Internet Drama in Canada. (Really.)

Let’s talk about internet politics! In Canada! Ve!

I am serious that there are useful lessons from a saga about home internet service in Canada. What was a promising, albeit imperfect, system that has increased choices and improved online service for Canadians is a ready collapse.

In addition to last minute government intervention today or Friday, many smaller internet providers in Canada are likely to significantly increase their prices and lose customers or close. The dream of more competition leading to better online service for Canadians is on life support.

What’s happening in Canada reveals why we need smart internet policy to be paired with strong government oversight to have a better and more affordable internet for everyone – and it shows what happens when we lose that.

La The United States messed it up for years, and that’s one reason the U.S. internet service stinks. Canada can be a real experiment in what happens when confused government regulation undermines internet policy, which has been largely effective.

Join me for a lesson on Canada’s home internet service. The bottom line is that Canadians have something relatively new to Americans: Many people have options for choosing a home internet provider that they don’t hate.

That’s because in Canada – like many countries including the UK, Australia and Japan – companies that own internet pipelines have to rent access to businesses that then sell internet service to homes. Regulators are careful to ensure that these costs and conditions are fair.

Owners of Internet infrastructure in Canada and elsewhere do not like this approach. They usually say that if they have to share their infrastructure and the potential benefits from it, they have less incentive to improve and expand internet pipelines.

The United States for the past 20 years has largely not worked that way. Big companies like Comcast and Verizon own most of the internet pipelines, and for the most part there is no obligation to rent access to smaller companies that may want to sell us a service.

In general, demanding and regulated rental of internet pipelines is one reason that Europeans tend to pay much less for better internet service than we do in America, by 2020. analysis of New America, a left-wing American think tank.

Canada’s online service is not yet great. But a 2019 analysis by a government agency found that while there were disadvantages to the country’s rental-access approach, it was largely effective in making web service more competitive and in pushing companies to lower costs and improve their networks and customer service.

The sticking point in Canada is the price charged by internet pipeline owners. In recent years, there have been legal and regulatory disputes over the proper costs and conditions for large companies to lease their pipelines. Smaller Canadian internet companies say infrastructure owners have tricked regulators into how much it costs to build and maintain networks.

The result, after a few flip-flops by government officials, is that the country’s telecom regulator sidelined with the owners of an internet pipeline. Unless there is a last-minute change this week, the government is required to charge significantly higher fees for smaller internet providers to lease pipelines from larger companies. At least one such provider is already in Canada sold himself and said it could not stay in business with the new tariffs.

Small internet providers say Canada is breaking down a system that has served customers well.

“It will mean in uncertain terms that home internet prices will continue to rise and consumers will suffer,” said Geoff White, executive director of Competitive Network Operators of Canada, a business group for smaller telecommunications service providers. White told me it took years for the country’s internet system to become more competitive and that “it’s unraveled piece by piece.”

He and other critics of Canada’s internet policy have said that telecom providers and customers have suffered from years of regulatory limbo over the costs of leasing internet pipes. To be sure, figuring out the right price is a complicated analysis in any country. Set prices too low or too high, and the system fails.

It is worth noting what is happening in Canada. Like other essential services, including electricity and health care, excellent internet service does not happen by chance. It is a choice that requires a prudent mix of effective public policy and the best that capitalism can offer.


Tip of the Week

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

I told my story of failure using Apple’s new self-repair program, which involved renting 75 pounds of repair machines, to install a battery in my iPhone 12. I made one stupid mistake that destroyed my screen. It’s my fault, but it talks about how unforgiving the Apple machines are. There is almost no room for error.

However, I managed to install a battery in my wife’s iPhone XS using a much more modest toolkit from iFixit, a company that publishes instructions and sells brick-and-mortar repair tools. Its battery replacement kits include tweezers, a screwdriver, and plastic pick-up options to cut the glue that seals the phone together.

I have some hard tips if you want to try your own electronics repairs:

  • Practice: Any DIYer know that it is rare to do a job perfectly the first time. Mistakes are part of learning. Before trying to separate your phone or laptop, hunt for lower-end exercise tools. Good candidates are an outdated Kindle or an unused iPad.

  • Stay organized. It’s very important to keep track of what you’re doing so that you can replace a device correctly. With my wife’s iPhone, I took a photo before starting the repair and then tagged every screw I removed with numbers. I put the screws in paper trays labeled with the corresponding numbers.

  • Be slow and cautious. Unlike repairs we could do on cars, bicycles, and plumbing, electronics are extremely delicate. Be delicate. Place your device on something soft, like a lint-free cloth, to prevent damage. Move slowly and carefully to avoid tearing cables and stripping screws. This can actually make you feel meditative.

If you succeed, it will hopefully make it worthwhile.

This poor dog, Lottie, it seems NOT to enjoy daily group hiking.

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