Telecommunications in Canada


393 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-6738-7
DDC 384'.0971




Reviewed by Paul G. Thomas

Paul G. Thomas is a professor of Political Studies at the University of


Canadians will hear a great deal about telecommunications policy over
the next several years. In April 1991, the Canadian Radio-Television and
Telecommunications Commission will begin hearings on an application by
Unitel, a new company to offer interprovincial long-distance service in
competition with the existing telephone companies. Also, in the near
future the federal government will complete its takeover of the
telecommunications regulation from provincial agencies. Dynamic
technology will add to the flux of the system. It is impossible to
predict with certainty the impact of these developments on the
individual residential and business subscriber. However, this valuable
and scholarly book puts contemporary policy debates in a historical
context and clarifies the issues involved. It will be the definitive
history of telecommunications policy for many years to come. Contrary to
the official rhetoric and conventional wisdom, Babe argues,
communications technology has been a force mainly for continental
integration, not for the building of national identity. Past and current
policies of the federal government have been guided by a kind of
technological determinism that has constrained the pursuit of national
purposes. Federal policy has oscillated between supporting the emergence
of the Bell monopoly and promoting greater competition. Babe makes it
clear that Bell Canada has had a relatively easy time of it with
successive federal regulatory agencies. Regulatory debates involve
complicated economic analyses couched in technical jargon, and Babe does
an admirable job of providing straightforward explanations. In doing so
he exposes the opportunistic shifts in rating philosophies and economic
models used by Bell Canada to preserve its corporate bottom line. While
this book focuses mainly on the telephone industry, Babe also describes
the policy challenges presented by such new technologies as computers,
satellites, and high-definition television. As the boundaries among the
industries dissolve, governments will contend that matters are beyond
their control, but this book makes it clear that political power more
than technology drives policy choice.


Babe, Robert E., “Telecommunications in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 20, 2024,