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This topic contains 13 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Brian Beaton 5 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #825

    Mark Wolfe

    One very interesting distinction that I think comes out of both the case of Olds — and in my myriad discussions with participants who will be attending our sessions — has to do with the yin and yang of governance (as in formal collective leadership) and leadership per se (as in singularly focused motivation/dedication to realize goals, and the ability to infuse/guide others). Indeed, I’m hoping an article due out this month that I wrote on the case of Olds (International Journal of Knowledge-based Organizations, 3:4) will be published in time to complement our resources on this site.

    Reading through the comments in last night’s welcome forum — viz. that the feeling in many rural communities is that leadership has been lacking — only underscores, I think, what might be a thin edge of the wedge in rural development period: the enrolling and developing of local talent. Not all communities have that talent, of course, but they can attract it or even hire it.

    One question will be how to do so, and it will be interesting to see how many of the participants in the Technical streams come prepared to discuss much more than just technical issues. Based on my conversations with just about all of them, they are very well-versed in the social complexities of broadband development.

  • #829

    James Van Leeuwen


    you’ll want to keep an eye on http://www.becomingacommunitybuilder.com

    This program has been designed to build leadership capacity in rural communities, and is now being piloted in rural Alberta.

    I’m working with a team of volunteers to establish the southwest corner of Alberta as a ‘Lighthouse Community’ for the program.

    We have rallied 150 people to participate in the program from across the region, representing all community sectors.

    The challenge of advancing rural broadband is 90% social and only 10% technical/financial/governance.

    Meet the social challenge, and the technical/financial/governance challenges quickly take care of themselves.

    The essence of meeting the social challenge is helping rural leaders to understand how they and their communities stand to benefit from embracing the ICT Revolution, and from taking initiative to bring it to their communities.

    Painting a compelling picture will be essential to shifting the context (culture) and content of rural leadership from ‘not losing’ to gaining.

    If rural leaders could be helped to recognize the vast frontiers of educational, commercial, vocational and entrepreneurial opportunity that broadband could bring to the fingertips of every child, youth and senior in their communities, I expect most would be taking initiative similar to Olds.

    We lack visionary leadership because our leaders aren’t seeing this picture.

    Leaders really need to *see* it to believe it, and this is where we have dropped the ball in advancing the broadband agenda in rural Alberta.

    If there were half a dozen rural communities around the province building on the SuperNet to showcase the state of the art in broadband networks and applications, rural Alberta would be leading rather than lagging.

    At least we have Olds, which provides solid models for governance, infrastructure and operation.

    Olds is a case study in leadership committment and perseverance, and it is troubling that any community in Alberta should have to work so hard for so long to do the right thing for its future.

    For the record, the broadband technology debate is over almost everywhere in the developed world excpet Canada.

    Nations and communities that cannot offer the scalability, reliability and adfordability of robust fibre connectivity are now at a structural disadvantage in fostering, retaining and attracting enterprises and entrepreneurs in the economies of the 21st century.

    High-performance wireless networks are now inexpensive applications of fibre networks, and are not the solution of choice for enterprise access.

    Wireless access networks do not scale well with exponentially increasing demand for bandwidth, and are more vulnerable to environmental risks.

    The bottom line is that fibre is a must-have rather than a nice-to-have, and we need to move beyond the technology debate to more important issues.

    If anyone doubts that we will be running fibre-to-the-farm, there are low-density farming communities in the U.S. that already have it (less than 1 home per linear mile).

    Kids and youth in these communities now have the same opportunities in on-line education and the Digital Economy as their peers in cities like Chattanooga, which is aggressively poaching entrepreneurial talent by leveraging its Gbps fibre-to-the-premise network:


    Communities wanting to develop, retain and attract technical and entrepreneurial talent must now compete on these terms, like it or not.

    Olds could leave the rest of rural Canada in the dust.

  • #831

    Mark Wolfe

    Thanks, James. Looking forward to following up in our sessions. Of particular importance in the context/dynamic you describe is the role of communications on a higher, more strategic level than just marketing. Marketing, like technical applications, is in many ways the low hanging fruit, and I agree mostly with your 90/10 split: the much more difficult challenge is the social/cultural component that requires deep and long-term listening and integration (ie. by leaders) of what’s heard, more than simple one-way, short-term messaging common to the “economic development” approach.

    Basically, if people can’t tell a compelling story of what a technology means in their local contexts, they’re not ready for it and uptake will suffer. But this is where I think leadership is more critical than your suggesting, witnessed as much by none other than the SuperNet roll-out itself that came pre-packaged with a top-down narrative that failed to resonate with communities because they did not yet have way to experience the technology for themselves. Today, anyone who’s tried to stream Netflix or run a sophisticated enterprise application over a 5 Mbps connection, let alone a 2 Mbps feed, knows first hand and all to well the difference between broadband and “true” broadband of the kind you’re referring to elsewhere in the world.

    But I wonder if maybe the better way to put it and underscore the extent to which we are in agreement in this discussion is to assume leadership (more than governance peer se) is part and parcel of the ‘social’ aspect you’re rightly highlighting.

    Thanks for diving in; great points, good discussion.

  • #847

    James Van Leeuwen


    building community leadership capacity is the central challenge, and should be the principal objective of social development strategies.

    Questions that inform my own thinking and action are:

    Why lead?
    Who needs to lead?
    What does leadership need to look like?
    How do we foster the leadership we need?

    The most relevant and compelling WHYs for rural leadership relate to autonomy, family and community (personal and social outcomes).

    “You mean we could be more self-reliant, and our children and grandchildren could move back from the city?”

    Rural leaders (largely 55+) tend to respond strongly to these propositions, which are fundamentally a matter of creating opportunity for today’s and tomorrow’s wealth creators to prosper in rural communities.

    This opens the door to disruptive social change, because it’s not just their children and grandchildren who will be interested in such opportunity.

    Olds can now be a magnet for entrepreneurs and young families from around the planet, and frankly, most rural communities in Canada will need to become the same if they are to survive and prosper.

    No community can avoid the social change that will inevitably accompany such economic development, and here we get down to brass tacks.

    Last week a community leader from rural Alberta, who shall go unnamed, posted the following link to their FaceBook page:

    Such commentary and sentiment is now all too easy to find in rural Alberta.

    I imagine young people across urban Canada and around the world researching the web for places to live and work in rural Canada, and finding this flavour of commentary and innuendo.

    If I were in their shoes, I might share it on my FaceBook page with a warning to friends and peers who might be looking for the same thing I am:

    “Not welcome here.”

    I can hardly imagine a more counterprodutive statement coming from a rural leader, or a statement that does more to undermine Canada’s identity and crebility as a nation that welcomes the world.

    Given the extent to which our demographics and economics depend on immigration, we literally cannot afford to be this small-minded in our language – never mind our actions.

    This is doubly true for rural communities.

    Today’s young wealth creators are globally interconnected, and see the entire world as their oyster.

    Why stay in rural Alberta?

    Why move here?

    Outside of the oil sands region, where few people actually want to live, can rural Alberta be taken seriously as a place to live and prosper?

    Why not move to Australia, where the Government is building a National Broadband Network that will bring optical fibre connectivity to 94% of homes and businesses (the remainder will likely build out their own fibre to reach the NBN).

    I therefore strongly agree that “deep and long-term listening and integration of what’s heard” will be essential on the part of rural leaders, but until they are open to discussing and addressing the social/cultural issues, I expect we will remain largely constrained to discussions in the context of economic development.

    It’s hard enough getting healthy conversations started in the context of rural education, which is afflicted by the same defensive social reflexes.

    The resulting opportunity costs for rural youth and children are huge, and should be powerful motivation for actively addressing the social/cultural issues.

    Well-conceived and well-executed strategies for engagement and communication will be essential, and this is the topic I will be most interested to explore at the Symposium.

    What will work best?

    I am at least confident that strategies should revolve principally around preparing rural children and youth for a future that will be substantively different from the past, socially and economically.

  • #849

    James Van Leeuwen

    I did not know the YouTube link in my previous post would be embedded as a graphic link.

    I meant no offense, and would have preferred it remain just a text link.

  • #853

    Brian Beaton

    An important historical development took place in 2001 with the establishment of the National Broadband Task Force and the production of the New National Dream – Networking the Nation for Broadband Access available at http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/C2-574-2001E.pdf – I reference this publication because it contains two options for broadband development – the first is a telecom – government sudsidized option which all the present government has been supporting since gaining power and remains unsuccessful in delivering services to remote and rural communities. The second option is a community-driven model of broadband development that the organization I worked for (Keewaytinook Okimakanak – KO) was using.

    I was on that task force because of my work with Keewaytinook Okimakanak in developing community-owned broadband infrastructure and services in the remote communities in northwestern Ontario. In 2000, the Keewaytinook Okimakanak First Nations were selected as one of 12 SMART Communities demonstration projects. The Kuhkenah Network is now providing broadband connections to community-owned networks in over 90 communities across Ontario and into the remote communities in the northern parts of Quebec and Manitoba. There were 11 other SMART Communities demonstration projects that were part of that “pilot” project that stimulated a lot of the possibilities and developments that are taking place today.

    Celebrating Olds is great because we need these current technical solutions and models to build upon. But simply saying that Olds is leading these developments in isolation from all the important work that took place long before the Olds leadership could build their business case is just another myth that so often gets told by those who want to ignore the leadership and risks that took place years before to make these develpments possible today. The leadership that began this work and made the National Broadband Task Force and the SMART Communities program possible is a long story and involved many early pioneers, advocates and innovators.

  • #855

    Paul Nelson

    Good Morning Everyone:

    I’m looking forward to meeting you later this week. As part of the Governance stream, I would like to ask four groups of questions:

    1) What is the architecture of the governance structure of Supernet? How are decisions made? How are they communicated? How are they measured? How are they tested?

    2) What is the current % of usage of Supernet? Is it what was planned for at this stage of development? If the % of usage is not what was planned, how will those responsible for Supernet rollout adapt their plan?

    3) Are there specific performance parameters for Supernet to meet with respect to enduser service? What are the specific parameters? Who is mandated to ensure that these parameters are met? Are performance levels tied to compensation for rolling out the service?

    4) Because the CRTC has set “billing practices for wholesale residential high-speed access services (CRTC 2011-703)” and because Supernet is already paid for by the GofA, what is the wholesale price for high-speed access to Supernet (Mbit / $ /month)?

    See you Thursday,

    Paul Nelson

  • #857

    Paul Nelson

    One more question …

    5) If Supernet is mandated to reduce the imbalance between rural and urban internet, if urban internet enduser speed is typically 40+Mbps / $50 / month, if urban internet speed is headed for a 1Gbit service, and if new services like Netflix 4K will drive bandwidth usage upward, what speed can a rural enduser expect from Supernet? What speed / $ / month can a rural subscriber expect for a Supernet provided enduser service?

  • #871

    Mark Wolfe

    @Brian Beaton — I would argue even that the Information Highway Advisory Council of the late 1990s, from which the National Broadband Task Force Report was in large part spawned, set the tone for a national focus that under John Manley had significant focus and impetus. With his departure, “leadership” in the sense being alluded to in this discuss space went on the wane, and I think we continue to applaud the work of the programs you mentioned, as well as other (Connecting Canadian, etc.), that continued in the aftermath.

    That Olds keeps coming to the fore in our discussions here is primarily because this symposium is after all the “Alberta” Digital Futures event — with hopes of there being other ones going forward of broadened perspective — and Olds is the paradigm case people here know best. However, your contribution is critically valuable for precisely the reasons that you highlight: viz. that there are models and accomplishments elsewhere that it behooves us to engage. Please do chime in during our sessions Thursday and Friday.

  • #873

    Mark Wolfe

    @James van Leeuwen — no worries on the flag posting; I suspect the sentiment may get some challenge in our live sessions Thursday and Friday, though 😉 But, yes, “tone from the top” very much an issue. I also leave it to everyone to draw their own conclusions if Service Alberta and Agriculture and Rural Development fail to have any presence at this event.

    So looking forward to this discussion; also check out Paul Nelson’s questions, too, as I suspect some clarity around governance at the level he’s talking about might also be at hand.

  • #907

    Helen Hambly

    Hi everyone – here are two websites that provide info/experiences from southern Ontario speaking to leadership and governance models in rural broadband:

    EORN http://www.eorn.ca/
    WOWC-SWIFT http://www.wowc.ca/?q=news

    In both contexts (EORN and WOWC’s SWIFT) you’ll find some essential elements in terms of local leadership (upper and lower tier municipalities), advocacy and planning with provincial and federal agencies, public-private partnerships and research/learning linkages with economic alliances/business clusters, producer groups and universities.

  • #923

    James Van Leeuwen

    Brian and Helen…

    It is most helpful to draw our attention to the regional broadband initiatives in Ontario; KNet in northern Ontario, EORN in eastern Ontario and now SWIFT in western Ontario (really the western part of southern Ontario).

    Brian, I will be the last person to belittle or ignore the accomplishments of KNet, as I leverage their (and your) pioneering example whenever I have opportunity to promote and discuss the merits of regional collaboration across communities.

    You proved it can be done, and done well.

    I also leverage EORN for this same purpose, and I will start leveraging SWIFT as soon as they are moving dirt.

    An attitude I have tended to encounter in discussing KNet here in western Canada is that regional collaboration might make sense for Aboriginal communities, but not for non-Aboriginal communities.

    EORN and SWIFT are my best ammo for disabusing people of this baseless notion, and Eastern Massachussetts and other parts of the U.S. are also serving up solid examples of regional collaboration.

    It’s truly pathetic that we have a publicly-controlled(?) fibre transport network serving all of rural Alberta, but we can’t get our act together to put it to proper use.

    Incentives for regional collaboration are stronger in rural Ontario because economies are relatively weaker than here in Alberta, and I thuink this accounts for most of the difference in the present context.

    My understanding is that contraction of the manufacturing sector in eastern Ontario was the principal motivation for communities to team up and pool resources for economic development.

    EORN emerged as their key initiative, with the objective of attracting SMEs and knowledge workers from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to the smaller urban centers served by the network (places like Cornwall, Brockville, Huntsville and Smith Falls).

    The bottom line here in Alberta is that we are too spoiled to take regional collaboration seriously, and the only way to really get us working together is an economic or environmental crisis.

    We rallied to recover from BSE and devastating floods, but so far we can’t rally to protect the long-term economic and demographic health of our rural communities.

    Various strategies have been conceived and implemented, but cultures eat strategies for breakfast… especially cultures of complacency.

    My hope is that this Symposium will help us to craft better strategies, at least in relation to leveraging digital tools and networks.

  • #1001

    Brian Beaton

    Good Morning … Just wanted to thank everyone who did all the work required to allow me to participate “on the edge” with the video and audio connections. Magaret and Mark are to be congratulated for taking the “risk” involved in actually using broadband and these wonderful communication tools to open the workshop up to others. Of course there is still a lot of work to be done to actually make these tools work so everyone involved is able to feel included in the entire event.

    This morning I read an important article that highlights the governance / leadership challenges ahead of everyone when it comes to building, managing and accessing these tools. The fact about the 22 years National Broadband Task Force’s New National Dream is still waiting to be realized after the billions of investments into the corporate sector speaks volumes to me and the author of this article.

    Industry Canada needs more than threats to make rural broadband real
    By Shane Schick

    I couldn’t help myself. Every time the government, the carriers or anyone else makes bold statements about the need for high-speed access in rural Canada, I am compelled to dig up the National Broadband Task Force Report.

    Perhaps Industry Canada Minister James Moore had the same nagging feeling when he issued a statement that those hanging onto wireless spectrum that could bring the technology to under-served areas must use it or lose it by this coming March. The report, which was issued in 2001, is a very detailed, thought-out series of recommendations for solving what was seen even then as a pressing problem. This was long before e-commerce and social media had transformed society so completely that to lack high-speed Internet is to feel as though you’re not really living in the 21st century.

    “Although our recommendations are ambitious and comprehensive, we are convinced that they are practical and attainable by 2004,” the report says. “In our view, the implementation of these recommendations will benefit all Canadians and add to our long-established reputation as global leaders in the field of telecommunications technology and applications.”

    This is pretty sad reading, given that the same issues that were by no means resolved by 2004 are still hanging over us almost 10 years later. The central ideas in the report did include a strong role for the government in shaping and influencing the rollout of services between the private sector and communities, but the task force members probably never envisioned the tough-guy stance Minister Moore is trying to take.

    Giving Rogers and BCE (which own most of the spectrum in question) a hard deadline creates the illusion of holding them accountable, but if nothing happens by March, who holds Industry Canada accountable? If the government can get through the Senate scandal, it could get through this. Meanwhile, too many Canadians will continue to miss out on much of the information economy.

    Even if the government were able to take back the spectrum easily from the incumbents, there needs to be someone better able to provision it where it is needed. Let’s not forget that this past summer, when Verizon seemed ready to enter the market, the incumbents suggested what paltry rural broadband they provide now might have been scaled back so they could focus more attention on fighting the U.S. giant in urban areas.

    It might have been better if the government looked reallocating some of the pricier, more valuable spectrum coming up in the next auction and supporting more of those regional players who, if they were able to collectively increase the spread of broadband rurally, would constitute that fourth national player the government says it wants.

    You might also wonder why the government would wait until the current spectrum licenses were about to expire to check up on the carriers’ progress. If in the unlikely scenario Rogers and BCE are forced to give it up, what will be the new measures to ensure milestones are met for whoever takes it over? These are the kind of details Industry Canada needs to flesh out what sounds like fairly empty rhetoric.

    Did I mention that the title of that 2001 report was “The New National Dream: Networking the Nation for Broadband Access?” Sadly, I suspect that most rural Canadians woke up to the realities long ago.

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