All of us across Canada have been taking part in a mass experiment for the past 17 days or so.
This experiment was called The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Why is that an experiment and what does it have to do with Bell Canada?
Dear reader, I will tell you ‘cuz that’s just what kind of blogger I am – always looking out for those who don’t know.
For those of you out there who live in countries that are not named Canada, a little background is needed here.
The official Canadian network of the 2010 Olympic Games was CTV – one of only 3 national Canadian networks – and was the only Canadian source of Olympics broadcast over it’s hydra-esque collection of stations: CTV, TSN (The Sports Network), MuchMusic (the Canadian alternative to MTV), and MTV Canada (the Canadianized MTV).
CTV was formerly owned wholly by Bell Canada (now about 20%), and now you’re up to speed.
(UPDATE: Bell Canada has repurchased the entirety of CTV as of September 10th, 2010)
On the whole, the CTV broadcast of the Olympics was completely and totally shit – I’m not gonna mince words here.
The fact that the Canadian-origin Olympic broadcasts were shit is endemic of Bell Canada’s general attitude towards the Canadian public and none of us should have been really surprised at the epic failure of the endeavor.
The technologies employed for the Olympics broadcasts were seriously lacking when compared to the station most Canadians turned to when comparable programming was on offer: NBC.
Why is that?
The answer – to put it simply – is competition.
In the United States of America, NBC had the sole rights for broadcasting the Olympic games to the entire country – but they had to deal with new shows or counter programming from their two rivals, namely ABC and CBS.
NBC was in a position where they had to use absolute top notch video, audio, and graphical technology to make the Olympics palatable to the average American to ensure good Nielsen ratings performance against shows like CSI and LOST.
I give a tip of my metaphorical hat to Mr. Zucker, the president of NBC, for making these strong decisions and reaping the benefits.
However, the corporate masters at CTV didn’t really see the need to go all out on the technical standards because they had the Canadian viewers by the balls – so to speak.
Patriotism and lack of choices.
If a Canadian wanted to watch the games, they (at least in the heads of CTV masters) would have no other option than to watch the CTV family coverage.
And what Canadian DIDN’T want to watch the Olympics hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia – which happens to be in CANADA?
What Canadian citizen didn’t want to watch our Canadian Olympians win more gold medals than any other country in the history of the Games?
There was simply no choice for a lot of Canadians out there across our great land (2nd largest country in the world, by the way) who only got two or three channels on their televisions due to lack of cable or satellite service.
You see, CTV’s corporate masters give it lots of money to spend on licensing of the lion’s share of top rated American shows – meaning that even if you wanted to watch American Idol or other supershows instead of the Olympics, and you didn’t have cable, you were stuck watching the Olympics because your feeble rabbit ear & coat hanger setup can’t pull in an American network.
These are the facts of the previously mentioned experiment.
I’m not really aware of the total ratings breakdown of the CTV broadcasts, but from what I gather, it was a resounding success for the big wigs at Bell Canada’s broadcast division.
Which only serves to reinforce the way that Bell Canada operates throughout our vast country.
You see, Bell Canada used to be a complete and total monopoly of the Canadian telephone system – that is up until the past fifteen years or so where the CRTC (the Canadian telecommunications authority) opened up the phone market to other companies.
Bell had to deal with outside companies all of a sudden competing with them for the Canadian telecom dollar.
American companies came in and tried to run services for a while – specifically Sprint and AT&T (both of which eventually folded their Canuck operations into the Canadian telecom company Rogers).
With the fear of losing massive monopoly sized profits, Bell Canada decided to buy CTV and it’s associated networks to shore up it’s bottom line through the often mystical art of television tradecraft.
For the average Canadian, nothing really changed on television – save for the inclusion of Bell’s corporate logo at the bottom of CTV’s original local programming credits.
And in the years since the CTV takeover, nothing has really changed either – aside from some graphical makeup applied to the CTV brand.
Bell Canada loathes Canadians – or, at the very least, holds Canadians in total and utter contempt.
For all the water that has passed under the bridge since the monopoly breakup, Bell Canada still operates as a monopoly.
An alarmingly large amount of Canada’s telecom assets are still owned and operated by Bell Canada – including (and the most troubling of all) the entire Canadian internet backbone system.
Bell Canada owns the Canadian internet – despite not having a monopoly on how people subscribe to internet services.
Independent internet service providers have to buy their backbone access through Bell’s infrastructure wholesale.
A Canadian citizen might get their internet through a local company, but that internet is ultimately controlled by Bell.
To borrow something from the Matrix movies, Bell Canada guards all the doors and they hold all the keys – at least as far as the internet is concerned.
That local ISP may not have restrictive content filters that would slow down internet applications like BitTorrent or other P2P programs – but your data traffic cultivated by those apps will still suffer speed delays because Bell Canada does filter.
So in the end, no matter who you’re signed up with, Bell Canada still controls what you do on the internet.
Also, your internet is going to suck when compared to other developed nations.
According to a recent study by eggheads at Harvard University, Canada is 18th on a list of internet service quality.
Because Bell still operates as if it’s a monopoly – and it is the one true internet God in the realm of Canada’s cyberspaces.
In countries like Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, or the United States (among many other countries ahead of Canada on the afore-mentioned list), internet services improve over time due to market forces in a wide open internet marketplace.
Let’s use the United States as a working example, shall we?
In the U.S. there is a plethora of companies offering internet access via their own, wholly owned data networks that are in direct competition which each other for American customer dollars.
In hopes of attracting new customers, American networks are constantly upgrading themselves to offer bigger and better products.
Case in point, Verizon has wired large portions of America with a fiber optic transmission network so they can offer blazing data speeds when compared to their competition (AT&T, Sprint, etc.) who are still relying on century-old metal wire network technology.
Competition is the heart of progress in all systems on the planet – both technological and biological.
For something to become better, it has to have incentive to do so – and as it is, Bell Canada has ZERO incentive to improve itself.
I’m sure that somewhere in Bell Canada’s executive building(s), there’s a large brass plaque that reads in bold letters WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?
Until the CRTC grows some balls and forces Bell to divest itself of the Canadian internet backbone, Bell Canada will not invest one measly dime in network upgrades than it has to – and believe me, it doesn’t spend one penny that it isn’t forced to.
Except for internet service via cellphone.
The cellphone service sector is wide open in Canada with many competitors vying for 34 million Canadian’s hard earned cash.
Rogers, Telus, Koodo, Virgin, Wind Mobile – all nipping at Bell’s subscriber base, which forced the company to innovate and try to offer a technological edge to it’s customers that wouldn’t be available to other services.
If there weren’t other cellphone service providers in the Canadian market, Canadians would not have access to 3G or the oncoming 4G.
Bell users now have the opportunity to use the vaunted iPhone (gag me with a spoon) because Bell was forced to upgrade it’s network to compete with Rogers who was already offering iPhones.
That’s the process of competitive evolution in action.
The dinosaurs went through this hundreds of millions of years ago in our planet’s distant past, but the dinosaur that is Bell Canada simply refuses to evolve because there isn’t another corporate beastie big enough to take a bite out of it’s gnarled hide.
For this, we Canadians are in the technological third-world – which really, really sucks.
As much as we love to brag to our quarrelsome American neighbors about how we have superior, free healthcare and how we mopped the floor with them in the 2010 Olympic gold medal count, we must continuously hide our shame in regards to how friggin’ slow our internet speeds are.
I sit here in envy of whichever American cities get selected for Google’s internet service experiments that promises speeds of 1GB per second: yes, one gigabyte per second compared to my 300 kilobytes per second as I write this blog.
No, 300kbps isn’t a national average in Canada.
The average data speed in high-speed enabled communities throughout Canada is 10 megabytes per second via DSL service, 12Mbps via cable internet service – and I’ve enjoyed connection speeds of up to 5Mbps via DSL in the past, but those were anomalous and based on living in the right areas where Bell spent some extra money on their wiring .
Yes… I could subscribe to my cable company’s (Cogeco) internet service and get that 12Mbps, but there’s a gigantic catch to that blissful speed: a solid 60 gigabyte data cap – which is fairly standard amongst North American cable companies.
60GB isn’t enough by far for my demanding usage as I regularly move 200GB or so a month via gaming, uploading to social media sites like YouTube and Flickr, and downloading music/TV shows/movies.
So I’m stuck on this crappy Bell-supplied architecture.
And we, as Canadians, were stuck with the crappy, Bell-managed CTV Olympics coverage when we couldn’t turn to NBC for the same event – which was sporadic at best since NBC’s coverage was very focused on American Olympians and would skip events where the U.S. wasn’t competing, and completely blanked the Canadian cultural portion of the Closing Ceremonies.
Seriously, Bell Canada… what the hell?
The next time I stop to use a pay-phone, I hope you choke to death on the two quarters.
Oh… and that experiment and it’s purpose?
To figure out how much shit we as Canadians are willing to put up with.
And by the looks of it, Bell Canada will continue to use the Canadian market as it’s own personal outhouse.