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Radio spectrum: a critical natural resource

Brad Sallows

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"Free trade", btw, assumes a level playing field, not a tilted one.  Anything else is not "free trade".  Crony capitalism and government intervention are not capitalism.
 

Brad Sallows

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The incumbents were subsidized in the heyday of provincial monopolies to build the wireline infrastructure, not wireless, and I am unaware of any competitor proposing to enter the market to increase wireline competition and improve that part of our national infrastructure.  I am also unaware of generous subsidies in recent years to maintain and upgrade wireline.  This discussion needs to separate what was subsidized in the past from what is not subsidized now, and to include in the net accounting - I am tired of reading "experts" in the news beaking off about high profits, when they choose (or are just too pig ignorant to realize an oversight) only the wireless figures - the cost of supporting the "legacy", not just the profits of the wireless piece.  Some parts of the business cost more than others, but the ILECs are responsible for all of their turf - they don't get to pick and choose.

>The actual service area supported by Canadian suppliers is remarkably small compared to the overall landmass.

http://about.telus.com/community/english/news_centre/news_releases/blog/2012/03/02/telus-investing-3-billion-in-bc-over-next-three-years

of which one of the pices was:

"Connect 35 remote and geographically challenging B.C. communities to broadband internet this year, including Moyie, Manning Park, Clucluz Lake, Kitwanga, Canoe Creek, Hansard, Beaver Valley, Wet’suwet’en, Reid Lake, Boswell, Appledale, Elko, Bridge River, Jaffray, Little Shuswap Lake, Duncan Lake, Christina Lake, Inklyuhkinatko, Kanaka, Neskonlith, Nicomen, Nooaitch, Sahhaltkum, Siska, Trout Lake, Marble Bay, Ditidaht, Tork, Pender Harbour, Puckatholetchin, Saltry Bay, and Skatin."

The issue is cost per consumer served, not area served.

>Protecting fat, inefficient gouging companies is not.

Please state the net profit margin (percentage) at which "reasonable" passes over to "fat, inefficient gouging".

We could adopt my preferred solution, prompted by the whining about oil company profits: the profits of every enterprise in Canada which exceed the margin (percentage) of the most profitable oil company in Canada in each calendar year are confiscated by the federal government and paid out as rebates to all Canadians.
 

Edward Campbell

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Brad Sallows said:
>But ultimately, despite my admiration for Mr Manley, he's wrong on this one.

Why?  Is there a factual foundation for that assertion?

The spectrum issue is very interesting.  It is the first issue I have seen in which mere discreditable greed (the desire to be in constant high-volume communication with friends about trivial matters, at low cost) has unified many Canadians to do what is normally unthinkable for the majority of Canadians: support the Stephen Harper Conservative government in a policy which favours a large US company to the disadvantage of Canadian companies, workers, and taxpayers, with respect to a "commodity" (modern mobile telecommunications) which is chiefly a luxury, not a necessity.  (Necessity could be dealt with by a very small fraction of the bandwidth in use.)

Will a fourth member of the oligopoly change the landscape in a way that three have not?  Unproven, and unreasonable to assume.

Is it wise to license a strategic national resource to the control of a foreign company?  To emphasize: it is either strategically important, or it is not, and needs to be controlled accordingly.

Regardless, what compelling reason is there for prejudicing the auction of licences against Canadian companies?

A set-aside of auctionable spectrum represents a subsidy to the purchaser, in that the uncontested reason for the set-aside is to prevent the bids from going as high as any interested party is prepared to take them.  Any subsidy of a sale of federal resources is money taken from Canadian taxpayers to benefit the recipient of the subsidy.  In 100,000 words or less, please explain why I or any other taxpayer should subsidize a US-based company to provide primarily luxury services to people who can already afford them.

Simple exercise: think about the cost of reaching 5,000,000 subscribers in Canada, under pressure from the government to service remote communities, versus the cost of reaching 5,000,000 subscribers in western Europe, the US, or the parts of Asia the "experts" are so fond of using as comparisons.  Reality check: Canadian telcos will put up towers to reach a relative handful of subscribers, as part of what they are mandated to do, and continue to keep the wirelines in service as well.  Please explain why Verizon, or any other company, should benefit from that investment rather than make its own.

What percentage of Canadian land-based infrastructure - part of our vital civil infrastructure - should Verizon pay to support, as part of its "fair share"?  Should it be able to reap all of the benefits of competing only in wireless, without the competitive burden of supporting our wireline?

Shall we continue by auctioning mineral rights, drilling rights, and timber licences to foreign companies under conditions more favourable than those offered to Canadian companies?  Please explain why it is justifiable in one context, but not in another.

A lot of people need to seriously shake their heads.


Because Verizon, no matter how big or how foreign, is a "new entrant" by the rules ~ rules with which I can find much fault, but the rules that have been in place for every spectrum auction in Canada. Like all new entrants it will have to "build out" a network and compete for a share of a finite customer base.

In my opinion Verizon's status as a foreign company ought not to be a penalty. The foreign ownership rules, which are, by the way, just as silly in the USA, are relics of the 19th century. Verizon's size is equally irrelevant except that it, unlike Wind Mobile and the others might have deep enough pockets to actually establish a viable, national, fourth carrier.

dapaterson addressed the issues as well as I can.
 

dapaterson

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Brad Sallows said:
>The actual service area supported by Canadian suppliers is remarkably small compared to the overall landmass.

http://about.telus.com/community/english/news_centre/news_releases/blog/2012/03/02/telus-investing-3-billion-in-bc-over-next-three-years

of which one of the pices was:

"Connect 35 remote and geographically challenging B.C. communities to broadband internet this year, including Moyie, Manning Park, Clucluz Lake, Kitwanga, Canoe Creek, Hansard, Beaver Valley, Wet’suwet’en, Reid Lake, Boswell, Appledale, Elko, Bridge River, Jaffray, Little Shuswap Lake, Duncan Lake, Christina Lake, Inklyuhkinatko, Kanaka, Neskonlith, Nicomen, Nooaitch, Sahhaltkum, Siska, Trout Lake, Marble Bay, Ditidaht, Tork, Pender Harbour, Puckatholetchin, Saltry Bay, and Skatin."

The issue is cost per consumer served, not area served.

We're discussing wireless service.  Canada's size is irrelevant, since 95%+ of Canada's landmass is not served by cell towers - only a thin band.


>Protecting fat, inefficient gouging companies is not.

Please state the net profit margin (percentage) at which "reasonable" passes over to "fat, inefficient gouging".

We could adopt my preferred solution, prompted by the whining about oil company profits: the profits of every enterprise in Canada which exceed the margin (percentage) of the most profitable oil company in Canada in each calendar year are confiscated by the federal government and paid out as rebates to all Canadians.

I'd rather have an open market where companies compete, instead of the current oligopoly which quenches competition.
 

a_majoor

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While not directly related, this shows that there are technical "work arounds" for Verizon (or any other carrier, for that matter). Since the bulk of internet and phone signals go over the land line (even transferring cell signals between towers at times), ideas like speeding up throughput in existing lines will go a long way to conserving spectrum and bandwidth. I'm also starting to believe that some modified form of WiFi, allied with VoIP technology like Skype may be the way future "cell phones" (of that is even the proper terminology with that sort of technology) may become the wave of the future. Consumers are addicted to streaming data, which favours WiFi and allied technology using fairly high frequency spectrum bands (compared to VHF and cell phone bands), despite the short range and other issues.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/08/google-will-boost-starbucks-wifi-speed.html

Google will boost Starbucks Wifi speed by 10 to 100 times and copper telephone wires can transmit at gigabit per second speeds

1. Google will team up with Starbucks to bring faster, free WiFi connections to all 7,000 company-operated Starbucks stores in the United States over the next 18 months. When your local Starbucks WiFi network goes Google, you’ll be able to surf the web at speeds up to 10x faster than before. If you’re in a Google Fiber city, we’re hoping to get you a connection that’s up to 100x faster.

2. New technology can blast gigabit-per-second data speeds across age-old twisted-pair copper telephone cables—at least at distances from a telephone pole to a house, says Alcatel-Lucent.

In theory, such technology could be crucial to speeding up global Internet access. Of the 580 million broadband subscribers in the world, 55 percent have copper connections—though that figure is 33 percent in the United States, where most people get their broadband from the same coaxial cable that delivers their TV, according to Dell’oro, a telecommunications market research firm.

Some current systems use similar approaches to achieve 300 megabits per second in lab tests, and 40 to 60 megabits in the field, say Michael Timmers, who helped develop the technology at Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs. In field tests with Telecom Austria, the new technology hit 1.1 gigabits per second at a distance of 200 feet, and 500 megabits at 300 feet.

ISPs have to care about improving speeds

Internet service providers will have to care about improving those speeds. Levin says the factor most likely to alter market dynamics is competition from the likes of Google Fiber—Google’s effort to install cheap one-gigabit-per-second service in Kansas City and elsewhere.

 

Brad Sallows

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>In my opinion Verizon's status as a foreign company ought not to be a penalty.

What penalty?  As a new entrant, Verizon enjoys advantages.

The cost of entering a business - any business - is not a "penalty".  It is just the cost of entering business.  I don't see very many regulatory hurdles hindering new entrants; the opposite seems to be true.

I can see why people are drawing odd conclusions, if they believe that Verizon should have overnight - at someone else's expense - what the incumbents took decades to build.

>Canada's size is irrelevant, since 95%+ of Canada's landmass is not served by cell towers - only a thin band.

Which is what I wrote: "The issue is cost per consumer served, not area served."  I see no ambiguity in that statement.  Some consumers cost much more to serve than they will ever return in fees.  In fact, some consumer's services will cost much more to maintain each year than the consumers will ever return in fees.  (For example, beetle-killed pine near utility poles does not clear itself without risk of taking down poles and lines.)  Other utilities companies (electrical, natural gas) have similar issues with customers in sparsely populated areas - which are still part of the "5%" that has to be served.

The media is doing about as good a job providing a full picture as it does with defence issues.  If you replace the names of the quoted experts with your favourite well-regarded knowledgeable defence expert - for example, Steven Staples or one of the others - you will better be able to gauge the worth of the media-provided information.

 

Colin Parkinson

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dapaterson said:
We've already subsidized the incumbents significantly; and they have significant regulatory capture to protect themselves.  Why should we not seek to promote competition?

Much of the "Oh, Canada is so big" claims fail under any sort of examination.  The actual service area supported by Canadian suppliers is remarkably small compared to the overall landmass.

Promoting competition is a good thing.  Protecting fat, inefficient gouging companies is not.

I will disagree with you the need to service rural areas is there, now doing so in Alberta is not that difficult as 1 large tower can cover a broad area, but in BC you need a significant number of towers just to provide coverage along a major highway. Most are isolated from power and solar in the valleys up north is generally ineffective, unless you pretty much double the size of the collectors and then you get other problems. My government supplied Rogers phone dies quickly outside of any large urban area and is spotty within those areas. Telus phones generally have excellent coverage within existing cell areas.
 

Kat Stevens

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At the very least, both versions of the Trans Canada Highway should be blanketed with cell coverage.  Jasper to Kamloops is a long dark zone where many bad things can happen, Ditto with Kenora to Sudbury, with the odd hot spot along the way.  Winter travel on both routes can be hazardous at best, terrifying at worst, and the ability to summon help shouldn't be optional.
 

Edward Campbell

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Kat Stevens said:
At the very least, both versions of the Trans Canada Highway should be blanketed with cell coverage.  Jasper to Kamloops is a long dark zone where many bad things can happen, Ditto with Kenora to Sudbury, with the odd hot spot along the way.  Winter travel on both routes can be hazardous at best, terrifying at worst, and the ability to summon help shouldn't be optional.


It is technically possible, but difficult and very, very expensive. Look at this map, hover over Tacoma, WA or Duluth, MN and you will see that the US has similar problems: no coverage in many mountainous and sparsely populated areas.

When I was still working the government badgered the carriers to provide better coverage in rural, remote and mountainous areas; the carriers responded, simply and clearly, by asking for HUGE sums of money; the badgering stopped for a year or so and then the cycle was repeated.
 

Kat Stevens

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As a matter of public safety, I'd rather see some of my hard extorted tax dollars go to this sort of thing than a host of other less palatable pet projects *coff~CBC~coff*.
 

a_majoor

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There may be a case for some sort of taxpayer covered "saftey service" in areas like the Trans Canada Highway, which can be covered from the Provincial Ministry of Transport or EMS, but this should be limited to low bandwidth service (enough to alert the emergency services and get them in the right grid squate), otherwise it will be abused by people insisting on trying to stream video as they drive through the mountains....
 

Jacky Tar

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As it's been a while since I was a TQ3 RadSea (back when they existed), the details of spectrum management are a tad on the fuzzy side (besides, in practical terms, as an OS, my job consisted primarily of POTS telling me to get back on the broadcast and mind my own business - one of several reasons I decided being an ETECH was a better bed).

However, I seem to remember one principle is that one can overlay different types of modulation to pass information. In fact, I believe there are radios already that employ both AM and FM, thus providing two distinct information channels on a single frequency (and possible more if one employs SSB in the AM regime). I was thinking that although it's not common, phase modulation could be added to the mix to add yet another layer of information transport and thereby relieve at least partially the demand for spectrum. Similarily, although I don't know if it's ever been done - a quick Google search seems fairly unhelpful, at least - it seems to me that modifying the polarization of a signal could also be used to impose information on a signal.

Has anyone in the signals world heard anything along these lines, that you're allowed to talk about?
 

PuckChaser

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I haven't heard of using different modulations on the same frequency, however most cell phones use TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) to assign a timeslot to each device, allowing the same frequency to serve multiple users near-simultaneously. There's also other methods of DMA that use Frequency or Code to accomplish the same task. In fact, the upgrade to our Combat Net Radio will give us TDMA capability, effectively quadrupling the voice/data capacity of the radio with a negligible increase in overhead. I haven't seen the CNR(E) work yet, but if the shiny powerpoint slides are to be believed, it will be easier to juggle the massive amounts of voice and data bandwidth required by a modern battlegroup.
 

Jacky Tar

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It'll be interesting to see if any of that kind of stuff comes across / has already come across to the Navy side of the street for task force / fleet comms. Not that I care professionally; as long as there's power to into the end-user kit, my work is done. Just personal nerdiness curiosity.  8)
 

Occam

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Jacky Tar said:
It'll be interesting to see if any of that kind of stuff comes across / has already come across to the Navy side of the street for task force / fleet comms. Not that I care professionally; as long as there's power to into the end-user kit, my work is done. Just personal nerdiness curiosity.  8)

The RCN has been using TDMA (DAMA - Demand Assigned Multiple Access) for decades using USN satellites.  We're now going to much more sophisticated means.  Google "Protected Military Satellite Communications" if you'd like to read up on it.
 

willy

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I am a latecomer to this thread.  Everything I'm about to say has been said already by others.

In response to the question posed by Jacky Tar, the answer is: sure.  There are all kinds of ways that we can take the existing pie and make it "bigger" so as to accommodate more users.  The issues are (and again, I'm not saying anything new, just reiterating):

- The RF spectrum is congested now, more than ever, because of the proliferation of modern devices that use it. 

- Whenever a new technology is implemented you have a bunch of stakeholders coming to the table and fighting with each other in order to have their own standard adopted as "the" standard.

- Once a standard is adopted (nationally, internationally, etc) a lot of people sink a lot of money into using it and once they've done so they then become incredibly resistant to change.  This limits progress, with the digital TV example quoted previously being a key example.

Technical means exist to solve most of the bandwidth problems we experience, but I would be very surprised to see these means coming to any sort of widespread fruition in the near future.
 

a_majoor

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This is interesting on multiple levels, and could be launched on may threads. The driving force behind this development is the desire for privacy from Government snooping, so it migh have gone on the Edward Snowdon thread. It is aso a reaction to how ISP's deal with data, applying various levels of filtration, "throttling" and service charges according to who is sending data, so it could possibly go on a economics thread. The military can and probably will use "Mesh net" enabled devices such as ruggedized tablets capable of sending data like map traces and preformatted templates (think of crossing a contact report with "Twitter") and even voice traffic with VoIP software (I saw a version of this as far back as 2006). But since the technology depends of RF frequency (I doubt many users will be establishing fiber optic cables between nodes any time soon...), then it will have an impact on radio spectrum use and availability:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929294.500-meshnet-activists-rebuilding-the-internet-from-scratch.html#.UgbCfRz5lg9

Meshnet activists rebuilding the internet from scratch

08 August 2013 by Hal Hodson
Magazine issue 2929. Subscribe and save
Worried about the NSA snooping on your email? Maybe you need to start creating your own personal internet

THE internet is neither neutral nor private, in case you were in any doubt. The US National Security Agency can reportedly collect nearly everything a user does on the net, while internet service providers (ISPs) move traffic according to business agreements, rather than what is best for its customers. So some people have decided to take matters into their own hands, and are building their own net from scratch.

Across the US, from Maryland to Seattle, work is underway to construct user-owned wireless networks that will permit secure communication without surveillance or any centralised organisation. They are known as meshnets and ultimately, if their designers get their way, they will span the country.

Dan Ryan is one of the leaders of the Seattle Meshnet project, where sparse coverage already exists thanks to radio links set up by fellow hackers. Those links mean that instead of communicating through commercial internet connections, meshnetters can talk to each other through a channel that they themselves control.

Each node in the mesh, consisting of a radio transceiver and a computer, relays messages from other parts of the network. If the data can't be passed by one route, the meshnet finds an alternative way through to its destination. Ryan says the plan is for the Seattle meshnet to extend its coverage by linking up two wireless nodes across Lake Union in downtown Seattle. And over the country at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, student Alexander Bauer is hoping to build a campus meshnet later this year. That will give his fellow students an alternative communications infrastructure to the internet.

While these projects are just getting off the ground, a mesh network in Catalonia, Spain, is going from strength to strength. Guifi was started in the early 2000s by Ramon Roca, an Oracle employee who wanted broadband at his rural home. The local network now has more than 21,000 wireless nodes, spanning much of Catalonia. As well as allowing users to communicate with each other, Guifi also hosts web servers, videoconferencing services and internet radio broadcasts, all of which would work if the internet went down for the rest of the country.

So successful is the community model that Guifi is now building physical fibre-optic links to places like hospitals and town halls where it can help carry the heaviest traffic.

Earlier this month, the General Hospital in the Catalan town of Gurb was wired up to Guifi with a fibre-optic link, and cable is being rolled out into the nearby town of Calldetenes too.

In the US, people can generally already get online with relative ease, so meshnets there are less about facilitating access and more about security, privacy and net neutrality – the idea that ISPs should treat all traffic equally, and not charge more for certain types.

After the extent of the NSA's clandestine PRISM program was revealed, privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged users to start using relatively simple email encryption programs like Pretty Good Privacy and GNU Privacy Guard. But even those can be daunting to set up. A better idea would be a decentralised network that relies on encryption by default.

This is the case with Hyperboria, the virtual layer that underpins meshnet efforts in the US. Hyperboria is a virtual meshnet because it runs through the existing internet, but is purely peer-to-peer. This means people who use it exchange information with others directly over a completely encrypted connection, with nothing readable by any centralised servers.

When physical meshnet nodes like those in Maryland and Seattle are set up, existing Hyperboria connections can simply be routed through them. At the moment, Hyperboria offers a blogging platform, email services, and even forums similar to reddit.

Encryption is the starting point. Computer researcher Caleb James DeLisle wrote software called cjdns which allows the Seattle Meshnet nodes to use Hyperboria and keep all communications between them encrypted. Instead of letting other computers connect to you through a shared IP address which anyone can use, cjdns only lets computers talk to one other after they have verified each other cryptographically. That means there is no way anyone can be intercepting your traffic.

The Seattle Meshnet has just completed a successful crowdfunding campaign for meshboxes – routers that come preloaded with the cjdns software needed to join Hyperboria. Users will just plug the routers into their existing internet connection and be ready to go on the virtual meshnet – or a local physical meshnet when one becomes available.

Some form of encryption is already in use across much of the internet, but to be useful it has to be ubiquitous. Web services like Gmail, for example, let you log in using an encrypted connection. But when you send an email it leaves Google's encrypted garden and hits the open web in clear text for anyone to read. With Hyperboria's peer-to-peer connections, every single link in the chain of communication is fully encrypted. Intermediaries that handle traffic cannot even see what kind of traffic it is, let alone read any email. Use the purpose-built hyperboria.name email service, and your communication becomes untraceable.

Instead of a few established players building network infrastructure, DeLisle wants anyone to be able to do it. For him, decentralised internet access in the hands of the people is just a start. The services they use must be decentralised, too. "If people continue to use Facebook, they will continue to be spied on, that's just the reality of the world."

This article appeared in print under the headline "Let's start the net again"

Into the darknet
Visions of a decentralised internet come with a seedier side – the darknet. One way to access it is through the anonymising routing service Tor, which lets a user find hidden web pages that have .onion addresses, rather than IP addresses. But anonymisation like this can facilitate otherwise unacceptable activities. Illegal drug market, Silk Road can only be accessed using its .onion address. But Alexander Bauer, who works on a meshnet in Maryland thinks meshnets are less likely to carry this content. Any website that can successfully run on a meshnet must be socially acceptable to every peer they connect with, making it less attractive for child pornographers or websites like Silk Road.

"That's why we don't think the network will be taken over by child porn. You have to have someone accept what's on your node in order for them to pass your traffic around," he says.
 

Colin Parkinson

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Radio signals can be intercepted and downloaded, any encryption software will likely be compromised at some point. The problem is that government can devote more time and effort to it, then the average joe. There will be people out there that are diligent enough to thwart the attempts of government to track their usage, but that will require an almost religious devotion to security. As I recall the Mexican cartels ran/run their own cell/wireless networks.
 

The Bread Guy

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Related - Retired General Rick Hillier on why "Canadian First" is a good idea when it comes to letting Verizon into the market ....
.... Let me be clear, I do have a relationship with TELUS, one of the three major Canadian telecommunications companies in Canada, and I know that they welcome healthy competition, and in fact, have a history of encouraging competition in our country.

This remarkable Canadian company employs more than 28,000 Canadians, many in high tech and management roles, invests billions annually in our country’s economy and is recognized, worldwide, as one of the top companies globally for its people practices and its philanthropy.

TELUS and its employees re-invest in our country and “give where they live,” something that foreign companies are unlikely to do.

My relationship with TELUS stems from our shared passion for investing in our communities and supporting small, but awesome Canadian charities and non-profit organizations, including those in Atlantic Canada.

(....)

As the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) for Canada from 2005 to 2008, I was, at times, frustrated by the “Canadian companies get it first” policy that supported the awarding of any government contract, first and foremost, to a Canadian company, even if that contract was more costly.

Should there be no option but to award a contract to a European or American company, those foreign companies then had to pay for that privilege by committing to invest in Canada by supporting our Canadian companies and contributing to our economy in a meaningful way.

Through this policy, we supported Canadian industry, and its millions of employees and retirees, resulting in significant nationwide positive economic impacts and innovation.

As CDS, my first priority was to get the best equipment in the shortest possible time to Canada’s sons and daughters in the Forces. Initially, our “Canada First” policy caused me concern; however, I came to realize that by supporting our Canadian companies, we could build world-class organizations that are able to compete globally and support our sons and daughters in uniform, all at the same time.

Why would we now do the reverse and create a truly baffling “Canada Last” policy by favouring an American giant in this crucial spectrum auction? Canadian companies deserve a level playing field when it comes to access to important Canadian resources like spectrum that is used to deliver services in urban and rural Canada.

How is the “Canada Last” policy helpful in stimulating competitiveness in our rural and urban communities? ....
 

Rifleman62

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While your link, milnews.ca states:
Gen. Rick Hillier is Canada’s former Chief of the Defence Staff.

Other links to the same op-ed state:

General
Rick Hillier, retired, is the chair of the Telus Atlantic Canada Community Board

http://opinion.financialpost.com/category/fp-comment/

He is getting paid for that opinion.

 
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