Posted November 22, 2010
On November 22, at the annual conference of the Canadian Chapter of the International Institute of Communications (IIC), Industry Minister Tony Clement reported on the status of Canada’s Digital Economy Strategy (DES), and announced some key specific measures that are very much welcomed by ITAC and Canada’s ICT industry.
The Minister discussed five key elements of the DES:
- adoption of digital technologies by business,
- digitally skilled workforce,
- growing Canada’s ICT sector, and
- digital content in all media.
Minister Clement reaffirmed the importance of the DES to Canada’s overall economy, as well as the importance of these five key elements, upon which the government consulted Canadians thoroughly earlier this year. He confirmed that the strategy will be made public in the spring of 2011.
In the meantime, the Minister confirmed that the government has been taking action, and it will continue to take action, without awaiting disclosure of the overall strategy.
The Minister announced that the government would be launching consultations on the auction of spectrum in the 700MHz band, with the auction to take place by the end of 2012. He added that the government would make its determination about what to do about foreign ownership rules in the course of this process. He then announced that consultations on auctioning spectrum in the 2,500MHz band would be launched by the end of 2011. He also stated that Industry Canada would carry out a departmental review of rules on tower sharing and roaming, and make a determination on them by the spring of 2011.
The Minister announced that spectrum fees for personal communications systems (PCS) and cellular would be frozen at their current levels for the time being. He also indicated that the license period for future auctions and renewals would be extended to 20 years. ITAC notes that in the hundreds of submissions tabled in the DES consultation process, many parties – including ITAC – identified the importance of mobile and wireless technology and the availability of spectrum to the fundamental broadband infrastructure of the future. Our industry welcomes the measures announced by Minister Clement, and we note that the freeze on spectrum fees is entirely consistent with the policy of this government to avoid tax increases. On tower sharing and roaming rules, it is important to resolve any issues so as not to create uncertainty and impede investment.
On the question of adoption of digital technologies by business, the Minister announced an interesting initiative, by which the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has been asked to make ICT adoption a core part of its mandate and lending activities.
“Specifically, BDC will help companies evaluate their level of ICT integration and will offer new consulting services to enhance their capacity to use these technologies,” Minister Clement said. “BDC will also increase efforts to market its financial products that provide companies with the capital they need to purchase new equipment. The objective, therefore, is to have BDC loan proposals looked at from an ICT perspective – does the client’s business plan include sufficient ICT investment? And if not, how can the BDC assist in developing an ICT plan?”
In the area of a digitally skilled workforce, the Minister announced 25 Digital Economy Knowledge Synthesis research grants.
Finally, Minister Clement announced that he would be co-hosting with Clément Gignac, the Quebec Minister of Economic Development, a federal, provincial and territorial Economic Ministers’ conference, which will seek to enhance collaboration of our governments on economic issues, and notably, digital economy issues.
“Our vision – of a world-leading digital economy – cannot be achieved by the federal government acting alone. What’s required is a comprehensive and cohesive set of actions to create the right conditions for growth and innovation,” Minister Clement said.
“And while we have made important progress together, none of us can rest on our laurels. Not when other nations are making important decisions too. Not when success in a global economy requires us to be at the forefront of digital technologies. Not when there is so much at stake. The competition is simply too keen, the potential too vast and the opportunities too great to stall in our progress now. So let’s each play our part. Each assume our responsibilities. And each continue to pull the levers within our own grasp. If we do this – resolutely, creatively and collaboratively – we can, together, build a digital economy that will be the envy of the world.”