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Ottawa vote reminds us Big Telecom’s cartel is long past its expiration date

Our team is disappointed that ‪Ottawa City Council did not pass Councillor Leiper’s Internet affordability motion today. But the fight goes on and we are not giving up, neither should you!

The whole team here in the OpenMedia office shares your disappointment that ‪Ottawa City Council did not pass Councillor Leiper’s Internet affordability motion today. We spent the morning glued to the livestream of the debate, and the sound of our groans when the result became clear could probably have been heard from coast to coast to coast. Nevertheless, this is just the latest twist in the tail of a very long saga indeed, and you can trust us to keep up the fight until we win.

Our team has been campaigning on this issue since January of 2014. Over the past 26 months, we have written hundreds of thousands of words on the subject. We have presented to the policy-makers at the CRTC. We have engaged every telecommunications expert in the country. We, as a team, and as a community of digital rights advocates, have shared both the highs and the lows of this issue at every turn.

We were blown away to see our local community in Ottawa call, Tweet, and email their City Council in droves. We're so proud of all of you for making your voices heard, and for giving us crucial feedback on what your councillors were saying.

We especially want to thank today’s Internet heroes: Councillors Leiper, Deans, Brockington, Ciarelli, Fleury, McKenney, and Nussbaum for standing up for Internet users and bravely voting for greater choice and affordability.

In contrast, we were very upset to hear misinformed councillors (who fell victim to Bell’s extensive lobbying and voted against Councillor Leiper’s motion for faster Internet) explicitly reference their meetings and conversations with Bell, but say nothing about what they heard from their constituents. It’s sad to see the voices of everyday Canadians so explicitly ignored, and our democratic process so visibly undermined by one powerful company’s lobbying.

Despite this setback, there is good news. There’s a long way to go in this fight yet, and with your support we can win this for the nearly 65,000 Canadians that have spoken out through our Internet Emergency campaign.

Let us be clear about one thing: Big Telecom’s cartel is long past its expiration date. In this country, a small handful of deeply entrenched telecom companies control over 90% of the market for residential Internet and wireless services. As a result, we pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for “middle of the road” services.

These giants do not compete with one another in any meaningful sense. Our market is widely recognized as a oligopoly. New competitors are being blocked at every turn. Synchronized price hikes, uniform offerings, oppressive data caps, and exorbitant regional fluctuations for the same services have, unfortunately, become the norm.

We must abolish the legal mechanism that allows the Big Telecom cartel to crush efforts at improving how we communicate with one another. As a community, we must remain vigilant in our fight for open access networks, like the ones we are protecting at the CRTC. We must ensure that our networks remain neutral, and put an end to website-blocking, throttling, and the controversial practice of “zero-rating.”

And, perhaps most importantly, we must continue to build a citizen-drive movement whose voice and reach can counter the lobbying muscle of this cartel – muscles that are used in equal measure to destroy threats to their dominance and disempower everyday Canadians.

As a country, we can do better. And we will.

We look forward to sharing what comes next.


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