Why Ottawa Must Learn to Love and Understand the Internet

Update: Sat, Feb.13 – This post prompted a valuable comment from Marc Garneau yesterday. In my post, I made the Liberals’ digital roundtable, held Thursday, sound as though it represented the sum total of the LPC’s consultations with Canadians interested in our digital future. I’m happy to stand corrected:

Thank you David for reporting on our Round Table and for providing some opinion. I just wanted to assure you that I receive valuable input from many interested groups on a continual basis. This is an extremely broad file as you know. Please don’t jump to the conclusion that the parties represented yesterday are the only ones we are interesting in hearing from or the only ones providing advice to my party. The number of groups is huge and my door is always open to hear from them, all in the interest of crafting the best policy.
Regards
Marc Garneau


We’re hearing more and more rumblings from Ottawa about this thing they call a national digital strategy.

Minister Clement’s one-day digital summit last June stirred up some fleeting interest, although he was appealing to the business community, not consumers, as evidenced by the speaker roster and focus on ICTs. Industry Canada is working on some plan that will undoubtedly get previewed in the Throne Speech on March 3. Last week Liberal Industry critic Marc Garneau (already on record as supporting a free, open Internet) wrote a commentary in the National Post entitled “Where is Canada’s plan for the digital age?” Garneau concludes his piece with the following call to action:

“The digital economy will be a defining part of our economy, and will alter the essence of Canadian society. As my party moves toward our Montreal Conference in March, we will be tackling transformative issues such as this. It is what must be done to ensure Canada remains a thriving, diverse and creative nation. I encourage all Canadians to join us in defining this dialogue.”

Yesterday it was Garneau’s turn to host a one-day digital roundtable, along with Heritage critic Pablo Rodriguez. If they’re aiming for market differentiation, they have a long way to go. All due respect to the big brains from the incumbents, and some star members of the communications bar – these aren’t the guys agitating for radically new thinking about crucial policy changes. Although I declined an invitation to attend, I’ve had the benefit of reading Kady O’Malley’s remarkably thorough and funny live-blog summary of the event. Sounds like two key messages came out of the morning panels: We’re all right, Jack (ISP biz) and We need more DRM (content biz). That oughta make us digital world leaders in no time.

Ottawa’s Beltway mentality, alive and well

It’s painfully obvious that many of Ottawa’s deciders still don’t get the Internet. If you’re unconvinced, have a read through the article I just had published by the Ontario Bar Association’s online newsletter: Entertainment, Media and Communications – entitled The Future of Canadian Communications Policy: Why Ottawa Must Learn to Love and Understand the Internet. With thanks to Devin Harris for co-piloting; editor Dan Ciraco for agreeing to publish a couple of non-lawyers; and the awesome Jeanette Lee (of Stohn Hay) for making introductions. Here’s the abstract:

“Many Canadian policymakers and industry interests harbor deeply rooted misconceptions about the Internet and how it is used by the online population. These misconceptions have encouraged calls to transform the Internet into a permission-based platform optimized for showcasing Canadian content – a goal that runs completely contrary to the spirit of openness and innovation that characterizes the global public Internet. The implications of this conflict are explored in the context of the CRTC’s 2009 decision on new media broadcasting and its unprecedented call for a national digital strategy.”

Update. Since I drafted this post, the CRTC has issued a brand-new look at Canada’s domestic digital disruptions – Navigating Convergence: Charting Canadian Communications Change and Regulatory Implications. Senior Commission staff tell me this study is not only an inside job, but a much bolder take on the issues than we’ve been used to from our regulator. Both HTML and pdf versions are linked from here.

One thought on “Why Ottawa Must Learn to Love and Understand the Internet

  1. Thank you David for reporting on our Round Table and for providing some opinion. I just wanted to assure you that I receive valuable input from many interested groups on a continual basis. This is an extremely broad file as you know. Please don’t jump to the conclusion that the parties represented yesterday are the only ones we are interesting in hearing from or the only ones providing advice to my party. The number of groups is huge and my door is always open to hear from them, all in the interest of crafting the best policy.
    Regards
    Marc Garneau

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