One of the goals of my voyage was a research (not scientific research, of course, but mostly personal, subjective research) on what Canada is for me, what long-term and wide-range opportunities it can give to me, both in life and in work. And as a software developer, I’m very interested in what the Canadian Information Technology (IT) sector is like.
All hail infrastructure!
Maybe I am not the best IT professional of all time. Maybe I have no experience in running a business. But I do know the very key point for success of almost any business in any place: infrastructure. Every business is delivery: delivery of goods to buyers, delivery of services to customers, delivery of resources to partners. And every kind of delivery needs an infrastructure: roads, flights, a mail system, Internet, communications, and so on. It needs a cheap and reliable infrastructure.
Before I came here to Canada I was expecting to see some progressive country, a smaller brother of the U.S. What I see here in Toronto is disappointing me very much. The most significant things look even worse than in Russia, where I am from; worse than in that third-world, prehistoric, corrupted “mafia state” with bears on the streets and vodka flowing from the taps.
A first look at Canadian telecom
Let’s take communications as the most widely used infrastructure in IT, which includes both the Internet, wireless, landlines, and so on. The whole market is divided between a few big companies (such as Rogers & Bell) and their children brands (Public Mobile, Wind, etc, etc, etc). They dominate in the home phone market, and in the Internet access market too. Thus, they are monopolies and can dictate the rules to smaller companies. And they do. And the government does not care.
How could it happened that in 2010 in the largest city of Canada which is only 555 km from the center of the world (New York), there is no unlimited internet access? Moreover, how could it happened that an average Internet access plan is $35/month for just 15 GB, with extra traffic costing $4/GB? In wild, far-far-away Moscow, I can easily get unlimited 10 Mbps for $20/month from a couple of companies serving my building.
How could it happened that the cheapest wireless data plan is $45/month for 500 MB ($0.09/MB) and $0.05/KB extra ($50/MB)?! This is not roaming, this is the local access rate. And there is no way to pay less if I use less. In Moscow I used to pay ~$0.09/MB with absolutely no monthly fees, and this is considered to be one of the most expensive rates there (usually, you can switch to $0.05/MB wireless bundles).
WiFi coverage? Ha! Maybe in few blocks of downtown only, for an additional $30-50/month. For free? Ha-ha, twice! National roaming? I’m already afraid of thinking of it.
Data center collocation? Well, I’ll check this out later. I bet it will be something like $1000/unit/month, and traffic at $1/MB when you actually need giga- or terabytes. Plus a one-time activation fee of $10K, so you would not even think of pulling out.
Communication corporations’ sites are the worst I have ever seen in terms of functionality. They do not work partially. I cannot see my balance for two weeks; and I cannot change my plan because this section of their site just does not work. And there is nobody who wants to fix this: their tech support team sends me to a support site, which is broken and does not work, either. And the worst part is that nobody cares since people pay anyway, they ought to pay, and they have nowhere to run.
Canada is the best?
Such wild capitalism does not allow the communication infrastructure to rise. This, in turn, kills the spirit of innovation completely. Whoever invents a profitable idea goes to the U.S. to try it because it will be too risky and expensive to try here in Canada.
The same principles work for Russia, but there are mostly political reasons that come into play, not financial ones. Well, and roads, though they are not very important for IT.
Can Canada be called the best country, an innovative market, or the smaller brother of the U.S., then?
When the Conservatives won the election yesterday (May 02, 2011), Mr. Harper said that Canada is the best country in the world. Ha! Say that twice, and maybe I will believe it. I thought so when I was outside dreaming of living in Canada. Now, I’m not sure I want to live here, nor am I even sure that I wish to visit it for a second time.
What I value most is the ability to develop myself, to improve, to evolve. Here in Canada, everything and everyone is asleep. Whoever wants to live their life asleep, will be happy in Canada, and indeed it is the best country for them. But not for me.
PS: Clothing is cheap here. Proper casual clothing for developers is the best way of your innovative, progressive IT startup company to succeed. Don’t forget the towel! :-)