7.41: During the Revolution

This means-ends analysis will explore the technological and economic means to the psychological and sociological ends. It is in this sense that the Prospective method makes psychological considerations primary and technoeconomic considerations secondary. Technoeconomic devices are the realistic means to psychosocial idealistic ends.

It could be argued that Canada is, in terms of the limited extent to which its potential is realized, one of the most under-developed nations in the world. The first task in realizing potential, individual or institutional, is to realize that there is potential. Task 2 described before in Section 7.3 - After the Revolution, states the potential and task 3 here suggests how that potential may be realized.

The means of realizing the ends can be explored by soliciting contributions from the entrepreneurs who are developing and marketing the new information-processing devices. This will be an inexpensive process since they have a vested interest in demonstrating how their products will contribute to a positive future. Thus means-ends analysis will provide a solid basis for recommendations for public policy. What interventions will contribute to orchestrating those means to attain the desirable ends?

The increasing importance of informatics means, by extension, the increasing importance of the Federal Department of Communications. It is the natural candidate for the much-needed central body to regulate the emerging informatics industry. The current clamour for DOC to develop an integrated Telecommunications Policy could well be expanded to demand an integrated Informatics Policy.

The development of such a policy has become increasingly difficult as a result of the proliferation of technology.

The original mandate of the Department of Communications was relatively simple. There was a limited spectrum over which radio could be broadcast and this scarce resource had to be divided fairly between the various applications to ensure the common good. Classical economics understands this process and classical ethics approves it.

The mandate became only a little more complicated with the advent of television. Initially, television was largely a sort of "improved radio" or "radio with pictures" and thus required only that the visual spectrum be added to the auditory spectrum. However, as television began to offer other services - cable television, pay-television, and so on - the mandate became more complicated.

The shift of the domain from radio-television to telecommunications (nicely encapsulated in the change in name of the regulatory body CRTC from Canadian Radio and Television Commission to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) introduced further complications.

The emerging new information technologies are introducing further complexities. As argued above, videotex could be viewed as an extension of television (two-way television) or of telephony (use telephone to talk to computers as well as people). There is one set of regulations for television and another from telephony. Which set should be applied to videotex? In a number of cases, DOC finds itself indecisive like Hamlet as it contemplates the question "TV or not TV?"

The domain of informatics, embracing telecommunications and computer technology, is even more difficult to regulate. As argued above, videotex is not an extension of either television or telephony but of computer technology. The telecommunications industry is regulated and the computer industry is not. Should the new informatics industry be regulated or not?

The rate of technological innovation is very much faster than that of regulation. The latter, for many good reasons, is a slow, careful process.Regulators find themselves in a reactive mode. They are stomping on fires or, rather, on quicksands. No sooner had Francis Fox banned satellite dishes than they had been miniaturized to a point that the enforcement of the regulation was rendered impossible. No sooner has a pay-TV channel scrambled its signal than a hacker has unscrambled it. Signals, unlike eggs, are as easy to unscramble as to scramble. Copyright laws passed in 1942 to deal with books and pamphlets, are straining to deal with the software programs and videodiscs used in 1987.

The two alternative approaches would appear to be de-regulation and re-regulation.

Regulators in the United States have responded to the increased difficulty by a policy of not having a policy. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - the United States equivalent of our CRTC - under the chairmanship of Mark Fowler (paradoxically a Canadian) - has passed a series of laws planning its own obsolescence. FCC used to rule the air waves and now it airily waives the rules. The elephant is, once again, threatening to roll over on top of the mouse. Some pressure is building on Canada to also de-regulate.

A second response is to re-regulate the industry. Canada, with its mixed public and private economy, must retain regulation to ensure that the informatics infrastructure is accessible to all citizens. However, the current regulation is obsolete and must be replaced by new regulation more appropriate to the emerging technology.

A third response, which is rarely considered, is to pre-regulate the industry. This option is implied by the prospective approach. Rather than the reactive process of designing regulation to deal with the new technologies as they emerge, this response advocates the proactive process of anticipating the new technologies and creating regulation to deal with them. The above description of changes in the technical environment provides a reasonably clear vision of the informatics infrastructure which will emerge. Policy can be created now which minimizes the threats and maximizes the opportunities of this structure.

The Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is an attempt to create a vision of a desirable future technological infrastructure. This vision guides decisions in the interval. They are viewed as steps toward this final vision of a totally integrated system. In the same way, it is possible to create a vision of a desirable institutional structure.