Internet drama in Canada. (Truly.)
Let’s talk about internet politics! In Canada! Eh!
I’m serious that there are useful lessons from a saga about home internet service in Canada. What was a promising, if flawed, system that increased choices and improved Internet service for Canadians is bound to collapse.
Except for a last minute government intervention Today or Friday, many smaller internet providers in Canada are likely to significantly raise their prices and lose customers or shut down. The dream of more competition leading to better Internet service for Canadians is about life support.
What is happening in Canada reveals why we need smart internet policy to combine with strong government oversight to have the internet better and more affordable for all – and it shows what happens when we lose it.
the The United States has failed for years, and that’s one of the reasons the American Internet service sucks. Canada could be a real-world experiment in what happens when confusing government regulation undermines internet politics that has been mostly effective.
Have patience with me for a lesson on Canada’s home internet service. The bottom line is that Canadians have something that is relatively new to Americans – many people have options for choosing a home internet provider they don’t hate.
This is because in Canada, as in many countries including Great Britain, Australia and Japan, companies that own Internet pipelines have to rent access to companies which then sell Internet services to homes. Regulators monitor closely to make sure rental costs and terms are fair.
Internet infrastructure owners in Canada and elsewhere don’t like this approach. They usually say that if they are to share their infrastructure and the potential profits from it, they have less incentive to improve and expand Internet pipelines.
The United States has mostly not worked that way for the past 20 years. Large companies like Comcast and Verizon own most of the Internet pipelines and, for the most part, there is no requirement to rent access to smaller companies that may want to sell the service to us.
In general, mandatory and regulated leasing of Internet pipelines is one of the reasons Europeans tend to pay much less for better Internet service than we do in America, according to a 2020 analyses from New America, a left-wing US think tank.
Canada’s internet service isn’t great yet. But a 2019 analysis from a government agency found that although the country’s rental access approach had disadvantages, it had been largely effective in making Internet service more competitive and in pushing companies to cut costs and improve their networks and customer service.
The sticking point in Canada is the price charged by Internet pipeline owners. In recent years, there have been legal and regulatory disputes over the appropriate costs and terms for large companies to lease their pipelines. Smaller Canadian internet companies say infrastructure owners have misled regulators about how much it costs to build and maintain networks.
The result, after a few flip-flops by government officials, is that the country’s telecommunications regulator sided with the owners of the Internet pipeline. Unless there’s a last-minute change this week, the government is set to impose significantly higher rates on smaller ISPs for leasing larger companies’ pipelines. At least one of these suppliers is already in Canada he sold out and said he would not be able to stay in business with the new rates.
Small ISPs say Canada is about to break a system that served customers well.
“It will mean in no uncertain terms that home internet prices will continue to rise and consumers will suffer,” said Geoff White, executive director of Competitive Network Operators of Canada, a trade group for smaller telecom service providers. White told me it took years for the country’s internet system to become more competitive and that it “got nullified piece by piece.”
He and other critics of Canada’s internet policy have argued that service providers and customers have suffered for years of regulatory limbo over Internet tube rental costs. To be sure, figuring out the right price is a complicated analysis in any country. You set prices too low or too high and the system breaks down.
What happens in Canada is worth paying attention to. Like other essential services, including electricity and healthcare, great internet service doesn’t happen by accident. It is a choice that requires a delicate mix of effective public policies and the best that capitalism can offer.
tip of the week
DIY Gadget Repair Tips
Brian X. Chen, the consumer technology columnist for The New York Times, has advice he learned from his column this week about trying, and blatantly failing, to fix his iPhone.
I told my bankruptcy story using Apple’s new auto repair program, which involved renting £ 75 of repair machines, to install a battery in my iPhone 12. I made a stupid mistake that destroyed my screen. My fault, but it talks about how ruthless Apple machines are. There is virtually no room for error.
However, I managed to install a battery in my wife’s iPhone XS using a much more modest toolkit from iFixit, a company that publishes instructions and sells DIY repair tools. Its battery replacement kits include tweezers, a screwdriver, and plastic bits to cut the glue that seals the phone.
I have hard earned advice if you want to try your own electronic repairs:
Practice: Any do-it-yourself he knows it’s rare to do a job perfectly the first time. Mistakes are part of the learning process. Before you try to take your phone or laptop apart, look for the lowest stakes gadgets to practice on. Good candidates are an outdated Kindle or an unused iPad.
Stay organized. It is very important to keep track of what you are doing so that you can properly reassemble a gadget. With my wife’s iPhone, I took a picture before starting the repair and then labeled each screw I removed with numbers. I put the screws in the paper trays labeled with the corresponding numbers.
Be slow and careful. Unlike the repairs we might do on cars, bicycles, and plumbing, electronics are extremely fragile. Be gentle. Place the device on something soft, such as a lint-free cloth, to avoid damage. Move carefully to avoid tearing the cables and screws slowly. This may actually sound meditative.
If you succeed, hopefully it’s worth it.
Before you go…
A hug to this
this poor dog, Lottie, does NOT seem to enjoy group day trips.