This week the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development confirmed what Canadians have been saying for years: that we pay some of the highest prices for some of the worst cell phone service in the industrialized world.
As more and more of our personal information circulates online, is stored in the cloud, or is moved about on USBs and other portable devices, it's essential that we make sure those data flows are secure. While governments have been quick to respond to this increased ability to conduct surveillance, they have not been so enthusiastic about creating and enforcing protections for innocent citizens.
The U.S. National Security Agency has been in hot water for the last few weeks, as whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed a massive online spying system that has been vacuuming up huge amounts of communications data from U.S. and foreign citizens. But Snowden is far from the first whistleblower.
Big telecom companies can only price-gouge us like this because the government refuses to enforce its own rules. Canadian familiess and businesses already pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for some of the worst service. At this rate, it's only going to get worse.
Legal experts are calling it "the biggest global threat to the internet." It's called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it will essentially criminalize free use of any website that uses copyrighted material. YouTube, Facebook, blogs with links -- all of it potentially blacklisted under this new order.
Bell is pursuing an outdated business model that reduces customer choice, forces subscribers to pay for content they don't want, and banks millions in taxpayer-funded subsidies. It seems that Bell's priority is getting as much money out of Canadians as possible, without any consideration of what citizens actually want.
CISPA -- which on the surface is meant to allow for voluntary information sharing between private companies and the government in the event of a cyber attack -- is a surveillance bill that is dangerously lacking in transparency and oversight. This would turn websites into government spies.
A common straw man that Big Telecom uses to justify high prices is that Canada is just bigger than other countries, which we are led to believe somehow necessitates more costly services. The truth is, it's the lack of fair access to independent providers that is the primary driver of high prices.
This week, Industry Minister Christian Paradis finally began to respond to the recommendations in our report that would help facilitate new independents entering the telecom market, currently dominated by the Big Three. But instead of listening to the stories we helpfully pulled together for them, Big Telecom lobbyists have responded by essentially plugging their ears and callously refusing to take ownership over these experiences.
The government is on the defensive. Since OpenMedia.ca released our community-powered report on Canada's cell phone market, Canadians have been sending it to their MPs, calling for their support. But the Conservatives are trying to work their positive spin, supporting Big Telecom and saying that everything is just fine. We've decided to address their claims point by point, so that it's clear that bold action is necessary to improve Canada's cell phone market. If the Conservatives are serious about ending price-gouging, and ensuring that Canadians have real choice, fairer contracts, and reliable service, they must do more to facilitate new independent service providers.
The current terrain of Canadian spying legislation is complex. Bill C-30 is dead, and that is cause to celebrate. But it's also important to remain vigilant. Serious questions remain over bill C-55 and its so-called "emergency" situations, as well as how long authorities can continue to monitor communications after getting approval for intercept. At the same time, bill C-55 represents an opportunity to limit warrantless wiretaps to emergency situations only. Such a stipulation would prevent future attempts at mass surveillance along the lines of bill C-30.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) negotiations wrapped up last week, bringing a whirlwind week to a close. This shift towards explicitly recognizing the authority of the ITU over Internet content led Canada, among many nations, to refuse to sign the final draft of the treaty.
As the 15th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations draw to a close, the Internet freedom community is taking stock of what was said, and perhaps more significantly, what wasn't. Developments over the last few weeks suggest that the controversial treaty may be losing steam as public opposition gains momentum. The public outcry is starting to show the cracks in the push to criminalize our Internet use.
As the International Telecommunication Union's negotiations move closer, more worrying developments are coming to light. At Openmedia we recently posted about some of the main concerns raised by the secretive negotiations, which threaten to change the Internet as we know it.
A recent report highlights concerns that the proposals are particularly harmful to the developing world because accessing Internet content will become more expensive. Some content providers might choose to simply stop servicing regions with customers that have limited buying power. It's the role users play in Internet governance, not governments and big telecom conglomerates, that should be expanded.
We are deeply troubled by the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union (ITU) proposals that seek to apply outdated telecommunication policy to the Internet. Any ITU process pertaining to Internet governance should be decentralized, transparent, accountable, and open to participation by Internet users and all stakeholders, with equal footing.