oh pulleaze, Bell says we should be ashamed for using VPNs

Mary Ann Turcke, the new head of Bell’s media division, thinks we ought to feel shamed and be ashamed of using a VPN to tunnel out of Canadian broadcasting jurisdiction to gain access to the larger stock of video available outside the wire, the large and rather amiable confinement zone which Canadian cultural policy has produced.

“It has to become socially unacceptable to admit to another human being that you are VPNing into U.S. Netflix,” Turcke said in a keynote Wednesday at the Canadian Telecom Summit. “Like throwing garbage out of your car window, you just don’t do it. We have to get engaged and tell people they’re stealing.”

I think that people ought to feel ashamed of using state-issued and private licences to gouge the consumer, repress usage, drive out rivals, and limit choice, but that is not going to happen either.

Mary Ann, the prisoners will escape, just as surely as the prisoners imported US programming through the community access TV industry which, as we all know, evolved into the same Canadian cable system she now seeks to protect.

She says she’ll put her master’s degree in numerical methods and modelling to use during her “deep and rigorous” strategic analysis of the specialty TV division, promising to take chances on innovation and get it right. The economics of it all are “intimidating,” she adds, “but that is what we get paid to figure out.”

I hope she continues to assume in her calculations that VPNs are here to stay.

For broadcasters, it must be like those days in WW2 when they had to figure out whether U-boat losses were sustainable, or whether new methods could overcome the challenge. The analogy fails, however, because in this case the arms race is against one’s own citizens and voters.

As the guy in the muu-muu (Jaron Lanier) said to Konrad von Finckenstein during the last hearing on whether to extend the Broadcasting Act to the Internet, “mess with the Internet and some freaks will just write new code”.

If government were to engage in a technical arms race with consumers to block access, they will only tunnel deeper to get under the wire.

The Internet has been invented. I recommend adaptation, and a Royal Commission on the future of Canadian programming.

In the innocent words my wife, watching  the video celebrating the tenth anniversary of Youtube, “Youtube has replaced television”.

And while we are at it, can we continue to assume that television programming is still the right thing to subsidize?

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