Before getting back to the CRTC’s war on consumers, I’d like to make a brief mention of the strange press release issued on Monday by Xplornet concerning Geist’s ATI request and the revelations that ensued.
Michael has a full discussion of the Xplornet press release here. Though he includes the full text, he omits the most interesting part: the headline, which reads “Warning to Editors re: Allegations made by Michael Geist” (release here). Here’s the warning, or attempt at censorship, depending on your point of view:
“Reprinting this blog entry, or Geist’s allegations regarding Barrett Xplore Inc. (or Xplornet Communications Inc), represent the publication of materially misleading statements regarding our company. “
Oops, looks like I’m already one of the guilty parties. Like an idiot, I didn’t think to ask for Xplornet’s permission before I reprinted – well, paraphrased – part of the offending blog entry last Monday:
[Geist] publishes a list of 36 complaints that names all five incumbents, as well as a couple of resellers and friend-of-the-Great-White-North, Barrett Xplore (the source of the longest running complaint) – with ever-popular Rogers racking up half (17) of the 36 complaints.
You’ll see in the original post that three complaints were lodged against Xplornet. Two were dismissed, while the third festered for many months. Apparently the company feels their side of the story was not fairly represented – but if you want to see what the Commission said in writing to the company, here’s the pdf of their letter.
And here’s some shrewd advice. First, if you want people to like you, don’t issue press releases containing vague threats directed at any and all discussion of the problem at issue. Second, if you don’t hold with Oscar Wilde and don’t want your company being talked about, then the worst thing you can do is try to squelch the talk – especially in such a ham-fisted way. For example: a discussion thread got started by Jacob Glick’s Google+ mention of the warning, and the ensuing comments do not cast the company’s judgment in a flattering light.
It seems this hair-trigger sensitivity is part of the Xplornet style. Last August 25 the Wire Report published some comments of mine about the need for a broadband target in Canada – which at the time I felt should be at least 4 meg up and one down, in line with the revised FCC re-definition of broadband. This modest suggestion was followed a couple of weeks later by an opinion piece from Xplornet CEO John Maduri, who took great exception not to an attack on his company but to the very idea of a 4-meg target. And framed it as a cruel ad hominem:
The Wire Report still prints the views of academics who feel that until Canada gives the 12 residents of Anthracite, Alta., blazing broadband speeds of 4 Mbps, we have not given them anything of value. […] While we appreciate the need for professors to posit an academic point of view, we believe that the consequence of arbitrarily defining rural broadband at Internet speeds higher than that which many urban Canadians can access is a self-defeating exercise.
Booyah! For those with a subscription, Mr Maduri’s Sept 16 piece can be found here. My scintillating rejoinder appeared six days later, here. (How ironic that a few months later the Commission set its official target at 5 meg, a decision I criticized as largely meaningless in a 3-part series called “Misguided assumptions behind the CRTC’s broadband target” – see here, here and here.)
Why this squabbling is significant
These events are themselves old news by now. But they point to the highly undesireable consequences of the CRTC’s secretive operational style and the absurdity of keeping complaints from the public hidden from public view. My bet is that Xplornet would have been much better off having the whole process conducted in the light of day.
But whether or not one licensee would have been happier arguing their case in public hardly matters. The whole complaints process is a mess, and one thing that sorely needs to be fixed is trying to discipline delinquent ISPs behind closed doors. The need to air telecom complaints in the (open) court of public opinion is so elementary it’s hardly believable the Commission would have chosen to do otherwise.
As I’ll argue in the next post, this obsession with secrecy is part of a much bigger problem regarding the CRTC’s lack of attention to consumer needs.