Musings on the news - past, present and future

Apologies for this extended absence from blogging. I've been sick the past week and am catching up from a long stretch of being on the road at conferences.

That said, I wanted to comment briefly on 3 things - past, present and future.

Past - last week, the embattled CRTC provided a pro-competition ruling on satellite radio, which is now coming to Canada. While not IP, it's interesting to see how the CRTC has taken such an open position on satellite radio, but has remained rather closed when it comes to VoIP.

There are inherent dangers to their satellite radio decision in the sense that it opens up to Canadian market to a whole new deluge of US stations. Lip service is paid to ensure Canadian content, but even the main beneficiaries of the ruling - Sirius and XM - were surprised at how light the Canadian content quotas were.

Canada is very sensitive about protecting it cultural sovereignty, but it's becoming harder and harder to do with all these borderless technologies - satellite radio, satellite TV, and of course, IP. In that regard, one could view their ruling as progressive, and actually acknowledging the fact this is a battle they cannot win. I don't give them that much credit, but it's probably closer to reality. If they could only do the same for VoIP...

Present - today's Brand X ruling by the FCC. This has been commented on extensively already, and it's another indication of how the wind is blowing in the post-Powell FCC. Along with the recent 911 compliance decree, this ruling makes life harder for non-facilities based operators, namely ISPs, to stay in the VoIP game. I think it's pretty late in the day to do this on the premise that MSOs need to protect their broadband investment. Broadband is tomorrow's PSTN, and they will continue investing in it with or without the ISPs.

The real test now comes when the RBOCs push for equal treatment. If the FCC supports that effort, then it's hard to see how ISPs can remain viable. Then the consumer will truly be faced with less choice, higher prices (inevitably), and little support for Net Freedoms, as the last mile carriers will not really be accountable to anyone other than their shareholders. In this scenario, I'd think the focus would shift to wireless - or maybe even powerline - to develop other last mile access channels to keep this market competitive.

Future - Wednesday is Nortel's AGM, and will be the first for Bill Owens. He's not John Chambers on the podium, but he'll have to be in good form to keep this crowd in check. The meeting will be here in Toronto, and they are making allowances for up to 2500 people to attend. There are probably a few good movie scripts worth of events over the past year, and for the sake of Canada's pride, let's hope that Bill is up for a busy day.