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The Institutional Origins of
Canada’s Telecommunications
Mosaic
Michael de Percy
Alyssa Attioli
Long-winded, foundational idea – help!
Canada's telecommunications strategy strikes a balance between the
privately owned model, akin to the United States, where private companies
deploy telecommunication services, and the publicly owned model, like
Australia, where the government regulates and ensures fair practices.
Canada's telecommunications policy development showcases that tailoring
strategies to regional political and cultural nuances during the deployment
of telecommunication networks does not necessitate compromising
outcomes. Instead, addressing local and regional political imperatives can
provide opportunities that may otherwise be overlooked by attempts to
provide a standardised national solution in the delivery of
telecommunications services to citizens.
Approach to this paper
• Submitted pending revisions
• Alyssa completing undergraduate internships at UC, moved from
EA to policy officer during internship!
• Original project looks at LEOs uptake and use in Australia
• Stalled by ethics and travel
• Changed project to my old PhD article that is not getting any
traction
• Alyssa’s fresh pair of eyes has been helpful, but we are now looking
at you, Josh!
• Canada’s success in telecommunication
services is demonstrated in its achievement
10th position on the OECD Broadband Portal
(December 2022)
• Canada’s telecommunications market was
influenced by various political circumstances
preceding Confederation
• Canada’s experience demonstrates that
diverse circumstances can uncover
opportunities to deliver telecommunications
services
The nationalisation of
telecommunications
• Canadian nation-building involved
federal interaction with provinces
through the railway, telegraph, and
newspaper sectors
• The Montreal Telegraph Company
established Canada’s first international
connection with the US
Limited government
intervention and
decentralisation
• Federal government’s powers over
telecommunications industries where
limited. This enabled businessmen to
play leading roles in establishing
networks
• By the 1880s, the impact of the federal
government’s vigorous policies were
“singularly slight and the prosperity so
confidently anticipated in 1867 had not
materialized “ (Maxwell, 1941)
Canadian Telephony and
Industry Divergence
The telephony industry
• A court decision ruled that Bell was the legal owner of the telephone patent, and
an agreement between Western Union and Bell was reached where Western
Union agreed (Casson, 1922, p. 83):
1. To admit that Bell was the original inventor.
2. To admit that his patents were valid.
3. To retire from the telephone business.
• The Bell Company, in return for this surrender, agreed –
1. To buy the Western Union telephone system [Edison’s device].
2. To pay the Western Union a royalty of twenty per cent on all telephone
rentals.
3. To keep out of the telegraph business.
Mosaic framework
• Party lines
• Municipal government ownership
• Build it or we will build it ourselves
• Different standards are OK
• Something is better than nothing
• Fast adoption and take-up manifesting in high levels of fixed line
broadband take-up, however…
• Low levels of mobile take-up…
The result:
Fixed-line broadband compared December 2022
The result:
Mobile broadband compared December 2022
The ‘mosaic’ as institutional concept?
• Historical work guided by Robert Babe (1990; 1996) but supplemented by
interviews in Canada in 2006-2007 and archival research
• Hughes (1993) recognised that local “cultural factors” determined
technology adoption in electricity
• However, ‘old school’ electricity networks are ‘dumb networks’
• Telecoms are ‘smart’ networks
• Canada’s take-up defies logic of other large countries like Australia
• BUT… Telecoms scholars ask “but what do you mean by mosaic?
References
Babe, R. E. (1990). Telecommunications in Canada: Technology, Industry, and Government.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Babe, R. E. (1996). Convergence and the New Technologies. In M. Dorland (Ed.), The Cultural
Industries in Canada: Problems, Policies and Prospects. James Lorimer.
Casson, H. M. (1922). The History of the Telephone. Chicago: A.C. McClurg.
Hughes, T.P. (1993). Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930. Baltimore,
MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Maxwell, J. A. (1941). Canadian Dominion-Provincial Relations. The Quarterly Journal of
Economics, 55(4), 584-610.
OECD (2022). Broadband Portal. URL: https://www.oecd.org/digital/broadband/broadband-
statistics/ (Accessed 1 February 2024).

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The Institutional Origins of Canada’s Telecommunications Mosaic

  • 1. The Institutional Origins of Canada’s Telecommunications Mosaic Michael de Percy Alyssa Attioli
  • 2. Long-winded, foundational idea – help! Canada's telecommunications strategy strikes a balance between the privately owned model, akin to the United States, where private companies deploy telecommunication services, and the publicly owned model, like Australia, where the government regulates and ensures fair practices. Canada's telecommunications policy development showcases that tailoring strategies to regional political and cultural nuances during the deployment of telecommunication networks does not necessitate compromising outcomes. Instead, addressing local and regional political imperatives can provide opportunities that may otherwise be overlooked by attempts to provide a standardised national solution in the delivery of telecommunications services to citizens.
  • 3. Approach to this paper • Submitted pending revisions • Alyssa completing undergraduate internships at UC, moved from EA to policy officer during internship! • Original project looks at LEOs uptake and use in Australia • Stalled by ethics and travel • Changed project to my old PhD article that is not getting any traction • Alyssa’s fresh pair of eyes has been helpful, but we are now looking at you, Josh!
  • 4. • Canada’s success in telecommunication services is demonstrated in its achievement 10th position on the OECD Broadband Portal (December 2022) • Canada’s telecommunications market was influenced by various political circumstances preceding Confederation • Canada’s experience demonstrates that diverse circumstances can uncover opportunities to deliver telecommunications services
  • 5. The nationalisation of telecommunications • Canadian nation-building involved federal interaction with provinces through the railway, telegraph, and newspaper sectors • The Montreal Telegraph Company established Canada’s first international connection with the US
  • 6. Limited government intervention and decentralisation • Federal government’s powers over telecommunications industries where limited. This enabled businessmen to play leading roles in establishing networks • By the 1880s, the impact of the federal government’s vigorous policies were “singularly slight and the prosperity so confidently anticipated in 1867 had not materialized “ (Maxwell, 1941)
  • 8. The telephony industry • A court decision ruled that Bell was the legal owner of the telephone patent, and an agreement between Western Union and Bell was reached where Western Union agreed (Casson, 1922, p. 83): 1. To admit that Bell was the original inventor. 2. To admit that his patents were valid. 3. To retire from the telephone business. • The Bell Company, in return for this surrender, agreed – 1. To buy the Western Union telephone system [Edison’s device]. 2. To pay the Western Union a royalty of twenty per cent on all telephone rentals. 3. To keep out of the telegraph business.
  • 9. Mosaic framework • Party lines • Municipal government ownership • Build it or we will build it ourselves • Different standards are OK • Something is better than nothing • Fast adoption and take-up manifesting in high levels of fixed line broadband take-up, however… • Low levels of mobile take-up…
  • 10. The result: Fixed-line broadband compared December 2022
  • 11. The result: Mobile broadband compared December 2022
  • 12. The ‘mosaic’ as institutional concept? • Historical work guided by Robert Babe (1990; 1996) but supplemented by interviews in Canada in 2006-2007 and archival research • Hughes (1993) recognised that local “cultural factors” determined technology adoption in electricity • However, ‘old school’ electricity networks are ‘dumb networks’ • Telecoms are ‘smart’ networks • Canada’s take-up defies logic of other large countries like Australia • BUT… Telecoms scholars ask “but what do you mean by mosaic?
  • 13. References Babe, R. E. (1990). Telecommunications in Canada: Technology, Industry, and Government. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Babe, R. E. (1996). Convergence and the New Technologies. In M. Dorland (Ed.), The Cultural Industries in Canada: Problems, Policies and Prospects. James Lorimer. Casson, H. M. (1922). The History of the Telephone. Chicago: A.C. McClurg. Hughes, T.P. (1993). Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Maxwell, J. A. (1941). Canadian Dominion-Provincial Relations. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 55(4), 584-610. OECD (2022). Broadband Portal. URL: https://www.oecd.org/digital/broadband/broadband- statistics/ (Accessed 1 February 2024).