i-Canada and Public Ultra Broadbandby Bill Hutchison Chair, i-Canada: Join the Conversation Today
June 8, 2010


++ Action Requested: Please review the vision for i-Canada and Join the Conversation  today at the i-Canada Forum by way of this active link:
 http://www.linkedin.com/groupRegistration?gid=3066705


The vision for i-Canada is a nation of provincial and local Intelligent Communities large and small, urban and remote featuring great places to live with innovation cultures and communications infrastructures that ensure economic growth, satisfying employment and social prosperity.  Last month in New York, Shawn Graham, the Premier of New Brunswick became the first Canadian to receive the Visionary of the Year award from the Intelligent Community Forum, a global think tank that annually selects the Intelligent Community of the Year.  He received the award for his vision and support in moving New Brunswick and its communities to new levels of collaboration and innovation built on a foundation of new communications infrastructures.  Premier Graham is supporting i-Canada as are mayors and a core group of hundreds of Canadian citizens and business leaders. 
  

In the future i-Canada’s Intelligent Communities will have blended our traditional values with the best new applications of 21st century digital technology to create new models for effective health care, ageing well and world class education and learning.  Our companies, large and small will be able to innovate and compete with the best in the world because they have the ability to collaborate together to establish 21st century clusters of innovation.  The foundation for this collaboration will be provided by open access ultra broadband telecommunications networks, mobile and fixed, that compete with the best in the world on price and performance.  21st century digital collaboration will be required to compete with the best in the world by enhancing our business innovation clusters and creating new ones that build on our research initiatives and commercialize them quickly.

Great Cities Don’t Run on Gravel Roads.  The great industrial clusters of the 20th century grew because of their Collaboration Ecosystem® and we only need to observe today’s younger generation of millennials to know that collaboration is moving to a new space…..a space defined by the Internet and characterized by social networking and telepresence systems.


The challenge for Canada is that we have fallen well behind with our public communications networks and infrastructure.  Great cities do not run on gravel roads and for the most part, Canadian public broadband is the equivalent of gravel roads in terms of performance and price as evidenced by the fact that Canada has been ranked 22nd out of thirty countries studied by the independent Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard.  Other independent studies have supported the Berkman results and confirmed Canada’s seriously declining world ranking in price and performance of our public broadband communications.

Major cities of the world already provide their residents with 100 million bytes per second, mb/sec of broadband performance, (ultra broadband) for around $40 per month, similar to our price for just two to five million bits per second, a Canadian disadvantage of 20 to 50 to one.  And a few leading international communities are already talking about one billion bits per second to the home: 1 gigabit per second, (1gb/s).  Two months ago Google announced they would work with ten 50,000 person communities in the US to create a public broadband infrastructure of one gigabit per second each; another sign of the times. 


Why is low cost Ultra Broadband important?
  California’s Silicon Valley rose to become one of the world’s great innovation hubs because of its Collaboration Ecosystem®.  In the 1960’s other regions like Boston’s “Route 128” had great universities, large anchor companies and plenty of financial institutions but within twenty years Silicon Valley had outstripped Route 128 and all others to become the world’s leading global hub of innovation.  Collaboration within the community was the reason for its success and today, collaboration is still at the heart of successful innovation whether it is within a company, within a community, region, country or globally. 


Twenty years ago we laid the foundation for national and regional collaboration within Canada’s research and education community when we created the provincial regional research networks and connected them across Canada with a national network, CA*Net, supported by CANARIE, the Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research, Industry.  I was honoured to be the founding Chair of CANARIE and over the past twenty years, ORION and BCNet along with our other regional networks and CANARIE have become recognized as world leaders in the Research and Education Network ,” REN”, community.  Collaboration has flourished in these communities compared to the days when it was extremely difficult for researchers at UBC to collaborate with those at McGill and others located thousands of kilometers apart. 

But why is it that for the past twenty years we have left our public citizens and companies “out in the cold”, lacking the same ability to collaborate at the same high speed and low cost?  Why do they not have the same virtual collaboration facilities that have been available to our research and education community? 


Around the world we have seen rapid company formation and growth in communities that have open access ultra broadband available at for the same cost that our public pays for slow broadband on closed access systems.   It is time for change and i-Canada will promote and support the move to world class public open access ultra broadband networks to allow all communities the same innovation and public services advantages now being enjoying in leading communities around the world.