The Institutional Origins of Canada’s Telecommunications Mosaic

Bell payphones at the Montreal Bus Station, 6th July 2007

Context: This is a work in progress article that stems from my PhD research over a decade ago. The paper suffers from numerous conceptual issues that remain unresolved and I am keen for feedback from the PPN group to progress my ideas. Alyssa Attioli, current graduand of the University of Canberra, has been working as a co-author on the paper.

With Alyssa Attioli at PPN2024
Abstract: The paper argues that the political circumstances leading up to Canadian Confederation resulted in a significant and lasting impact upon the institutional origins of Canada’s telecommunications market that persisted into the 21st century. It does so by first outlining the ideas and institutional dynamism that flowed from political rivalries in the lead-up to Confederation and coincided with the deployment of the telegraph. Second, the article discusses how commercial disputes created separate telegraph and telephone industries that embedded Canada’s unique telecommunications mosaic. The article concludes with a discussion of the importance of considering the local and regional imperative, and the legacies created by the original rationale, in developing national telecommunications policy. Canada’s approach sits somewhere between the private ownership model adopted by the United States and the public ownership model adopted in Australia. The major lesson from Canada is that, where diverse circumstances exist, addressing local and regional political imperatives can provide opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked by attempts to provide a standardised national solution in the delivery of telecommunications services to citizens.

The slides from our presentation are available below: