Thursday, October 20, 2005

Canada�s Telecom Hall of Fame � Big Night for Brantford

The Telemanagement Live conference took place here in Toronto this week, and the highlight was undoubtedly the Monday night HOF gala. Telemanagement Live is largely an enterprise event, and the presentations covered all the key facets one would expect � case studies, operational issues, technical issues, regulatory updates and analyst perspectives. From what I saw, the content was quite good, which is too bad, as the attendance seemed light, at least compared to what I�m used to seeing elsewhere.

It�s a good thing the HOF gala was on opening night, as the conference was overshadowed on Tuesday by the presence of Bill Clinton, who was speaking at another conference located in the same facility, the Metro Toronto Convention Center. Security was quite visible, which I guess comes with the territory, although it�s really hard to see why he needs that much protection now that he�s a civilian like the rest of us. Anyhow, it was kind of fun to have all that buzz around the building � too bad he didn�t drop by�.

Monday night�s gala was on the long side � 4 plus hours � but was a great event for the industry, and it was hard not to feel really good about Canada�s contribution to telecom, not just here but globally. This was the inaugural induction, so it was pretty special to see the initial laureates getting their due. Not quite household names, much like the first batch of baseball inductees to Cooperstown, but it sure covered a lot of ground for the true founding fathers of Canadian telecom.

A total of 9 laureates were inducted, of which only 2 would be well-known outside Canada � AGB and Terry Matthews. Interestingly, neither showed up to accept personally � Mr. Bell had a good excuse, but I�m not sure about Mr. Matthews! Several of the laureates were tributes to the builders of Bell Canada, and the historical perspectives on what they did and how they did it were really fascinating.

To me, the most interesting inductee was Charles Fleetford Sise � what a name, huh? I don�t know Bell Canada�s early history, but learned here that Sise was the real builder of the company. As the video explained, he was a New Englander, who came up here in 1880 and had the right vision to get the funding needed from Bell�s Boston backers (AGB�s father, Melville, held most of the original patent rights, ran into financial trouble, and ceded control to Boston) as well as the managerial savvy that AGB lacked to consolidate the market and transform Bell into a national operation.

This is very much like how the robber barons consolidated the railways and oil industry during the Gilded Age, which soon followed. But in true Canadian style, the Bell story seems to have taken a kinder, gentler path. I digress. Actually, this reminds me a bit about Ottawa�s history. I always found it interesting that our nation�s capital was actually built up by an American who came here and founded a very successful logging operation on the Ottawa River, around which the city finally began to thrive.

At various points during the gala, we were reminded that the telephone made its debut in Brantford, and this was where Alexander Graham Bell did his formative work, much like Edison did at his Black Maria lab in New Jersey. So, there was a lot of focus on Brantford, but it wasn�t all about AGB. Brantford�s next best-known "son" was represented by his dad, Walter Gretzky, which was a really nice touch. Turns out he sat right behind me at the next table, and it was a lot of fun talking hockey with him. He was nice enough to oblige me with a photo, so here�s my brush with fame for the night.


Aside from that, the highlight for me was seeing a living descendant of AGB. Edwin Grosvenor is his great-grandson, and he made a brief appearance to accept an award. He didn�t really say much, but I thought that was really neat. So, what do you think? Do you see any resemblance? I don�t, but I�ll take their word that he�s the real deal�..



I also got a chance to re-connect with Stefan Dubowski, one of the top writers covering this space. He recently joined on with Telemanagement Magazine, and serves as their Editor. The magazine was recently sold by industry mainstay Angus Telemanagement, and is now under the wing of Decima Reports. I say mainstay, since the principals, Lis and Ian Angus were among the 9 laureates inducted. Congrats to them!

Telemgmt_Stefan_Jon_10 05.jpg

Note � photos courtesy of John Parker � thanks John!

The other awards were also interesting, and these people are certainly worth learning more about if you want to really understand the roots of Canadian telecom, both past and present. Unfortunately, the Telecom HOF website doesn�t yet list the laureates, but I�d be happy to fill you in on the others � just let me know.

Oh, and finally, the HOF is looking for sponsors, so here�s my soft pitch on their behalf! This was the inaugural induction, and they have ambitious and noble to plans to run a number of initiatives to support Canadian telecom in the future. So, if you�re looking to support a good cause, operators are standing by.

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