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BCE and the IP issue

"We're all struggling with the Internet and VoIP. Some people are arguing that nobody knows how this is going to turn out so don't regulate it. Others are saying if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's voice and we...


May 1, 2004  


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“We’re all struggling with the Internet and VoIP. Some people are arguing that nobody knows how this is going to turn out so don’t regulate it. Others are saying if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s voice and we have to regulate it. I’m looking forward to some industry argument as to what is the right policy.”

Michael Binder, Assistant Deputy Minister of Spectrum, Information Technologies and Telecommunications at Industry Canada, provided that frank assessment of the current state of IP telephony in May at the ExpoComm show and conference in Toronto.

One week before, Michael Sabia, president and CEO of Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. provided another side of the story during a speech in Quebec City to members of the city’s chamber of commerce.

Multiple networks, he said, will be replaced by a single IP network that is easier to manage and can fundamentally change the way Canadian companies do business, as long of course, the current regulatory framework is overhauled.

Sabia stressed that this country’s leadership role in IP is being jeopardized by a public policy environment that is outdated and sorely removed from the realities of today’s marketplace.

“IP will create a single competitive marketplace where telephone companies, cable companies, Internet service providers, satellite companies, fixed wireless providers, even electrical utilities can offer a varied menu of services to customers,” he said.

“This is a phenomenon occurring on a global level. And if the industry here in Canada is made to suffer ‘also-ran’ status through a dated and irrelevant policy framework, then our customers, our commerce and indeed the entire country will suffer.”

“Designed to create competition, the current policy framework has done its job. Now it’s time for a next phase, a phase where public policy must enable the growth of a strong industry. How? By treating all players equally.”

In his speech, he continued to hammer away at the policy powers-that-be on a number of other fronts.

For example, the current framework simply won’t work because it is still predicated on the belief that the only available way of making a connection is over wire line telephone network. That, he said, is ludicrous.

Studies, Sabia added, show that half of cell phone customers end up using their wireless phone from home, and that nearly a quarter of million homes in this country have gone totally wireless.

Ken Englehart, for one, doesn’t buy that. The vice president of regulatory with Rogers Communications Inc. quoted Statistics Canada numbers at Expo Comm, which indicate that only 2% of homes are using wireless instead of wireline.

“Make no mistake, a lot of the talk that we’re hearing about wireless substitution, does just not hold water,” he said. “When I hear we can combine the wireline and wireless market share together to measure how much share incumbents have, is just wrong.

“I always have a simple rule: If I have been hearing about something for 10 years and it hasn’t happened yet, I stop waiting for it. I’ve been hearing this story about wireless substitution since literally 1987.”

There will be much more rhetoric to come as the IP revolution evolves. Still, Sabia does have a point — the current regulatory framework badly needs to be overhauled.


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