Timothy M. Denton

Success Through Understanding Technology

Timothy Denton's Blog

Commentary and insights on policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet.

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Timothy Denton

Timothy Denton

Timothy Denton is a lawyer by training who practices principally in telecommunications and Internet policy and domain name issues, with a strong concentration on explaining what the technology is and what it means.

Posted by on in Industry News

The Financial Post published my response to the Montreal Economic Institute's idea that what we need is exactly three physical cellular networks, rather than four. I find the MEI is a reliable voice of pre-Internet ideas of telecommunications. The number of networks is largely irrelevant; what traffic they carry, and how they interconnect, is the supreme consideration. It is the apps, not the transport, that count. Policy needs to concern itself with less with the number of networks, than with the conditions under which they carry the apps.

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Posted by on in Industry News

The issue is not the creation of a fourth national carrier, however meritorious that idea might be. Nor is three the appropriate number, nor one, nor two, nor six nor any whole integer between one and 10 to the fourth power. The appropriate number of carriers is the wrong question, and I think the CRTC understands this, maybe.

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Posted by on in Industry News

Should video entertainment coming to people through the Internet be regulated under the Broadcasting Act? I debated Jay Thomson of the CMPA yesterday before a group of entertainment industry lawyers. The topic was Resolved: that over the top television should not be regulated under the Broadcasting Act.The scene was in Toronto at the Law Society of Upper Canada's continuing education program.

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Posted by on in Industry News

 

News of the ruckus at the CRTC came as no great surprise this morning. Raj Shoan, the regional commissioner for Ontario, is suing the organization. On the one hand, the Chairman of the CRTC is utterly dedicated to controlling everything in his environment, lest the unexpected happen, and on the other we have a young Commissioner who will not take being controlled.

 

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Posted by on in Industry News

Though television is no longer primarily based on a broadcast delivery architecture, and despite or because of the enormous changes in the business model, a huge number of "television" dramas are being made this year. I cite the New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum:

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Posted by on in Industry News
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Posted by on in Industry News

I was contemplating the wreckage that the Internet is making of all licensed systems. Licensing is permission of the state, at whatever level, to perform an activity without which it would be illegal. Broadcasting, practising a profession, driving a taxi, owning a strip club, running a business in a city: all of these require licences.

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Irving Gerstein is the chief fundraiser for the Conservative Party of Canada. In the informal constitution he must rank closely behind the Minister of Finance and the Chief Justice of Canada in importance, as long as the Tories reign. He spoke about how the political system works a year and a half ago and I want to pass his message on.

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Posted by on in Industry News

Why does this idea keep being pushed: that combining the Broadcasting Act with the Telecom Act is the appropriate response to "convergence"?

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My former colleague at the CRTC, Michel Morin, ought to take a bow. Long before it was fashionable, he was arguing for the concept that the CRTC endorsed yesterday, the idea of "skinny basic": an affordable, small package of cable services.

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When I have had time to absorb the monumental FCC decision on net neutrality, I shall have more to say.

http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db0312/FCC-15-24A1.pdf

In the meantime, John Robson, fearless in his defence of market forces, published a column in the National Post why he was against net neutrality. 

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Posted by on in Industry News

The CRTC got it basically right yesterday. While it did not climb down from its position that video on the Internet is subject to its jurisdiction, it made the correct decision that the broadcasting regime was to be more assimilated to the Internet than the other way around. See its treatment of licensed on-demand services at paragraphs 92 and following of Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2015-86, where what is licensed would be assimilated to the regime of the Digital Media Exemption Order.

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"The law surrounds the market and lets it work". I wrote that 20 years ago for a study sponsored by the Competition Bureau on the effect of the Internet on markets. The study argued that the Internet would create, reconfigure and destroy markets with blinding speed. If only I had seen how much and how fast.

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Posted by on in Industry News

In my previous posts I have criticized the legal habit of placing a label on something and thinking that the phenomenon has been understood. Thus, if labelled common carrier, then the rule is non-discrimination. If "broadcasting", then discrimination is both lawful and desirable. More, if the "service" is "broadcasting", then, according to some interpretations, it is broadcasting all the way down through its underlying transport mechanisms. This is the basis of the appeal by Bell in the Klass decision of the CRTC.

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Kenji Kushida is a scholar at Stanford University, who has written a most explanatory overview of how America came to dominate cyberspace, through computer companies.  He traces the evolution of the Internet to a series of actions taken by the US government to limit the power of the telephone companies. 

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Posted by on in Industry News

The announcement that the FCC would regulate carriers of Internet applications as common carriers has excited a storm of opposition from everyone but the people. The Financial Post today published my response to some concerns about the dictatorship of the Internet.

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Posted by on in Industry News

I have nothing but praise for the majority decision in Ben Klass' fight with Bell and Videotron (Broadcasting and Telecom Decision CRTC 2015-26). They have achieved a conceptual revolution: they have adopted essentially an Internet view of the businesses they regulate. Since they did not announce their revolution as such, let me point it out. And allow me to heap a little praise on their heads.

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Posted by on in Industry News

When I read conservative blogging treatment of net neutrality before the FCC, I despair of US politics. Here is Glen Beck, for example. Here is Ajit Pai, Republican appointed FCC Commissioner.

Why is a choice between control of what you send or receive that is exercized by large carriers without a referee, on the one hand,  and control by large carriers refereed by government, on the other, treated as the Apocalypse?

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Posted by on in Industry News

Net neutrality is a term we use today to express an old legal concept: common carriage. A "common carrier' is bound to carry goods without unjust or undue discrimination. Thus a ferry-operator, railroad, or telephone company is bound not to discriminate against your shipments in favour of his shipments. It also implies an arbitrator to determine what degrees of discrimination are acceptable and which are not.

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Posted by on in Industry News

You cannot kill this idea except by whacking it on the head. It is the notion, oft repeated, that what is needed in Canada is some kind of merger between the Broadcasting Act and the Telecom Act. I have heard it from Konrad von Finckenstein, former Chairman of the CRTC, Peter Grant, the leading broadcast lawyer in the country, and now my friend and colleague Michael Geist, Canada's leading academic on communications issues.

When such eminent people hold to an idea that I think is palpably wrong, you have to question your reasoning. So here it is.

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