Timothy M. Denton

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Ajit Pai takes over the FCC

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I met Ajit Pai in the course of conducting my NG 9-1-1 inquiry. I found him friendly, polite, charming even, and highly intelligent. A former telecom lawyer for one of the large US carriers, Pai has been elevated to the Chairmanship of the FCC as a result of Donald Trump's election.

Pai is adamantly against the net neutrality regime imposed under the Obama regime. This was achieved by placing US carriers under Title II of the US Telecommunications Act of 1934 insofar as broadband was concerned.

My views on net neutrality are well known. The argument for allowing carriers to establish special arrangements for certain classes of traffic, whereby they can charge more, seems to involve two things. First it incentivizes carriers to create the scarcity from which they can profit. Second it displaces the regulator from its role as arbiter of allowable degrees of discrimination among  types of traffic and users, and privatizes them in a few large carriers. For several valid reasons, these carriers have significant market power.

The argument for allowing increased discriminations by carriers is that they will be incented to invest more in networks than they would be if the regulator had a role in arbitrating these issues. In the long run everyone gains if carriers are able to exercise these freedoms.

If I could have ever believed this, I would have converted to this view ages ago and retired richer, sooner, as have many worthy colleagues of my generation.

Thus Canada and the United States are on a divergent course in telecommunications regulation, once again.

Certain questions come to mind. How will Canadian carriers react, or be forced to react, to how they will receive signals from US carriers in the post-neutrality regime?

Will the technical arrangements for receiving signals by Canadian carriers from US carriers have the effect of carrying over the regime soon to be imposed in the United States to Canada? ill commercial arrangements likewise spill over? I can envisage Bell and Telus arguing to this effect.

Consequently I think that someone ought to undertake a study - a reconnaissance - of what the changed US arrangements will mean, or may mean, for Canada. And I will be looking for a foresighted patron for such work. Because, as we all are aware, we know for a certainty what the large carriers will say: more money for us is Good.
















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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.


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Guest Tuesday, 19 November 2019
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