When servers stop serving

Only three companies rule Canada’s telecommunications market. When one of them goes down, for whatever reason, Canada’s economy is in peril.

The three companies (Bell, Rogers and Telus, in alphabetical order) like it that way. Canada’s government, driven more by nationalistic ideology than by common sense, like it, too.

Canadians shouldn’t.

Rogers Communications’ servers suffered some kind of an outage. The unfortunate accident (if it was one) threw the entire country into understandable panic. It matters not much whether the incident happened because someone had hacked into Rogers’s systems or whether it was just one of those malfunctions at the junction that experts explain away by saying that shit happens. What matters is Canada’s economy (on all levels) has shown that it has no backup for such failures. Not even in grocery stores: have you met a cashier in recent years who can add up your bill using only fingers (and toes, when needed)?

We have a problem

To begin with, Canada relies on three major telecommunications providers only: minor services do not count for much. This oligopoly results in Canadians paying way too much for their internet services. Not only that: this most recent outage was nothing new: Bell and Telus customers could speak of horror stories, too, except theirs weren’t as devastating.

The Rogers meltdown damaged this year’s Canadian GDP, one of the major economic indicators, at a multi-million (some estimates put it at multi-billion) rate. Their blackout also impacted 911 services in a number of highly-populated areas, causing an increase in mortality rates.

People who use ATM machines and Interac services for their banking needs couldn’t. Whether their payees will accept the Rogers catastrophe as an excuse for late payments remains to be seen.

Airlines, already strained by a number of government-imposed limitations and mandates and a catastrophic slump in tourism, saw their communications services go blank. And the ArriveCan application, designed to screen arrivals into the country, went bust, too.

Because of their market position, Rogers would only offer their customers a say-nothing apology and a two-day prorated service. They could afford it: Canada’s major players in the field of telecommunications enjoy government’s protection like only few other industries do.

Here’s another proof that governments have no business meddling in business. Under existing Canadian law, Canadian telecommunications companies’ ownership must be 80-per-cent Canadian, and, as well, 80 per cent of their board memberships must be Canadian citizens, too. Protecting Canadian culture is the stated goal. It’s that famed Canadian content rule that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has been enforcing with incredible zeal.

But: how could they enforce anything of the kind on the worldwide web? Simple: just have a closer look at Bill C-11 that has been making its way through Parliament, preparing the telecommunications industry to censorship the likes of which it has never experienced before.

Foreign (especially American) telecommunications giants are in no real rush to come to the rescue. They are perfectly aware of the government-ordered limitations. And, besides, even when they tried to find a way to establish themselves in Canada, their plans usually didn’t include building anything new: they wanted to acquire what had already been here.

And when Canadian telecommunications giants try to play the field, customers have no reason to laugh. A mere six years ago, Bell bought a regional provider, Manitoba Telephone (MTS). Almost immediately after the ink dried on the purchase papers, prices went through the roof.

Here’s where we are: Canada has the fifth-highest internet costs on planet Earth. Most Canadian internet plans average at $62.36 (all amounts in U.S. currency). Similar or equal plans would set British users back by $43.96, while Ukrainian users would pay a mere $6.19.

Big-time transactions

Rogers are now trying to buy the Calgary-based Shaw Communications. This is one of the very few Canadian telecommunications companies still independent of the Big Three. The cost to buy Shaw is quite steep: $26 billion.

A number of people in the know hope that Shaw ownership overcome their greed and tell Rogers their company is not for sale. Others – more realistically – don’t believe that Shaw owners will let such an amount pass. Instead, they hope that Canadians will overwhelm Canada’s Competition Bureau with fierce protests and threats to use anti-trust legislation to stop the deal.

Good luck to the latter group: not so many years ago, Postmedia decided to buy the Sun Corporation. Despite many objections, the Competition Bureau swallowed Postmedia’s claim that this transaction won’t have any serious impact on competition in Canada’s newspaper industry.

Ask those many journalists now out of their jobs what they think about it now.

A missing question

Does all that’s new equal progress?

The latest Rogers blackout proves one more time that the answer is no.

Let’s forget for a moment that most of that money Canada’s Big Three telecommunications companies rake in does not go into making sure that the system works. Most of it goes into such new systems like 5G telephony, inventions that are bound to spread dangerous electromagnetic waves like a humanity-killing tsunami.

The other danger: humanity have got so used to a variety of telecommunications tools that using one’s own brain has become dangerous behaviour. Not only do most people of today not know how to do it, but many view the entire idea askance: using one’s own brain slows you down, while new technologies speed you up, making one much more competitive and, thus, more successful.

That’s how low we have stooped, equalling competitiveness with success.

German neurologist Dr. Manfred Spitzer wrote a very thorough book about this sad state of affairs. It’s called Digitale Demenz. I’m using its German title here advisedly: for whatever reason, it hasn’t been published yet in the English language. Spanish? Yes. Chinese? Yes. Czech, even? Yes.

The book was published in Germany a decade ago, in 2012. Nobody can claim that English-speaking publishers didn’t have enough time to have it translated.

The Rogers fiasco has proven yet again, as if another proof was needed, that we’re headed down the wrong path.

All those analyses that have appeared all over the place so far have proven yet again, as if another proof was needed, that we’re not aware of it.

Does it make any sense, lamenting it all again?

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