ISTANBUL, TURKEY-Canada is tyrannized by the telcos. Everywhere I travel abroad has better, freer wifi access than Toronto and the rest of Canada. It makes me scared about the future.
Here in Nisantasi area of Istanbul (the rich-people area) free wifi is everywhere. Even the airport has free wifi! It is not state driven but commercial. Cafes, restaurants, stores have free wifi so you stay and spend. Flowing from that, the cafes are equipped with power outlets a-plenty. In Toronto I have often had to ask to share one meager power outlet with the other users huddled around it like homeless people at a burning barrel. People who have free wifi and power will stay and drink your expensive coffee, eat your expensive pastries all day long or go to a place that does have it. Like the roll out of air conditioning in movie theaters in the 1920s to entice a sweltering public in bad times, free wifi makes good business sense. Once one place offers free wifi, competition drives the process forwards.
Estonia, aka E-stonia, is a perfect example of how free wifi can happen. For over a year, every inch of Estonia has been blanketed by free wifi including suburban and rural areas. When you travel, even to the sticks and on the train, you are connected. The majority of it has been set up by small businesses and not the government because it made good business sense to them.
But free wifi doesn’t make good business sense in Canada. Due to the influence of the Telcos on the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commision (CRTC) expensive, capped and economically protectionist internet service is all we have. Instead of many little businesses thriving Rogers and Bell thrive and divert attention from what is at stake. Net neutrality and bandwith caps are their smokescreens. Their days could be numbered in the game of forcing down our throats bloated cable and satellite packages when we can choose for ourselves online and they know it. But it all hinges upon unlimited bandwith service to provide the image quality we expect.
Why does this matter? It’s not about being entertained by the idiot box or choking on information overload. Estonia’s Economy Minister Juhan Parts put it best:
If the 19th century was the era of railways, and the 20th century saw the development of electricity grids, the 21st century is the era of development of communications networks,” said Economy Minister Juhan Parts.