Deregulation Blues

I was just reading “Skype on iPhone may signal end of voice plans” and a thought occurred to me: well, yeah, duh.

The truth is that the technology exists, and has existed for a very long time, to usurp the stranglehold that telcos hold on the voice telecommunications industry. The only holdback is consumers, who have demonstrated through their behaviour that telcos are not so much businesses as social institutions, corporations that have been regulated into our very emotional consciousness like security blankets.

People have actually asked me: “What do I do without Northwestel/Bell/Telus,” their eyes filled with fear. (My answer: pay less, love life.)

The truth is, we don’t need them anymore. That whole market has matured beyond requiring any support, regulatory or otherwise. It’s to the point that telcos in Canada behave like babies protected by their mama (aka, the CRTC), which is just sort of embarrassing for all involved, even consumers. It’s corporate day care. But that time is done. The federal government demonstrated that even they recognize this when they overrode a CRTC decision and let the foreign-owned Fart Mobile into the exclusive, traditionally Canuck-owned-only Canadian marketplace.

Bottom line: companies are coming in, competing: may the strong survive. Breaking the average consumer’s socio-emotional dependence on Ma Bell is all that really holds them back.

But it’s going to happen, whether it’s Skype sneaking in through the backdoor or Flatulate Mobile forcing a landmark. One of these companies will figure out how to break down the barricade and make telephone users feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Then once a mass of consumers embraces services like Skype or Truphone or even Vonage, whatever, the entire industry will fall into a tailspin as regulatory agencies that drive the industry, like the CRTC, become irrelevant. And, yeah, lots of Canadians will lose jobs.

I’m not saying it’s a good thing. I’m just saying it’s gonna happen.

So if you’re in the telco industry, start learning a new trade. Because I don’t see telcos, at least in Canada, preparing for the inevitable. Instead, they seem to be dependent on the historical status quo: lackadaisical in their dependency on the CRTC to just prop them up when they feel sad or threatened.

Good luck with that. Layoffs ahead, captain!