Timothy M. Denton

Success Through Understanding Technology

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Industry News

Subcategories from this category: Internet, Canada

Posted by on in Industry News

The news that Commissioner Shoan was fired by the Governor in Council for cause shocks me. As Talleyrand said to Napoleon about some judicial murder that the latter had engaged in: "worse than a crime, sire, it was a mistake". Firing Raj Shoan is no crime, but it may prove an extremely expensive mistake. Shoan has fought the Chairman, and the Chairman has won, for the time being. To fire Shoan for harassment when the very issue of harassment is under judicial review strikes me as premature.

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The CRTC's decision to support local television news is at once sensible and right from the logic of the Broadcasting Act, and slightly mad from any perspective not governed by that statute. It is right in that it allows broadcasters to shift subsidies from something truly obsolete (community television) to something which might have a few years left in it (local television news). Yet from outside the perspective of the Broadcasting Act, it is a bold decision to support more battleships in 1944 or heavy cavalry in 1905, or maybe more aircraft carriers in 2016.

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The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the FCC rules on net neutrality today.

They did so on the basis that they are common carriers, and do not have speech rights such that the net neutrality would interfere with.

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I used to think it was somewhat cynical to observe that, when your business model is failing, you legislate against its  rivals. Quebec has proven this point to be precisely accurate. The papers have noticed that Quebec's website blocking legislation has passed into law.

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The Globe reports today that Commissioner  Raj Shoan and the Chairman are at it again. If it were 1816 instead of 2016, they could have had a duel and settled it like gentlemen. Instead they have to go through the fussy mediation of lawyers and judges. The thought that one could die at dawn tomorrow in some lonely stretch of urban park for failure to apologize or for inability to endure a slight might concentrate the mind of each party wonderfully.

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Terry Corcoran is the editorial head of the Financial Post, and I have had some harsh words to say about his writings on telecommunications policy. It would be unfair to base an opinion of his whole work on this unfortunate portion.   I am mystified by the apparent contradiction between his decentralized market thinking, and his reliance on Hayek and Smith in his battles with the monstrous  lunacy of green energy policy, for example, with his support for precisely that sort of centralization of decision making that goes with Big Telco, vertically integrated carriers.

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"Canada missed the boat on regulating the Internet 20 years ago", said Entertainment lawyer Stephen Stohn and, it should be noted, executive producer of Degrassi: The Next Generation and co-owner of Epitome Picture.  He told conference attendees that he told the CRTC back then “we really need to start thinking about regulating the Internet,” but that the Commission asked him to come back when he could show it was making an impact – and now that it is disrupting everything, it’s much too late. So reports CARTT.

Canada thereby missed the largest expansion of state authority over communications that has been conceived since the reign of Charles I. But, hey, let's go back there for Steven Stohn, shall we? Or should I say, "for Canadian culture"?

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There is an excerpt in First Monday from a book by Benjamin Peters called "How not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet".

"the central proposition that this book develops and then complicates is that although the American ARPANET initially took shape thanks to well-managed state subsidies and collaborative research environments, the comparable Soviet network projects stumbled due to widespread unregulated competition among self-interested institutions, bureaucrats, and other key actors. The first global civilian computer networks developed among cooperative capitalists, not among competitive socialists. The capitalists behaved like socialists while the socialists behaved like capitalists."

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Posted by on in Industry News

Terence Corcoran fights against bad policy night and day at the National Post. At least he tries. But on telecom policy I have been forced to conclude he only has one policy. Giantism is good, and competition be damned if it gets in the way of giantism. If that is not so, then he is radically incoherent.

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While change is always a risk, not changing is ultimately deadly. So we should welcome the the Heritage Minister's announcement of a policy review of broadcasting and digital industries.    (Melanie Joly, above)

As always, the basic question is whether the Toronto cultural troglodytes will succeed in poisoning the Internet with a requirement to licence websites, instead of adapting to an unlicensed creative commons.

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Yep, I loaded the shotgun this morning and wandered out to the fish barrel, where I blasted away at hapless statistics. It was ugly.

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The CRTC is asking all the right questions in its Notice of Consultation on Next Generation 911. The question for me is who can answer them?

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I spoke on February 28 to a convention of the independents in Markham Ontario. This is the gist of what I said.

"Why does the law not see the Internet, I asked?"

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Posted by on in Industry News

From CARTT: "Commission Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais seemed at several points during the hearing to be worried of having a the CRTC (an arms-length government body) directing cash for local news production"


 

“I’m a bit surprised that we’re going down a path where, if not government and an agency of government, part of the executive arm of government, would suddenly be financing news and nobody seems to be saying, ‘Wait a minute; is that a good idea?” he said while questioning the owners of CHCH, who proposed a new news fund.

Exactly. And thank you for asking it, Mr Chairman. I perceive a man concerned with an important principle.

As I said, if the Broadcasting Act's licensing requirements extended to all "broadcasters", which would by the CRTC's interpretation include newspapers that post video clips on their websites, would the newspaper owners be clamoring for freedom of the press and no government licensing, or for subsidies, or both?

The answer is obvious. Both.

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Posted by on in Industry News

'Free Basics' was one of those enlightened clever ideas whereby the people of India would benefit from Internet connectivity for free, as long as they were ready to endure the walled garden that Facebook intended for them. The Indian regulator banned it as an offence to net neutrality.

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The incomparable Ken Engelhart published this provocative - to me at least - opinion piece in the National Post, where its chief editor, Terence  Corcoran, maintains a libertarian and completely pre-Internet idea of competition in telecoms, of giant vertically integrated infrastructures slugging it out for market share.

In my time at the CRTC as Commissioner, there was no better shaper of thinking at a hearing than Ken Engelhart. On the subject of net neutrality, which is just non-discriminatory carriage in a computer era, we disagree. My reply to Ken Engelhart follows.

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Posted by on in Industry News

 

Lest you be in doubt that the CRTC believes it has authority over video delivered across the Internet, I refer you to the transcript of the hearing currently underway in Hull regarding the policy framework for local and community television.

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Posted by on in Industry News

I have been giving thought to the invisibility of the Internet, and in particular, to the learned inability of lawyers to account for it.

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Posted by on in Industry News

Tim Berners-Lee put up the first website 25 years ago today. The occasion ought to be marked with speeches in Parliament, the erection of a statue of Berners-Lee in a major public park, and fireworks.  In the long perspective of history, the Web will rank with the printing press and the telephone as the revolutionary advances they were. But the Web would be impossible without the Internet, which is prior and even more important.

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