2019 Canadian ISP Summit – Day 3

Fireside Chat with Konrad Von Finkenstein and Anja Karadeglija Photo Credit ; Canadian ISP Summit twitter feed

The main focus for the final day of the ISP Summit was regulatory. Former CRTC Chair Konrad Von Finckenstein held a fireside chat with Anja Karadeglija of the Wire Report. That was followed by a regulatory panel with Chris Tacit, Michael Geist and Laura Tribe moderated by Christine Dobby from the Globe & Mail.

Many hot issues were covered including MVNO’s, insights from KVF as to how decisions are made at the CRTC and the need for speed and certainty, the difficulty in establishing costing and the retroactive compensation to the competitive industry for overcharging by the incumbents that is being challenged in court. There were good questions from George Burger and Matt Stein to the former Chair challenging his viewpoint on making the decision retroactive for 3 years considering how long it took to make the decision.

Chris Tacit got a laugh from the audience when he mentioned the history of the incumbents tactics in fighting decisions that they don’t like back to Decision 92-12, when the CRTC opened up long distance market to competition. Some panelists and audience members may not have remembered 92-12, actually they might not even have been born yet. Of course that is when I was at ACC Long Distance as VP, Network so I lived and worked through those long distance wars and remember them well. And yes, Bell and the telcos were anti-competitive then and they still are now.

The panel also expounded on what the new minority Federal government might be able to accomplish in its mandate, as well as gave predictions on ministers such as Navdeep Bains and whether he would stay on at ISED or be given a different portfolio (consensus seems to be that he would get a new file) and that Minister Rodriguez might stay on Heritage.

Personally, I feel that a minority government can usually only accomplish a few items in its mandate. There are other , bigger files that will need attention right away such as Alberta and the pipeline issue. There may not be enough time or political capital to get much done on telecom or tech issues.

Once again the Canadian ISP Summit proved to be a great, action packed three days. The content was excellent, the networking was tremendous and it was great to see old friends and make some new ones.

2019 Canadian ISP Summit – Day 2

Photo credit to Maryna Ivus

The Dawn of a New Era in Canadian Telecom ? Maybe

Day 2 at the ISP Summit featured CNOC President and CEO of Distributel Matt Stein releasing a survey that reveals that Canadians are frustrated and feel dissatisfied and trapped by the Large Telcos. Consumers highlighted a lack of fairness, affordability and choice .

The following is an overview of select survey findings:

  • While almost all Canadians have Internet in their home, the majority are customers of the big telecommunications companies: Nearly all (97%) of Canadians have Internet service in their home. Almost eight-in-ten (79%) are customers of one of the big telecommunications providers, while only 3% are customers of smaller independent companies.
  • Canadians feel trapped by their current provider, with over half in Atlantic Canada feeling trapped: 40% would like to change companies but feel trapped by their current Internet service provider. Just over half (53%) of Atlantic Canadians are more likely to say they would like to change Internet providers but feel trapped.
  • Customers of the large telecommunications firms feel they have limited choice when it comes to changing companies: 65% of Canadians who have home Internet from a large telecom company feel there is no point in changing telecommunications companies as they are all pretty much the same.
  • Lack of competition has led Canadians to falsely believe there are no alternatives to the big telecommunications firms: Nearly half (45%) believe there are no alternatives to the large Internet service providers.
  • An anti-consumer environment has been nurtured and is thriving across Canada: Almost half (49%) of Canadians feel that it is too difficult to change Internet service providers.
  • Canadians are frustrated they are paying some of the highest prices in the world for home Internet: Nearly all (90%) Canadians who have home Internet are frustrated they are paying much higher Internet fees than consumers in other countries. Rural Canadians (96%) are significantly more likely to be frustrated with paying more than other countries compared to urban and suburban residents.
  • Customers of the large telecommunications firms have experienced price increases over the last 24 months – almost half without notification: Just over two-thirds (67%) of Canadians who have home Internet from a large telecom company say their Internet service provider has increased the price of their home Internet in the past 24 months. Among those who saw a price increase, 41% say the price increased without any notification.
  • Despite recent price increases, Canadians are experiencing an unacceptably low increase in value: Only 12% of Canadians with home Internet say they are getting more value in their products and services after a price increase. While still low, urban Canadians (16%) are more likely to say they got better service after a price increase, compared to suburban Canadians (8%) and rural Canadians (10%).

“Canadians have clearly voiced their concern about the status quo created by the large telecommunications firms,” said Stein. “The limits they have deliberately placed on consumer choice, fairness, affordability and competition have led to unacceptable levels of dissatisfaction. And when 40 percent of their customers say they want to change companies but feel trapped by their current provider, that’s a clear sign that the status quo is not serving Canadians.”

You can read more about it here

Election Day

Today is finally the day of the 43rd Canadian Federal General Election. I am sure we are all exhausted from the campaign to date. This post is not about “who to vote for” nor an exhortation to go out and do your civic duty. Rather it is a short summary of some topics specifically related to telecom and technology in general in Canada that are really important to our future prosperity that I don’t think were discussed much in the platforms and debates.

Innovation
Canada’s future prosperity depends on innovation. The Council of Canadian Innovators say Canada’s “productivity is lagging and our future economic prosperity is at risk”. Entrepreneurs that create start-ups and grow scale-ups need an environment that encourages them to grow and scale here in Canada and allow them to compete globally. They need skilled talent (engineers, and also designers, marketers, sales professionals and executives), growth capital and access to markets and customers.

Canada produces a lot of world class talent in our universities and colleges and we need better incentives to keep them here as opposed to going to the USA for higher wages and more attractive opportunities. We need a mindset shift towards the entrepreneurs that are shouldering great risk to build innovative companies in Canada with tax measures supporting innovation, venture funding, employee stock options etc. Plus we need a Federal government that can attract attention to our innovative companies here, even to the extent of procuring products and services from them .

5G and Huawei
The next generation network is being built right now, globally and here in Canada. 5G is transformative, not just a faster network, but also providing lower latency and opening up a host of new use cases especially to power the Internet of Things (IoT). Autonomous connected cars are just one example. We are going to see all sorts of devices connected to our networks, direct machine to machine communications, that will demand security levels beyond what we currently have.

There is an ongoing debate worldwide, prompted by our Five Eyes national security partners Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand over whether equipment from Huawei, a technology vendor from Communist China, should be allowed access to our networks. The Huawei debate is also part of a larger debate about Canada’s relationship with China, a country that does not have the same norms and values as Canada. This was not addressed at all during the election campaign, yet it is vital to our future.

Connectivity (Rural , Remote and Financial)
Access to the Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity in the modern economy. We need to ensure that all citizens have reliable access to high speed broadband Internet. There is an urban/rural divide for sure, but this issue extends well beyond that. We need connectivity for rural areas; as an example, much of modern agriculture relies on internet technology now. We need connectivity in our remote areas such as the Arctic as well as Northern Ontario , Northern Quebec, Labrador. Of course so that people living there can participate in the modern economy but also as an extension of our sovereignty. With the changes in sea ice happening in the Northwest Passage we should also be looking into laying undersea fiber cables through the passage to provide another route connecting Europe to Asia. Finally, connectivity also means affordability . There are people in urban areas who are not online because they cant afford it. This digital gap also needs to be further addressed, especially for school age children who need the Internet for their school work.

I will be staying up late tonight watching the election returns as I am a political junky. Even though these issues were not front and centre in the run-up to todays election, I hope they will be addressed in our next Parliament as our future really does depend upon it.

Eat your own Dogfood

What is the best way to know your customer’s needs ?

Over the years I have developed very close ties with my customers. I like to say that at AurorA and Amitel I do business with “Friends and Family”. The best way I have found to really know my customers needs is to actually become a customer of theirs.

It is a variation on the concept of “Eating your own Dogfood” where employees are expected to use their own products and services as a way to understand its real world experience. By using my customers services, I have some skin-in-the game and really get to know my customers intimately.

Over the years I have bought SIP Trunks, DID’s, Internet Services, Voice Termination, PRI’s, T-1’s, and more from a wide variety of my customers. I have also been happy to refer prospects to them, looking for the same types of services that I’ve been buying myself. I feel confident in recommending a service if I actually use it myself and can honestly vouch for it.

The best part is that all of these companies are part of the competitive telecom and internet landscape, competing against the oligopoly. We are all in the fight against Big Telecom together.

So the next time you need a telecom service, look to your customers first. If it is something that they don’t provide, contact me ! If it is not something that AurorA and Amitel provide directly, I would be happy to recommend one of MY customers to you as I am probably using their service already myself.

Why do you hate your service provider ?

Unhappy woman with Thumbs down

Here is a fun experiment; Google industries or companies with the worst customer service. Any guesses at what industry comes out on top ?

Outside of government, telecommunications leads by an overwhelming margin with an Ipsos survey in 2018 having 38% of the US population saying this sector has the worst customer service in the country. (Healthcare was next with 18%… quite the drop)

Leading the top 5 industries most hated by customers according the the American Customer Satisfaction Index ? Cable Providers, Internet Providers and Wireless Phone Service Providers.

“Hated industries. You know the ones—the industries that customers avoid dealing with as much as possible. The places customers go out of their way to avoid talking to or interacting with. These are the companies that have bad reputations of dishonesty and not treating their customers fairly. The sad part is that most of these industries are nearly unavoidable, which means at some point, customers have to take the plunge and interact with them.”

Do you think this only applies to the USA ? Nope, it seems to be just as prevalent in Canada according to the Huffington Post, where telecom had the worst reputation among all industries in Canada. Even worse than oil companies !

So why do people love to hate their telecom service providers ? Could it be a combination of
– High Prices
– Unreliable Service
– Poor Customer Service
– Slow or unreliable products/services
– Time and effort to resolve issues via contact centres
– Unhelpful agents
– Surprise Extra fees, charges, overages
– (add your 2 cents here)

This is not new. I have spent my entire adult life in this industry , I’ve been in telecom for over 36 years since graduating from Engineering at UWaterloo with almost all of it spent on the competitive side. The side challenging the oligopoly , the handful of companies that control over 90% of almost every telecom service market in Canada; TV, Internet, Phone etc In those 36 years it has been a constant refrain I heard from consumers, friends and family.

Since Canadians love to hate their service providers, why don’t they demand better ? Why not support the competitive players that are challenging the oligopoly that are providing better service, at better prices with innovative products ? Why not demand more ?

Or is it just more fun to complain ? What do you think ?

ISP Summit – Day 2


The Canadian telecom and Internet regulatory model is broken. The basic premise is that the regulator, the CRTC, puts rules in place to support market and consumer choice. This can be traced back to the original resale and sharing rules from the 1980’s and then Decision 92-12 that opened up the long distance market to competition. But currently independent Internet service providers cant get reasonable access to the oligopoly fibre access to the home.

I personally ran into this situation when I sold my long time home back in 2014 and moved into a new apartment building that was wired with fibre from Bell and Rogers. I wanted to get internet service from my long time provider, Packetworks. But I could not as the telcos were not required to provide access to their fibre networks. Even after a decision in 2015 that was ostensibly to open up the market to choice by forcing the oligopoly to resell their fiber access networks, the rules are so arcane that it is not cost effective for a competitive provider to gain access.

In our new home, I was able to get Internet service from TekSavvy using the existing cable TV network for access. I am partial to the 150 MB download speed and the unlimited usage that TekSavvy offers. There will come a time though, and probably soon because I work from home, that I will want to upgrade the download speed and that will require fibre optic access. If the rules don’t change I will be limited to having to get service from Bell or Rogers and won’t be able to support independent Internet service providers. I won’t have a choice. That has to change.

That is why I have decided to join CNOC, the Canadian Network Operators Consortium. CNOC is the organization that puts on the Canadian Internet Summit each year. It represents over 35 independent internet service providers like TekSavvy, Distributel and Primus. CNOC fights for fair rules from the CRTC, not just for its members, but for all Canadians. My entire 35 year career in telecom has always been on the competitive side so this seemed like a natural move. I can’t just sit on the sidelines and let others just fight on my behalf, it is time to take a stand.

Will you join me ?