Leaders of the telecommunications industry are gathering in Toronto for an annual conference of leading equipment manufacturers, wired and wireless service providers and corporate buyers of telecom services.
Among the speakers at this year’s Canadian Telecom Summit, which starts Tuesday, will be the first public speech by new Industry Minister Christian Paradis (pictured).
Because he was only just confirmed as a speaker, conference organizers could only find 15 minutes for him to speak. Given that he has been in office less than two weeks, Paradis may only make plaudits for the industry.
Still, he might go further. Last year former Industry Minister Tony Clement had a half an hour to speak, and announced the government was about to release its options for liberalizing foreign telecom ownership rules. The Harper government was supposed to decide last fall which option it favoured, but then delayed its decision until it has formulated rules for what companies are eligible to bid in upcoming wireless spectrum auctions. It still hasn’t revealed its hand.
The industry has also been waiting for the government’s promised digital economy strategy. Clement was ready to announce it May 2, before that was declared election day.
This year’s conference theme is Building the Foundation for a Digital Economy.
As always, the summit will include an address by the chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication (CRTC) Konrad von Finckenstein. He usually reviews the regulator’s work of the previous year and outlines some of the commission’s concerns.
Last year he warned that removing foreign ownership restrictions in the broadcast sector would result in the government having to heavily subsidize Canadian content producers. He also urged the government to consider merging the separate legislation covering telecom companies and broadcasters – the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act – to reflect the increasing consolidation in the industry. In the past year, for example, BCE Inc., which owns Bell Canada, bought the CTV network while Shaw Communications Inc. bought the Canwest Global television network.
On June 20 the commission will start a hearing on the effects of this vertical integration.
The conference is organized by telecommunications consultant Mark Goldberg and market research analyst Michael Sone.
By coincidence, the week of the conference will also see the release of a CRTC decision important to wireless startups like Wind Mobile and Mobilicity on the ability of their subscribers to easily roam on the networks of incumbent carriers.