Election’s coming, let’s talk telecom

There’s going to be a federal election this fall. It’s anyone’s contest to win with three different parties running neck-and-neck in the polls, but nobody wants to talk about what we want to talk about.

Sure, it’s a loss to us at The Wire Report. We’re over here covering these nerdy telecom and media issues, which is fine. But we’d like to join the cool kids in the Parliamentary Press Gallery for a while by providing some election-related coverage. Yes, we would still be addressing nerdy telecom and media issues, but with a little political intrigue thrown in.

Putting aside our own interests, it’s seems that with such a tight contest, parties would want any little advantage they can get. So, if someone from the news media asks you about your plans to deal with telecom and media issues if elected, why not bite? What if that proved to be the thing that got you that extra two or three per cent needed to get over the top?

Yet, we keep hitting a wall whenever we try to find out what the Conservatives, NDP and Liberals have in mind for issues ranging from wireless service, Internet, television, the CBC and other matters.

We’ve been outright ignored by the NDP. The Liberals got back to us with one of those “we’ll look into this” emails, but it went no further. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s people sent us to the office of Industry Minister James Moore, who is not even running in the next election. For some reason, Moore’s office hasn’t been so quick to get back to us on this.

This comes after a term that saw telecommunications and media being not-so-insignificant parts of the political dialogue at times. Remember the feud (subs only) in 2013 between the government and incumbent wireless carriers, who feared Ottawa was courting Verizon to ride into Canada and shake up the mobile industry?

Then there was that time when the CRTC was trying to conduct a hearing on the TV industry, and the government kept telling them not to even think about trying to tax or regulate foreign video-streaming behemoths like Netflix.

The CRTC this year announced that TV-service providers would have to offer skinny basic packages at no more than $25 a month and the option to customers of picking channels beyond that on a one-by-one basis by the end of next year. Then again, the government had already said this was going to be the deal in its throne speech in 2013.

There has been a fair amount of politicking in these areas in recent years. If I’m trying to get Harper re-elected, I might want to take some time in this pre-election period to trumpet some of the government’s accomplishments and spell out where it goes from here.

If I’m in opposition, I would likely want to point out some flaws in the way things were done and outline how my team would do it differently.

It’s not like the opposition has never thought about these issues before. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called out the government last fall for statements made during the CRTC hearings on TV, which were deemed by some to be an interference in process. Then earlier this year, Mulcair was promising to reverse cuts at the CBC.

When Marc Garneau was running for the Liberal leadership in 2012, he talked about opening up the telecom market to foreign ownership. He didn’t win the leadership, of course, departing early from this race that was eventually won by Justin Trudeau. We haven’t heard much about this from these guys since.

Perhaps the political types have decided not to concern themselves with a niche publication like ours that’s read by a select group of people with a material interest in these topics, rather than the general public.

But they should consider that many ordinary people have strong feelings on issues like the quality and price of wireless, Internet and TV services, digital privacy and the CBC. Our readers include telecom- and media-industry executives, regulators, lawyers, academics and activists. You might call them thought-leaders, and making an impression on them with your election platforms can have a trickle-down effect on those whose votes you are looking to win in October.

So if Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau and their staffs come around to seeing the importance of sharing their thoughts on telecom and media issues at some point before voting day, we’ll be here with ears wide open.

Derek Abma is editor of The Wire Report. He can be reached at dabma@thewirereport.ca.

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