Merge CBC with Canada Post

 

The CBC and Canada Post are both in the business of delivering information, so why not bring them together into a single entity?

Canada Post/CBC

Canada Post/CBC

They are both crown corporations; they are both undergoing radical transitions to digital communication; and each has what the other could use.

Canada Post has 6,200 public and privately-operated offices across Canada. CBC has hundreds of TV and radio transmitters. Canada Post serves a larger area than any other country. CBC broadcasts to every corner of Canada in English, French and eight aboriginal languages.

The new entity, the Canadian Communication Corporation would not only consolidate the resources of the CBC and Canada Post, it would expand into the mobile wireless business to provide some needed competition.

Canadians now pay some of the highest cell phone prices for some of the worst service in the industrialized world, reports the Huffington Post (July 18. 2013). In a study of prices in 34 OECD countries, Canada is 25th for high priced wireless phones. We are dead last when it comes to the number of people owning a cell phone.

The former Conservative government tried without success to encourage more independent wireless carriers into the market. The CCC would sell phones at Canada Post outlets and use CBC transmission towers to carry the service. For example, a customer in Iqaluit, Nunavut, could pick up the phone at the post office and receive service from a cell transmitter mounted on the tower that broadcasts CBM-FM-3.

Canada’s North lags behind in internet access. Nunavut tourism advises “Internet service is limited in Nunavut and slower than elsewhere. Wi-Fi service is uncommon. Visitors to Nunavut should not plan to spend much time on the internet.”

Professor Dwayne Winseck of Carleton University lists other advantages of the CCC: “Blanket cities with open access, lighting up the vast stock of underused and unused municipal dark fibre (CCPA Monitor, July/August, 2016).” By “dark fibre,” he means optical fibre that is not being used to capacity. As I reported in my column Kamloops Community Network -a vision unfulfilled, (July 22, 2014), Kamloops has a lot of dark fibre, the legacy of bold plan of former city technology manager Frank Mayhood.

“Extend public Wi-Fi in cities across Canada,” adds Winseck, “and broadband access to underused and unserved people in rural, remote and poor urban areas.” Rural service is not a luxury; it’s a necessity in business and education. The mayor of Caledon, Ontario, says that some students have their parents drive to the parking lot of a public library just so they can upload homework assignments (National Post, November 23, 2015.

The Trudeau government will give $16 million to internet service providers in B.C. to provide better rural access. If it makes sense to provide give money to private providers, it makes even more sense to invest in the CCC.

While there is a scarcity of internet service in Canada, there is also a looming news crisis. The CCC could not only deliver the news, it could produce it through the CBC’s capacity.

The business model of news delivery is failing as we get news echoed from ever fewer sources. A newly configured public broadcaster could fill that vacuum.

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Kamloops Community Network -a vision unfulfilled.

 

Olds, not Kamloops, became Canada’s first gigabit town after big carriers refused to expand services. We could have had it before the Alberta town. Taking matters into its own hands, Olds launched a municipal Internet utility with 1 Gbps service.

Olds understands that high speed data connections are as important as any other infrastructure. Information highways are as vital as roadways in making small towns attractive places for innovative people to live and for business to thrive.

fast-internet-speed-1

To get some idea of just how fast 1 Gigabits per second is, I checked the speed of my internet connection at home in Kamloops. At a download speed of 28 Mbps, it’s a bit better than city average. But its only three per cent of what we could have had. You can check your speeds at the Global Standard for Internet Metrics (OOKLA), as well as checking local, national, and global speeds for comparison.

Former city technology manager Frank Mayhood had a vision for Kamloops in1998 after reading an article in Scientific American. He figured that all of Kamloops 25,000 buildings could be wired for less than it cost to build our water treatment plant.

We would have been the most wired city our size in Canada. And forget that old critism that public projects shouldn’t compete with private: Frank’s project wouldn’t compete any more than public roads do. “It’s like a port for ships or roads for trucks. The government builds ports and roads but private companies own the ships which dock and the trucks which drive on the roads carrying goods,” Mayhood told Kamloops This Week in 2001.

Not only did Kamloops City council think it was a good idea, so did provincial leaders. Kamloops MLA Claude Richmond said “This technology has not been used as comprehensively anywhere else in British Columbia. Kamloops has again shown itself to be a leader.”

The first phase was completed by stringing 50 km of optical fibre and the data speeds were blindingly fast, the capacity huge. Built in 2005 at a cost of $1.1 million, it connected city hall, the school district and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. Right away, the city saved $25,000 a month in telephone costs.

Tony Klancar, Information Technology Manager for the City told me that they offer data rates of 10 Gbps but that’s only limited to the equipment attached to the backbone. Bandwidth rates of 100 Gbps for 450 users are possible on the Kamloops Community Network. And that’s not just the occasional top speed offered by some carriers; that’s a continoius 100 Gbps.

The second phase involved connections to businesses was a partial success. The third phase, however, which would connect all Kamloops homes, never happened.

The idea just seemed to run out of steam after Frank Mayhood retired, former city councillor Nancy Bepple told me. Without someone driving the vision, the demand waned.

What a shame. By leasing excess capacity, the city could have paid off the cost of infrastructure in no time. Telus obviously thinks that stringing up optical fibre is sound fiscal plan, picking up the ball that the city dropped. On a private highway, I still might get speeds of 1 Gbps.