DIGITAL BACKWATER?

Let me ask you something: do you ever feel like Canada’s a bit of a digital backwater?

For all the touting of Canada by successive federal governments as a “world leader” in technological innovation, one wonders exactly how the political mandarins in Ottawa come to that conclusion. Perhaps in aerospace engineering, industrial manufacturing, biotechnology and other commercial development, that might be true. But when it comes to consumer technology, Canada is about as far from world leader as Robert Mugabe is to being a truly democratically elected President.

First off, Exhibit A: our pathetic cell phone culture. For a country that politicians claim has a lot in common with Nordic nations like Finland or Norway in terms of social democracy, we look more like a Banana Republic when it comes to cell phones than Nordic.

Globalize this little fact – over 90 per cent of Swedes use cell phones and has the highest rate in Europe of 3G phone network penetration. Canada? We still have cellular operators using the outdated CDMA frequency over the global standard GSM. We barely have 3G penetration to speak of outside of cities. Our lack of GSM options means we have to put up with Rogers being the only cellular operator able to offer the iPhone, which means no choice, no competition, no benefit to the consumer. We also seemingly lack the mindset of unlimited access, unlike our neighbours to the South – why is Rogers cynically charging consumers for capped data access when Americans can get unlimited data coverage nationwide? It feels like a gigantic middle finger to the consumer. More to the point, why are Canadians paying for things that U.S. cellular companies offer for free? Don’t tell me it’s about comparative market sizes – if we’re as advanced as the federal government claims, shouldn’t the cost of data and voice access be going down, not up?

Exhibit B: our Internet culture. While America experiences the same problems in terms of our capped internet speeds – wow, a whole theoretical five megabytes a second! Boy, that puts Koreans to shame *sarcasm* – we have to deal with Bell and Rogers throttling data speeds and making the web a functional experience at best. Sure, Europe and Asia have far, far more advanced digital infrastructure in place to ensure best speeds, but come on guys – you can’t expect us customers to be happy with download speeds that are positively antiquated in nature compared to French telecoms. Again, why are we paying for such crappy service? Worse, why is the federal government pretending this problem doesn’t exist? I can just see federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice sitting in his office with fingers in his ear, singing “la-la-la-la-la” at this moment.

God I wish we could be more like Europe sometimes.

Advertisements