On Verizon and the level playing field

I see someone has made a parody video of the Bernie Lord campaign to keep Verizon out of Canada.

To me this is another example of the difficulty of developing complex public policy in the 140 character world.  This is a complex issue – but protagonists have learned that in the modern world -from shale gas to pipelines to telecom policy – you need to simplify your message and hammer it home.   As one PR guy told me recently the facts are not the point (he said they never were).  You get far better results by playing to emotion than to intellect.

So the Verizon debate in the public square has been boiled down to ‘cheaper rates’ versus ‘level playing field’.  If Verizon comes in they will have an unfair advantage and to top it off they will move all our jobs to Texas.  Further there will be no innovation or investment in advanced networks because the profit margins will be too tight.

OR

If Verizon comes in it will force down wireless rates, foster innovation and network investments because  of the competition and will foster much better customer service because, again, of competition.

The truth is that there are elements of truth in both camps.   Competition is key to a healthy, dynamic and renewing market but hyper competition in the short run can damage an industry’s long term value.  Now, when the industry is peanuts or fast cars, I’m not particularly concerned either way.  When it is an industry with serious public interest considerations, I do get concerned.

So, will Bernie win out over the guy saying “can you hear me now” as he comes into Canada.  So far Bernie seems to be winning although the poll was commissioned by Bell and Telus…..

Time will tell but one thing is for sure the battle is being waged not in a sober, fact-based environment (sound familiar?) but in a frenetic social media world where emotional responses win the day.

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