Timothy M. Denton

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Canadians data usage is 22nd in the developed world

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Emily Jackson of the Post reports today that

... lower unit price has generally led to an increase in data cap sizes across the OECD’s 35 member countries, which in turn resulted in an explosion of data usage, the report found.

But as of last year Canada remained a laggard when it comes to mobile data usage per mobile subscription. Canadians used an average 1.5 gigabytes of data per month in 2016, landing in 22nd place for usage, according to the report. In Finland, which led the way, the average subscription used 11 GB per month.

I doubt those in charge the CRTC are more than slightly perturbed. And I doubt that anyone else in Ottawa is ready for the measures that would fix the problem. Because that would involve giving up a shibboleth. After all, with Canada's immense size, is it not just a natural result that usage prices must be high?

The world is governed at any given time by Big Stupid Ideas, which march across the mindscape stepping on heresies and grazing on consumer surplus. The tiny intellectual space called telecom policy has a couple of such denizens. "Ladders of investment" is the principal one, and its offspring or symbiont "facilities based competition" is the other.  Both are materialist twaddle; both are the belief that competition takes place of necessity through physical things (wires, conduits, antenna, separately owned spectrum) rather than through software. Both are almost Marxist in their obsession with the creation of physical things as emblems and tokens of actual competition. Both give privilege to the notion that competition in telecoms - which is really a set of physical and software channels for the passage of traffic - necessarily implies that channels (wired, wireless) must be under separate and competitive corporate control from the ditch and the conduit upward. Things, not bits.

I am reminded of a leading statistic the then National Film Board (remember it?) used to publish as its lead indicator: millions of meters of film developed. Not films watched. Millions of meters of film developed. Pure physical measure of output, but not of consumption.

So it is with quasi-Marxist "facilities-based competition". Why not insist that every application be confined to one physical device? That is about as sensible as "facilities-based competition". Traffic should flow across software defined networks, transported over a substrate of physical apparatus under common management.

If the United Kingdom can go for such a policy, why not Canada?

But that is just so "out there", I suppose.

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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, 17 October 2017
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