A Unique Wireless Option

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Everyone is in a panic to create a so-called competitive, corporate option for Canadians as the Conservatives hustle to sell off the last big chunk of wireless airwaves (aka the ‘Wireless Spectrum Auction’).  Verizon has backed out, probably under pressure from corporate Canada, so what’s next?

I would like to boldly recommend a new option:  we ‘publicize’ the wireless spectrum that’s up for auction.

Of course, we know the Cons won’t go for it, but hear me out anyways.

First, what do I mean by ‘publicizing’ anything?  I’m not really talking about publicizing a book, but in essence, the pretense is really the same.  We make things public as opposed to keeping them private.

Frankly, it’s a nicer term than the harsher ‘nationalization’ term that got such a bad rap thanks mostly to the CIA protecting America’s international corporate assets, but it’s still pretty much the same thing.

Publicizing simply acknowledges that some things are better left to the government or a non-corporate entity to manage (example:  the CBC for public news and information, although they’re screwing that up badly thanks again to the Cons placing their own people in high places).

When it comes to the wireless spectrum, I recommend that we consider ‘loaning’ it to municipalities across the country.

Media companies – the CBC included – have failed Canadians miserably when it comes to basic internet, news and information services, such as emergency protocols and local content.  This is because there are no perceived economies of scale with local news and media production.

However, there is when you trust local citizens to produce and vote on the content.

I mean, what do you think Reddit is?  Or Progressive Bloggers?  Imagine reading headlines from the latter on a local radio broadcast.

If the airwaves were public on a local level, leaving the broader percentage in the hands of Canada’s media oligopolies (they do own 85% after all), Canadians would have access to the ability to take matters into their own hands.  This is not an option under the status quo.

In the US, a little known organization called Prometheus has put the power of radio into the hands of individuals keen on spreading local news and discussion.

I suggest we step things up – possibly in conjunction with the CBC – to create our own national version of local news and content that gets voted up or down depending on the geographic and topical relevance.  I’m sure someone out there could build a basic voting engine that captured some of the basic nuances of relevance (ie. should a story be kept local like ‘my dog is lost’ or should it be provincial or national like ‘my child has been abducted’?).

This, in conjunction with other social media tools, would form the basis of content for local wireless networks.

The technological side of things aren’t really a big deal either.  With access to local airwaves, local entrepreneurs could even choose to partner with the biggies if the wanted to implemented their own wireless internet.  With a little more electricity than it takes to power a lightbulb, you can power a radio station.

A national arbiter could be established that would monitor implementation for consistency and accessibility.  They could also look at rates charge (if any), costs incurred and help negotiate contracts with various providers of services.

Another angle on the whole concept:  complete public ownership.  Why are we as Canadians accepting no option as the only option?  Why don’t we lead a KickStarter campaign that focuses on the concepts above, with every Canadian chipping in the equivalent of one month’s wireless bills?  If you took $100 (give or take) times the number of subscribers, I’m sure you’d be in the billions pretty quickly.  Alternatively, you could look to the co-op model and share profits equitably across a broad spectrum (pun intended) of Canadians.

Finally, the whole system could become a valuable revenue source for local municipalities.  Instead of going begging for the latest penny or two from twisted old Cons like Diamond Jim, you could rely on your local community to fund the cool stuff like swimming pools, parks, bike lanes, public transit and solar cars (OK … I’m getting carried away).

The concept could revolutionize communications in Canada while also giving municipalities a much needed leg up.

Unfortunately, those in control will not listen, so we have to get rid of them before everything gets sold to Bell, Rogers and Telus and we ALL lose.

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