Canadian Telecommunications Policy and the National Disaster Mitigation Strategy: Observing Wireless E9-1-1

Gordon A. Gow
Communications, Simon Fraser
April, 2002
 

Abstract

This study weaves together telecommunications policy with theoretical and applied literature from science and technology studies in order to provide a set of general observations and specific recommendations for Canada’s National Disaster Mitigation Strategy (NDMS).


I argue that telecommunications are a vital aspect of Canada’s National Disaster Mitigation Strategy, yet remain largely unaddressed in public proceedings to date. The NDMS may have significant implications for current and future telecom policy. Conversely, telecom policy initiatives may be capable of making a contribution to the NDMS by stimulating innovation in new products and services.


This dual set of claims informs my overall thesis that we must understand in detail how growth and change happens in Canada’s telecommunications infrastructure if we are to effectively intervene in that process to better coordinate it within the objectives and constraints presented by the National Disaster Mitigation Strategy.


The primary method is a case study of the development of a new telecommunications service—the introduction of Wireless Enhanced (E9-1-1) emergency telephone service in Canada. In order to generate useful results from the observations made, I introduce an analytic framework based on Constructive Technology Assessment to categorize technology projects into a number of dimensions related to standardization, innovation, and stakeholder participation. Constructive Technology Assessment is adopted for its emphasis on the early design phase of technology development. I also draw upon actor network theory and the social construction of technology for an understanding of technology dynamics. The study is operationalized through specific issues and concerns presented within the literature on telecom reform, as well as conceptual work previously undertaken in the history of technology and the study of large technical systems.


Results from the Wireless E9-1-1 case study are used to inform a general set of findings and considerations about growth and change in Canada’s telecommunications infrastructure. These are then distilled into a series of specific policy recommendations for the National Disaster Mitigation Strategy. The recommendations are intended to inform a set of related intervention strategies for actively influencing growth and change in Canada’s telecommunications infrastructure to contribute to the objectives of the National Disaster Mitigation Strategy while respecting the limits of current policy arrangements and established organizations and processes.
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