There is a myth about telecommunications in Canada and like good myths, this one is partly true. The myth that concerns me is the one that says in Canada we have available and affordable telecom services, at least compared to other industrialized jurisdictions. It is true in terms of local, wireline voice (and I note the continuing subsidy) and in the past decade it has become true as it relates to long-distance wireline voice and to wireless voice. Where the myth hides the truth is in terms of data services. The cost of using big data pipelines has been and remains uncompetitive, using tradition technology and business models. What I submit is that a lot of Canadian businesses (small and medium sized in particular), public sector organizations and the non-government, non-profit sector have coped by doing without adequate data services, compared to other jurisdictions. To illustrate with an example, what’s wrong with this picture? The City of Toronto leases data lines from Bell Canada to about 350 work sites. The Toronto Police Services (separate organization, same taxpayers) leases data lines to every police work site. The Toronto Public Library system (separate organization, same taxpayers) leases data lines to every library in town. The Toronto District School Board (separate organization, essentially the same taxpayers) leases data lines to about 600 school sites. The Toronto Catholic District School Board (separate organization, essentially the same taxpayers now that the province controls school finances) leases data lines to its about 400 schools. Each of these organizations has made its own business arrangements for data lines. In some cases, there is a police station on one side of a street and a school on the other, where a municipal recreation facility is co-located to share gyms and a pool, etc. for taxpayer efficiency. The telecom data line arrangements have been managed within separate silos, to the obvious advantage of one carrier’s marketing reps and shareholders but to the disadvantage of taxpayers. And these taxpayer-supported institutions struggle with the cost of adequate bandwidth to provide what their staffs, students and the public want, i.e. better access to information and services 24/7 at reduced cost. Our whole economy and most people in our society are the losers by way of missed opportunities when real, multi-dimensioned competition is prevented from happening by old ways of thinking. The cost of building old-style telecom networks is just too high a barrier to entry to allow genuine, in-depth competition to develop here. It is my opinion that, compared to the best of breed examples available, Canadians generally are not keeping pace with the state of the art in new kinds of telecom networks. By way of analogy, how would our road networks work today if the dominant providers of services and applications, General Motors and Ford, owned and controlled most of the roads and each company was very fussy about who could drive on their roads and in what kind of vehicle? The City of Fredericton, New Brunswick is working hard on a new telecom network model. It is planning to build the community access network of the future combining fibre optic backbones with high-capacity mobile connectivity. It has stated its goals in breathtakingly simple terms: unlimited bandwidth, to everyone, at minimum cost. It is looking for new forms of public-private partnerships to deliver this vision. We need a Canadian plan to crush the cost of bandwidth. Luckily fibre optics with xGigabit Ethernet are becoming available to reconstruct the technology model. It is no longer difficult and it is no longer expensive, if we can get our heads around new thinking. John Adams is the president/CEO of Cottingham Solutions and a former member of the telecom committee on Toronto City Council.