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February 15, 1997

http://www.thestar.com/thestar/editorial/money/970215C03c_FI-CRANE15.h
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Heading in right Net direction

PARIS - HOW DO WE get ready for the 21st century? One
key way is by becoming comfortable with the Internet.

According to Bill Gates' Microsoft Corp., the Internet
is ``the most important phenomenon in the computer
industry in the past 15 years.''

And developing applications for the Internet will be
``the next great wave'' for the computer industry.

Much of what we do in schools, shopping, job searching,
business, health care and entertainment over the next
decade will somehow involve the Internet.

But if the Internet is going to become the platform for
a country's competitiveness, then how can a country ensure it is at
the leading edge?

An important study by the Organization for Co-operation and
Development says it's crucial to create a regulatory environment that
stimulates telecommunications competition to keep the cost of Internet
access down.

Canada is one of the cheapest countries in the world for Internet
access.

According to the study, the total cost for 30 hours on the Internet in
Canada is $37.28 a month. (The study quotes U.S. dollars adjusted for
purchasing power to make international comparisons accurate.
Yesterday, a U.S. dollar cost about $1.35 Canadian.)

The cheapest access is in Florida, at $31.96 per month. Texas,
California and Colorado are also cheaper than Canada.

But in Germany the same access costs $204.50 a month; France, $155.56;
Japan, $153.32. New York is also expensive at $106.92 a month.

One reason for the great disparity in costs is that some phone
companies charge consumers for the amount of time they spend on a
telephone line. Canadians pay flat monthly fees.

The U.S. telephone industry, however, is currently asking the U.S.
Federal Communications Commission to charge by the minute for Internet
usage. And companies such as Bell Canada will probably seek some way
of raising rates as Internet users tie up phone lines for hours in a
system designed for three-minute phone calls.

In Canada, access to the Internet will continue to improve, though, as
cable companies offer high-speed access and phone companies try to
respond.

Wireless also offers potential.

The study also finds that countries with low access costs have a
higher proportion of hosts or connections to the Internet, which
implies greater use.

Canada, the study says, already has 20.4 Internet hosts or connections
per thousand people, tying Denmark at eighth in the world.

Finland, where monthly costs for 30 hours are $60.41, tops the world
with 55.5 connections per thousand people.

The United States is fourth, at 38.4 per thousand, or nearly double
the Canadian penetration level. Germany, France and Japan rank much
lower.

Countries with high use of the Internet and personal computers are
more likely to develop the kind of work force that is essential for
the information age, according to Andy Grove, president of Intel Corp.

In Canada, the federal government is implementing its highly ambitious
SchoolNet program, which will link all of the country's 16,500 schools
and 3,400 public libraries to the Internet by next year.

Meanwhile, countries with high use are also much more likely to
develop local content and software for the Internet, according to the
study.

This helps explain, for example, the large cluster of small multimedia
companies in Toronto.

Canada also has an important program of research and development, the
Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research, Industry and
Education, or CANARIE, a partnership of more than 140 public- and
private-sector groups.

The information highway will no doubt take many twists and turns. But
Canada appears to be headed in the right direction.

-------------------

Also in this issue

- Top Navy Attorney Reprimanded For Downloading Internet Porn

- SFO's Latest Arrival -- The Internet Kiosk lets travelers e-mail,
fax, surf

- Bank gives instant loan okays on Net

- Coalition frowns on ISP access fees

- Disney to buy stake in Starwave, run the Web site company


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