Keeping it (un)real.

The Canadian government is preparing legislation to keep all of the companies created by Air Canada’s restructuring bilingual and their head offices in Montreal.

Air Canada emerged from bankruptcy protection last September after most of its debt was erased and shareholders lost all their investment. As part of its restructuring, Air Canada created Air Canada Technical Services, Air Canada Cargo and Air Canada Groundhandling as separate entities, in addition to Air Canada Jazz and Aeroplan.

Legislating services and service locations may not be the most effective way to run an airline – a profitable one anyway. Of course, that doesn’t really seem to be a consideration.

The public internet utility.

The other day Glenn Fleishman suggested what would have happened if the creation of public electrical utilities had been attacked in the same way that municipal broadband solutions are these days. His imaginary Previous Millennium Research Council (PMRC) uses similar arguments:

The PMRC also takes the stand that installing electricity in every home would drain tax coffers, and expects that once projects are begun, the revenue from them might never cover the immense cost of such service. “One might imagine a city building an electrical network that could provide any amount of service at any time of day or not, rather than at particular times that are most advantageous for power generation,” the report states.

Businesses are also not interested in electricity, the PMRC states, noting that horses, railroads, coal, and the Irish are the driving forces of the economy. “Providing universal access to electrical power is not a leading consideration in business development,” the report says. While certain businesses require electricity, such as theaters or carnivals, business conditions are best improved by well-honed service provided by a single company in each field which reduces the chances of disruption.

Today Michael Geist uses a similar analogy. He suggests that access to the internet could be considered a public good:

The providers argue that municipalities are ill-equipped to offer broadband services, ignoring the fact that many municipalities already provide a host of sophisticated services such as electricity, education, public transportation, libraries, and waste disposal.

Many of these services are viewed as public goods that are best provided to the community by the community. In an age where Internet connectivity is increasingly a prerequisite for banking, health care information, government services, and personal communications, ensuring that an entire community enjoys affordable access is a necessity, not a luxury.

In fact, in some communities, the existing public utilities have begun to provide internet access, made easier by the fact that in many cases they own distribution lines and networks, as well as rights of way. These are “for profit” businesses. And in some cases they are more competitive that the larger telecom providers.

For example, I currently live in Waterloo, Canada. Fibretech, the local utility provider, offers WiFi locally for $4.95 per hour. Rogers Communications, one of the two largest telecom companies in Canada, just announced their WiFi service for $9 per hour – almost twice the price.

Either we define the internet as a public good and build local utilities to provide it at breakeven cost, or we allow real competition. Either way, the choice should not be dictated by a single telecom company. Residents of a city are more than capable of making decisions regarding how their city provide such a service.


Michael Getler, ombudsman for the Washington Post, reflects on the struggle of the printed newspaper to stay relevant in today’s world (free subscription required). He is very even-handed in his treatment of bloggers as well:

The blogosphere is a wonderful thing, also in keeping with who we are. But it doesn’t seem so new to me because it does what readers have always done: read, write, analyze, complain, correct. It has always been true that if you make a mistake on even the most arcane matter in a newspaper, someone out there will catch it and let you know. The Web and the explosion of personal blogs, or Web logs and journals, have tapped into and greatly expanded that public reservoir of knowledge and understanding in important ways by challenging the accuracy of reporting and adding analysis.

He also comments on the tradeoff between speed, and taking the time to getting the facts, and to think:

Bloggers were the first to uncover some things recently, but that doesn’t mean that traditional news organizations would not have come to those facts as well. The difference between newspapers and some of today’s instant-delivery alternatives is that newspapers make use of time — time for trained and experienced journalists to report, time for editors to get between reporters and the public, time to think a little longer about things.

He believe that newspapers can still survive by sticking to hard next, and “more journalism that is unflinching yet beyond reproach — in other words, trustworthy.”

(Link courtesy of The Editor’s Log, Greensboro News-Record)

How it plays in the U.S.

Here’s two American views on the Canadian decision not to participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence program.

From the New York Times (International Section):

“If a missile is going over Canadian airspace, I want to know, I want to be at the table,” Paul Martin said while still running for the leadership of the Liberal Party in April 2003.

His support for a missile defense system was consistent with more than a half century of Canadian national security policy of sharing responsibility for continental defense with the United States, even in times when the two countries sharply disagreed on Cuba, Vietnam and most recently Iraq.

But on Thursday, Mr. Martin, now prime minister, reversed course and said that Canada would not take part with Washington in the development of a missile defense shield, essentially because he faced a rebellion on the issue at a Liberal Party conference next month.

Mr. Martin tried to frame the decision as a matter of priorities, preferring to emphasize increased cooperation with the United States on securing the borders against terrorists and building up the armed forces, even though the Bush administration had asked for little more than moral support for the new system.

Many national security experts, however, consider his announcement to be a fundamental shift in relations, more abrupt even than the decision by Mr. Martin’s predecessor, Jean Chrétien, not to take part in the invasion of Iraq.

“It’s a big departure,” said David J. Bercuson, director of the Center for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. “Anytime we have had a major evolution in North American defense policy since 1940 the two countries have been together.”

From the Washington Post (page A18):

Canada announced Thursday that it has decided not to participate in a U.S. missile defense system, dealing a symbolic setback to the experimental project and a blunt rebuff to President Bush, who had personally lobbied Canada to join.

The decision by Prime Minister Paul Martin, who had earlier signaled he favored signing on to the system, was an acknowledgment of the deep dislike Canadians feel both for President Bush and his administration’s project to shoot down missiles headed toward the United States.

“We will continue to work in partnership with our southern neighbors on the common defense of North America,” Martin said. “However, ballistic missile defense is not where we will concentrate our efforts.”

His decision has more political than practical impact, since Canada agreed last August to allow its operators at the North American Aerospace Command center in Colorado to share information on incoming missiles, a key concession that had been sought by the United States.

A tiny blip.

According to Michael Kergin, outgoing Canadian ambassador to the United States, Canada is important but not prominent in the United States, so attracting national public attention south of the border has been nearly impossible. Mr. Kergin says:

“I could be down here on the corner of Constitution and Pennsylvania and yell the worst implications against the White House and I don’t know that people would care very much or notice. It would have to be pretty awful to get a footnote in the Washington Times (newspaper).”

Mr. Kergin also provided a view of President Bush that contrasted with the typical Canadian view:

“I guess the expectation I had was that he’d let his heavy-duty cabinet players do the talking,” said Mr. Kergin, who started in Washington in October 2000 when Bill Clinton was president.

“But these very powerful personalities around the table spoke only when spoken to. That surprised me a little bit. He was very much in charge. He carried the conversation. He was very well briefed on the issues.”

On how the President would take the decision not to join the missile defence program, Mr. Kergin had this to say:

“I don’t think he’s going to hold it against us, he just doesn’t understand why.

“He may not understand, he may be puzzled by it, he may not agree with it, but he accepts it and respects it,” said Mr. Kergin.

“He certainly wasn’t trying to bully us, but at the same time he made it pretty obvious publicly that this is a program he really personally believes in, which he thinks is right for the United States … and is right for North America.”

As a Canadian who lived in the United States, I can certainly attest to how little attention Canada gets south of the border, even in those states close to the border. While many Americans are aware of what is happening in Canada, these issues don’t make the American news, and they are by no means the high profile issues that Canadians assume them to be.

It is best to remember that Canada has a smaller population and a smaller economy that the state of California. And California has Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Pointless protection.

According to the Washington Post (free subscription required), Sony BMG Music Entertainment expects that by year’s end a substantial number of its U.S. releases will employ content protection technology to address piracy concerns:

“What matters the most to us is the consumer experience,” Sony BMG Sales Enterprise co-president Jordan Katz says. “Both technologies offer playability across all standard players, including CD players, boomboxes, DVD players, PCs, Macs, car stereos, video games and clock radios.”

The albums coming out now and in the immediate future will allow for three copies to be made. “We haven’t set on what the number of copies should be, other than there should be a limited number; it shouldn’t be infinite,” Katz says. “Our research shows that the consumer thinks that’s fair. So you are seeing Sony BMG taking a leadership role in this area, with increasing traction throughout the year in terms of a number of (our) releases.”

While I can agree that there should be a limit on the number of copies that can be made, why err so low in favor of the record company? If indeed the consumer experience matters at all, why not allow me to make archival copies for use in different areas – my house, my two cars, and my office? Since I can only be one place at a time, this isn’t piracy, just a convenience so that I do not contantly need to move a physical CD from place to place.

By the way, how useful is research in this area? What customer is going to admit to the record company that they intend to make 50 copies of their CD?

Companies create these arbitrary limits in the name of preventing privacy, when in fact real pirates won’t be stopped by some silly content protection technology. They are more likely to be working from master copies of the CD anyway.

(Link from Furdlog)


The Toronto Star has a faceoff today about Canada’s decision to reject the U.S. ballistic missile defence program.

Linda McQuaig says “standing up to the U.S. will gain us respect abroad“:

Canadian advocates of missile defence have long argued that joining the scheme is the best way to protect our sovereignty — the logic apparently being that Washington is going to intrude into our airspace anyway, so it’s better if we look like that’s what we wanted all along. It’s only rape if you resist.

Fortunately the Martin government, under enormous pressure from the public, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, ignored this convoluted logic. After months of dithering on the issue, Ottawa showed surprising spunk last week in standing up to the American empire — a spunkiness that will only improve our standing in a world increasingly alarmed by U.S. unilateralism.

Rondi Adamson says “once again Canada looks childish and petulant“:

Japan, Australia, South Korea and Israel, none as powerful as the U.S., but grown-ups all, are currently working with America toward a successful missile defence operation. They are willing to acknowledge the frightening truths of our world, the dangers that face democracies. By contrast, our grudging, reactionary stance on the matter puts us in a league with certain European leaders, concerned more with American power than with threats from foes.

In short, our rejection of missile defence will increase our standing in the dream world the majority of Canadians appear to live in, the one where the enemies of the U.S. are not our enemies. It will increase our standing in our own minds, and our popularity with enemies of the free world — inasmuch as any of those people think about Canada, except in terms of how easy we’d be to dominate without the U.S. on our side.

Given that Japan, Australia, South Korea and Israel are supporting the U.S., it’s not clear whose respect we are looking for. Would it be the United Nations?

A virtual walking tour.

Jon Udell has created a screencast of a five minute walking tour of Keene, NH.

When I moved to Boston a few years ago, a wrong turn took me to Keene. It was late at night and I found myself waiting at perhaps the longest level train crossing I had ever endured. I still had to get to Boston that night and, as a result, I was never able to enjoy the town. I now feel that I can.

Oddly enough, a few years ago I hit upon the idea of building self-running Powerpoint presentations consisting of screen shots, to be used as demoware for the company I was working with. It never occurred to me at the time to make a Flash movie out of them. This is definitely a very interesting enhancement of that idea.

(Link from ongoing)

Selling feelings. quotes John at Business Evolutionist:

“People don’t buy 3/4 inch drill bits. They don’t buy 3/4 inch holes. They buy the respect and admiration of people commenting on the picture they’ve hung on the wall using the hole provided by the drill bit.

The drill bit is a tool put to use in service of some goal of the individual. Almost no one cares how the drill bit is made. The hole will be covered up by a picture or covered with paint.”

As Shannon puts it:

It’s not about the hole; it’s about the “feelings” that the hole will bring…. the drill bit and the hole are secondary to the WIIFM factor.

That may be true some of the time, but it really depends on the product, the situation, and the purchaser.

A husband buying a drill bit to hang a picture for his wife doesn’t have the same feeling when the picture hangs, and the manufacturer might not want to use his feelings as part of a branding effort. Then again, maybe they would.

Somebody buying a Cisco router might be buying a product because it makes them feel secure, or maybe because it routes network traffic. On the other hand, I don’t think people buy an inexpensive car for how it makes them feel, rather they are purchasing an economical mode of transport. You could make the argument that they feel like they saved money, but I wouldn’t base a branding exercise on that alone – it’s too easy to compete against.

I think that the higher the price (or the more the perceived value), the more feelings enter into the picture. And the more they can be part of effective branding.

The purchase of an Apple iPod is obviously motivated in large part by hows it makes us feel. Otherwise Creative, selling an identical piece of technology, would have a much larger share. Is a bigger high definition television about feelings, or a better view of the game?

Selling luxury is more about feelings than product. Sometimes selling cheap is what it’s all about. And sometimes, it is just about selling a solution to a problem.