Internet Drama in Canada. (Really.)

Let’s talk about internet policy! ᲙAnada! Oops!

I’m serious that there are useful lessons from Saga about home internet service in Canada. What was once promising, though imperfect, a system that has increased choice and improved Internet service for Canadians, is poised to collapse.

Without last-minute government intervention today or Friday, many small internet providers in Canada are likely to significantly raise prices and lose customers or shut down. The dream of more competition that will lead Canadians to better Internet service is life support.

What is happening in Canada shows why we need smart internet policies combined with strong government oversight to have a better and more accessible internet for everyone – and it shows what will happen when we lose it.

The United States has been spoiled for years and this is one of the reasons why the US Internet service smells. Canada can be a real-world experimenter on what happens when confused government regulations undermine Internet policies that have been largely effective.

Take me to a lesson in Canada’s home internet service. The bottom line is that Canadians have something relatively new to Americans: Many people have the choice of choosing a home ISP that they do not hate.

This is because in Canada – as in many countries, including the UK, Australia and Japan – companies that own Internet pipelines are required to gain access to businesses that then sell Internet service at home. Regulators are watching closely to make sure rental costs and conditions are fair.

Internet infrastructure owners in Canada and elsewhere do not like this approach. They typically say that if they need to share their infrastructure and potential profits from it, they have less incentive to improve and expand Internet pipelines.

The U.S. has largely not worked that way in the last 20 years. Large companies like Comcast and Verizon own most of the Internet pipelines, and for the most part, there is no obligation to hire access to small companies who may wish to sell the service to us.

In general, the mandate of Internet pipelines and regulated leasing is one of the reasons why Europeans pay less for better Internet service than we do in America, according to New America 2020, a left-wing American think tank.

Canadian internet service is still not good. But a 2019 government agency analysis showed that while the country’s access to rent approach had drawbacks, it was largely effective in improving Internet service competitiveness and reducing companies’ costs, improving networks and customer service.

The breakthrough point in Canada is the price that internet pipeline owners pay. Over the past few years, there has been legal and regulatory squabbles over the associated costs and conditions for leasing pipelines to large companies. Small Canadian Internet companies say infrastructure owners have misled regulators about how much it costs to build and maintain networks.

The result, after several questions from government officials, is that the country’s telecom regulator has backed Internet pipeline owners. Unless there is a last-minute change this week, the government plans to impose significantly higher taxes on small ISPs to lease pipelines to larger companies. At least one such provider has already sold itself in Canada and said it would not be able to stay in business under the new tariffs.

Small ISPs say Canada is going to break down a system that has served its customers well.

“It does not mean vague terms that home Internet prices will continue to rise and consumers will be affected,” said Jeff White, chief executive of Competitive Network Operators Canada, a small group of telecommunications service providers. White told me that it took years for the country’s internet system to become more competitive, and that “it was scrapped separately.”

He and other critics of Canadian internet policy have said that service providers and consumers have been worried about the cost of leasing regulatory obscure pipes for years. Of course, finding the right price is a difficult analysis in any country. Set prices too low or too high and the system fails.

It is worth paying attention to what is happening in Canada. Like other essential services, including electricity and healthcare, great internet service does not happen by accident. It is a choice that requires a reasonable mix of effective public policy and the best that capitalism has to offer.


Tip of the Week

Brian X. Chen, a consumer technology reviewer for The New York Times, has some advice he learned from his column this week about trying to fix his iPhone and monumentally failing.

I told my failure story using Apple’s new self-repair program, which included hiring a 75 75 repair car to install the battery in my iPhone 12. I made one stupid mistake that ruined my screen. It’s my fault, but it shows how unforgivable Apple cars are. There is practically no place for error.

However, I have succeeded in installing the battery in my husband’s iPhone XS using a much more modest set of tools from iFixit, a company that publishes instructions and sells small repair tools. To replace the battery, kits include tweezers, screws, and plastic sticks to cut the glue that holds the phone together.

I have some hard-earned advice if you want to try repairing your own electronics:

  • Exercises: Any trifle knows that it is rare to get a job done perfectly the first time. Mistakes are part of the learning process. Before you try to disassemble your phone or laptop, practice on lower bet gadgets. Good candidates are outdated Kindle or shiny iPad.

  • Stay organized. It is very important to keep track of what you are doing so that you can install the gadget correctly. I took a photo with my husband’s iPhone before the repair and then numbered each screw I removed. I put the screws in the paper trays that have the corresponding numbers.

  • Be slow and careful. Unlike repairs on cars, bicycles and plumbing, electronics are extremely fragile. Be delicate. Place your device on something soft, such as sterile tissue, to prevent damage. Move slowly and carefully to avoid shredding the cables and removing the screws. This can actually feel like meditation.

If you succeed, hopefully everything is worth it.

This wretched dog! Lot does not seem to like daily group hikes.

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