OpenMedia.ca will bring Canadian voices to Ottawa (again)
OpenMedia.ca will be meeting with Industry Minister Christian Paradis via teleconference on September 8, 2011, and we want to know what you would like discussed. Yesterday I unsuspectingly answered an early morning call from the Office of the Industry Minister. They had seen our press release, Paradis Shuns Canadians and Small ISPs, Meets Privately with Big Telecom, and it hadn't exactly filled them with joy. In our release, we called out Paradis for holding closed-door meetings with Big Telecom lobbyists after our requests to meet about similar issues were refused. "So far," we wrote, "there is no evidence that the Minister has sought input from citizens or consumer groups on any of these issues."
OpenMedia.ca will be meeting with Industry Minister Christian Paradis via teleconference on September 8, 2011, and we want to know what you would like discussed.
Please fill out our survey if you haven't already, as we'll be analyzing the results in a few days in order to finalize our agenda.
Yesterday I unsuspectingly answered an early morning call from the Office of the Industry Minister. They had seen our press release, Paradis Shuns Canadians and Small ISPs, Meets Privately with Big Telecom, and it hadn't exactly filled them with joy.
In our release, we called out Paradis for holding closed-door meetings with Big Telecom lobbyists after our requests to meet about similar issues were refused. "So far," we wrote, "there is no evidence that the Minister has sought input from citizens or consumer groups on any of these issues."
We also wrote that we hoped Paradis would take steps to fix this problem by agreeing to meet with OpenMedia.ca and other citizens’ organizations. It appears that that is what he plans to do.
After some small-talk about the 700 MHz spectrum auction (which could bring more choice and affordability into the cell phone market), usage-based billing, and the state of competition in Canada's telecom sector, I was told that Paradis' office would be interested in meeting with us. While telecommunications can easily be seen as an industry-centric file, Canadians clearly value Internet openness and affordability. We accepted their invitation behalf of the pro-Internet community.
We plan to discuss our plan from our community-crafted research report, Casting An Open Net. Our goal is to outline tangible actions the government can take to help ensure all Canadians have equitable access to an open and affordable Internet, both wired and mobile.
Canada has the largest pro-Internet movement in the world. Minister Paradis has a chance to be a champion of digital issues.
Big phone and cable companies' price-gouging is hitting Canadians in their wallets, and we hope the Minister takes the opportunity to give cellphone customers and Internet users much-needed relief, especially while we face such a precarious economic situation. We do, after all, pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world.
When it comes to digital policy, there's a very clear difference between Canadians' interests and the narrow commercial interests espoused by big telecom companies. A "balanced" solution won't do: you either side with innovation, free expression, small business and Canadians across the political spectrum, or you cater to the whims of a handful of conglomerates.
Based on our initial conversation with Paradis' office and the input from our survey, here are some of the topics we hope to cover:
- The mobile market is very uncompetitive. Upcoming spectrum auctions should reserve quality spectrum for innovative public use, unlicensed use, and new mobile entrants.
- We want proceeds from the auctions to go toward hi-speed Internet initiatives, such as rural and remote broadband penetration or municipal wi-fi projects (like the one in Fredericton, New Brunswick).
- We do not have a broadband plan or a digital economy strategy. The government should set access and speed goals and present an action plan to meet them.
- Small independent ISPs need more support and autonomy from Big Telecom so that Canadians have affordable choices for Internet access.
- The CRTC should be given a clear mandate to work to ensure the Internet is open and affordable.
- Canada has a clear Internet openness (Net Neutrality) deficit, even though we have some of the world's strongest Net Neutrality rules. If we want to stop Big Yelecom from restricting our online choices, the CRTC must audit ISPs for Internet openness, and they need to be granted the ability to punish violations with financial penalties.
The Upcoming (Mobile) Spectrum Auctions
Internet openness and affordability (usage-based billing)
This is your meeting too. Which of the above do you think we be most focused on? What solutions should we suggest? We won't be able to get to all of your points, but we want to know what you think we should spend the most time on, and what kinds of questions and arguments you would like us to put forward. We are here to bring your voice to Ottawa.
We want to steer the discussion away from piecemeal actions, and toward a holistic overhaul of digital policy in this country. Clearly the type of market failure we've seen in telecommunications is the result of policy neglect that must be corrected.
Please tell us what you think via Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, email, or the comments section below.
Thanks to all of you who shared our release on Facebook, Twitter, and other forums—it worked! Also, thanks to all of you who have donated and joined us as monthly donors in the last few days. We wouldn't be able to keep working to make the Internet affordable without your help.