use by the great majority of citizens in developed countries. As a result, incumbent network operators like Bell, Vidéotron and Telus hold dominant market positions that allow them to exercise gatekeeping power over customers and competitors. Such power has controversial effects on the quality and pricing of telecomm services like broadband, as well as on aspects of the social contract like the right to privacy. In recent years, however, the dominance of network operators has been challenged by the staggering  influence of platform providers like Google and Facebook — a development that is reshaping the nature of telecommunications in North America.

While not a formal prerequisite, this course should provide useful preparation for COMN 3511 and 4520, both of which examine Internet-related technologies and social issues in greater detail.

Course downloads 


Required Readings

They’re called “required readings” because all students are required to read them — and to do so by the stipulated deadline. In order to encourage timely coverage of the core materials, students will keep an official record of their reading and discussion notes, and these will be vetted regularly by the instructor (the course notebook counts for 20% of the final grade). The syllabus, course downloads and other material are posted to this page, and updated frequently.



Weekly Outline & Reading Schedule

Sept 4 (#1) — What is telecommunications?

Course goals and structure, grading scheme, student responsibilities

Sept 11 (#2) — Telecommunications is not broadcasting 

Sept 18 (#3) — Telecommunications is the Internet (1/2)

  • Reading (R3): Severance videos on TCP/IP (2012): 1. Overview (25 min), 2. Link layer (10 min), 3. Internetwork layer (38 min)

Sept 25 (#4) — Telecommunications is the Internet (2/2)

  • Reading (R4): Severance videos: 4. Transport (TCP) layer (15 min), 5. Transport (TCP) layer summary (4 min), 6. Security layer (23 min), 7. Application layer (26 min)

Oct 2 (#5) — Telecommunications is a (heavily) regulated industry (1/2)

  • Reading (R5): CRTC (Dec 2016), Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-496, Modern telecommunications services: The path forward for Canada’s digital economy (pp.1-23: pdf)

Oct 9 (#6) — Telecommunications is a (heavily) regulated industry (2/2)

  • Reading (R5): CRTC 2016-496 (TBD)

Wed Oct 16 — Fall Reading Week — No Class

Wed Oct 24 (#7) —  Telecommunications is (highly) concentrated (1/2)

Reading (R6): Dwayne Winseck, CMCRP (Nov 2018), The Growth of the Network Media Economy in Canada: 1984-2017 (pp.1-34: pdf)

Wed Oct 31 (#8) — Telecommunications is (highly) concentrated (2/2)

Reading (R6): Winseck, The Growth of the Network Media Economy in Canada: 1984-2017 (pp.35-74)

Wed Nov 7 (#9)  Telecommunications is (headed for) platform regulation (1/2)

Readings (R7):  Harold Feld (May 2019), The Case for the Digital Platform Act: Market Structure and Regulation of Digital Platforms (TBD)

Wed Nov 14 (#10)  Telecommunications is (headed for) platform regulation (2/2)

Readings (R7): Feld, The Case for the Digital Platform Act: Market Structure and Regulation of Digital Platforms (TBD)

Wed Nov 21 (#11) — Exam review, notebook grading, course evals

Wed Nov 28 (#12) — In-class exam: 3 hrs