Together, we're winning.
It’s been an action-packed year at OpenMedia—Internet freedom has been challenged on so many fronts, and with your support, we’ve made sure we’ve been there to defend it. The pro-Internet community is proving to be nimble and smart, allowing us to punch above our weight, especially as we scale up to meet international challenges. Because of this we’ve had some huge successes over the past few years, and as we begin 2013 this seems like an excellent time to look back at what you’ve accomplished.
Stop The Meter
One of our most successful campaigns began in January 2011, when the CRTC confirmed its decision to let big telecom companies put a pay-meter on all Internet use in Canada. If this had happened, Bell Canada and other phone and cable companies could have freely imposed usage-based billing on independent Internet service providers in an attempt to gouge users, control the Internet market, and ensure that consumers continued to subscribe to their television services.
What’s more, half-a-million Canadians signed our Stop The Meter petition, which successfully pressured all the major political parties to take a stand against usage-based billing. This ultimately forced the CRTC to launch a hearing to reconsider the industry’s pricing policies.
To make sure politicians understood how serious Canadians are about an open, accessible, and affordable Internet, we began a campaign called Vote for the Internet. We asked you to send your MPs a letter explaining your desire to elect a pro-Internet MP willing to stand up for the Internet. You responded with vigour, urging candidates to become pro-Internet, and making it clear that Internet openness and affordability would be key election issues.
This success would not have been possible without you and the Internet. Through social media sharing and conversations on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and more, you reached out to one another to help spread the word. In fact, we were able to ‘tweet change’ using act.ly, specifically targeting Tony Clement (the then Industry Minister) and asking him to stop usage-based billing. Overall, nearly 5,000 tweets were sent directly to Clement’s twitter account, forcing him to acknowledge Canadians’ concerns. What's more, 90,000 individuals made submissions to the CRTC calling for a stand against usage-based billing. Clearly, Canadians know exactly what kind of Internet access and usage they want and need and are more than willing to stand up for it.
In a pro-consumer turn of events, the CRTC called for more transparency on how Big Telecom assigns wholesale rates and pricing. In the past, companies were not obligated to disclose their actual costs of providing a service. This newest decision requires that companies disclose these costs (at least partially), making it easier to determine how much Big Telecom is marking up its services in comparison to the actual cost of providing them. This not only provides a more level playing-field between independent companies and big telecom companies like Bell and Rogers, but is also a good step towards figuring out the true cost of telecommunication services in Canada – allowing for better informed actions concerning price-gouging in the future.
Learn more about the success of the Stop The Meter campaign by checking out this infographic.
Casting an Open Net
The Internet is an essential feature of our daily lives, both personally and professionally, but we can only benefit from connectivity if the Internet is open and accessible to all. So, in 2011 OpenMedia wrote a report, Casting an Open Net, detailing a well-researched citizen-powered plan for an open and affordable Internet – one that benefits Canadians through a few simple values: access, choice, diversity, innovation, and openness.
This citizen action-plan discussed the weaknesses of closed communication models and countered popular arguments by big telecom companies who want to impose pricing schemes where users pay more for less. The findings of the report are clear: there is no technical or economic justification for restricting access to legal online content. With your help, this report made it into the hands of many MPs.
OpenMedia.ca delivered Casting An Open Net to the former CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, new Industry Minister Christian Paradis, and made a trip to Ottawa to meet with eleven pro-Internet MPs to specifically discuss tangible actions Parliament could take to help ensure all Canadians have equitable access to an open and affordable Internet.
Learn more in our wrap-up blog here.
Stop Online Spying
When the government revived invasive online spying legislation (“Lawful Access”) last year in the form of Bill C-30, you rallied to support our StopSpying.ca campaign. The online spying bill would give “authorities” warrantless access to the private information of any Canadian at any time, catching us all in a dragnet of surveillance.
You pushed back, telling the government that law-abiding Canadians shouldn't have to compromise their online security and privacy.
How did you do it? You emailed your MPs and called on them to stand up against invasions of citizens' online privacy, you made PSA-style videos go viral, and you used our letter-to-the-editor tool to raise public awareness by sending letters to your local papers.
In a spontaneous and satirical turn of events, Canadians from across the country also took to Twitter in droves under the hashtag #TellVicEverything in order to tell Vic Toews, the Public Safety Minister who tabled Bill C-30, everything about their lives. This engagement from Canadians helped bring the issue of Bill C-30 and online privacy to the media and the world as the hashtag began to trend worldwide.
Under the heat of everyday Canadians taking back the story and defining it ourselves, in combination with the intense pressure of a 70,000+ signature petition—which has since grown to be nearly 150K-strong—the government omitted the online spying bill from its bundle of crime legislation that was supposed to pass as one bill last year. As your opposition continued to grow, the government quietly shelved the bill this fall.
Learn more about the StopSpying.ca campaign in our wrap-up blog here.
Stop the Squeeze
As the government prepared to release the framework to shape the Canadian mobile future, OpenMedia began the Stop The Squeeze campaign in 2012 out of concern that freed wireless spectrum would be sold exclusively to Big Telecom. Failing to set aside spectrum for small carriers and start-ups would have further prevented independent providers from bringing real choice to the cell phone market, leaving users with higher fees, tighter and longer-term contracts, as well as poor customer service. Thanks to your efforts, 64,661 people (and counting) have signed the petition calling for the government to promote policies that provide affordability and choice.
Seeking to emphasize the need for a fairer wireless market, OpenMedia also wrote a report using your input, Spectrum policy in Canada: Levelling the playing field for affordable rates and breadth of choice, discussing the best ways to improve competition and choice in Canada’s struggling mobile phone market.
To prevent Big Telecom from continually gouging users’ wallets, OpenMedia mobilized Canadians to write to the CRTC and push for the development of national standards to protect wireless customers. In October 2012, as a result of public pressure from you, the CRTC announced its intentions to develop a national set of rules for wireless service providers, with a public consultation (now on February 11, 2013) to be held on the rules.
With this decision, OpenMedia asked Canadians to share their cell phone horror stories – and you responded with vigour. To ensure these rules protect mobile phone users, Canadians’ input was used to create a crowdsourced submission to the CRTC, one which made recommendations based on Canadians’ experiences. We will be submitting our report to the CRTC in February, so keep an eye out for more ways that you can make your voice heard!
Learn more about our ongoing efforts here.
Stop The Takeover
When big media conglomerate Bell announced its proposed takeover of Astral Media, we launched our Stop the Takeover campaign to oppose the increasing ‘vertical integration’ of our national media industry. Owning more media content creates a profit incentive for Bell to push content that it owns or restrict access to other content it doesn’t control. This would give Bell a stranglehold over the media content we consume and delivery of our daily communications.
Your public outcry stopped Bell in its tracks. OpenMedia joined forces with other Internet freedom and consumer advocacy groups to form the Stop the Takeover Coalition, which made sure the Canadian public was represented in the decision-making process. After hearing evidence from members of the coalition, telecom regulatory agency the CRTC ruled that the deal was not in the public interest, and denied the takeover. This signified a welcome change at the CRTC, as the new commissioner responded to public pressure and is now moving the agency in a more pro-consumer direction.
Learn more in our wrap-up blog here.
Copyright and the Internet Lockdown
A number of bills were put on the table this year that tried to lock down the Internet, restricting our creativity and freedom of speech. We participated in the international campaign against U.S. copyright bill SOPA, ‘going dark’ along with other groups in the U.S. and Canada to demonstrate what the Internet would look like under this restrictive law. Over 13 million people and over 70,000 websites—including Wikipedia, Google, and Reddit—stood up against SOPA, leading House and Senate leaders to abandon the legislation.
After seeing what SOPA could do to copyright in the U.S., Canadians were ready to mobilize against restrictive Canadian copyright Bill C-11. Almost 70,000 people signed a petition opposing the Internet lockdown. Through your support, we were able to keep the worst provisions out of the bill, and as a result we have a much more balanced copyright act.
We’ve had some huge successes here at home, but we’re increasingly seeing that the fight for the Internet must occur on a global scale. For example, we fought for a fairer copyright bill in Canada and pushed back against restrictive copyright bills in the U.S., but international trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an extreme international agreement that could criminalize everyday uses of the Internet, threaten to override these hard-won battles.
As a result, we decided to scale up the fight by joining forces with the international Internet freedom community. Your support of OpenMedia International has been amazing, and it’s so exciting to see our community grow. With your help we led StopTheTrap.net, an international coalition of organizations and over 122,000 citizens to push back against the TPP. We were recently able to send one of our team members to the latest round of TPP negotiations to put your views on the treaty directly in front of negotiators. This would never have been possible without your continued enthusiasm and support.
Our international community had another victory when we opposed updating of the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) rules. Some countries wanted to expand the ITU’s power to include Internet governance; this could allow these countries to legitimize undemocratic practices like censorship and surveillance. You helped us push back by signing a global petition of over one million signatures to protect Internet freedom, asking delegates not to use this international body to govern the Internet. Our voices were heard, as many countries refused to sign the final text at the negotiations, choosing instead to stand for Internet freedom.
Will Horter of BC-based advocacy organization Dogwood Initiative suggests that the reason grassroots organizations like OpenMedia are so successful is because we work with our massive (and growing) community of supporters to spread the word about new developments, and keep an active eye on situations that affect our digital freedom even when the mainstream media isn’t.
The success of our campaigns shows that when enough of us speak, people listen. We can shape the Internet of the future – together.
OpenMedia is a non-profit organization that relies on donations from people like you to operate. Please consider donating today to help us continue our work.