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Why We Need To Fight For a Free and Open Internet in 2015

01/06/2015 08:59 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT

One of the most challenging things about working for an Internet freedom organization like OpenMedia is that there's often a lot going on. As in, a LOT. It certainly makes for an exciting work life, but I'd be the first to admit it can also make it tricky to take a step back, reflect on the journey to date, and look at the bigger picture.

That's partly why December is one of my favourite months. Not just because of the chance to catch up with old friends and family, but because it gives a rare opportunity to step back from the day-to-day campaign work and look forward to the challenges ahead.

And, when it comes to 2015, there's a lot in store - it's shaping up to be a pivotal year for digital rights and Internet freedom. Let's look at just some of the key challenges we face:

Affordable Internet and cellphone service: Canadians have long suffered from some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for Internet and cellphone service. Our lack of choice and sky-high prices has held back innovation and our whole economy. 2015 will be a decisive year, with an important auction of key wireless resources, and with policymakers at the CRTC poised to rule on three vital decisions on wholesale wireless, access to affordable fibre Internet, and the future of TV in a digital era.

We're also rallying supporters across the U.S., Canada, and the globe in the ongoing U.S. net neutrality debate about whether to force websites into an Internet slow lane if they cannot afford to pay expensive new fees. Canadians are sure to be affected by the outcome of this debate - you may not live in the U.S. but many of your favourite websites do, and the ruling could set a worrying precedent for the CRTC which is considering similar issues up here.

Safeguarding Canadians' Privacy:2014 was the year when the extent of Canada's privacy deficit became clear. A combination of reckless spy agency surveillance, anti-privacy legislation, and lax privacy safeguards at government departments has brought home the size of the task ahead if we're to safeguard our digital privacy.

Given this government's terrible track record, things were going to keep getting worse unless we pushed back. So we recently reached out to Canadians with to ask what their priorities are when it comes to privacy. We'll be pulling their feedback together into a set of crowdsourced pro-privacy recommendations that we'll publish early in the new year. And, with a massive Privacy Coalition behind us, we can make clear exactly where Canadians stand.

Free Expression: 2015 is also shaping up to be a crucial year for freedom of expression. Talks on the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are intensifying, with U.S. President Obama pushing for a deal as soon as possible. The TPP has sparked huge concern from free expression advocates -- we know from leaked drafts that it contains an extreme Internet censorship plan that's been described as a wishlist for Hollywood lobbyists. It could result in entire families getting kicked off the Internet, merely for being accused of copyright infringement. It gets worse: Internet providers could even be forced to remove entire websites from the Internet.

We're pushing back with a Free Expression plan crowdsourced from over 300,000 people across the world that calls for sensible, balanced rules to promote sharing and collaboration online.

It's going be quite a year:

All in all, the stakes for Internet freedom in 2015 could not be higher. Unless we push back, the Internet we know could become far more expensive, censored, and policed. At the end of the day, it boils down to what kind of web we want. Do we want an Internet that works for everyday citizens -- or one dominated by powerful bureaucracies, be they spy agencies, giant telecom conglomerates, or powerful Hollywood lobbyists?

If we want a free and open Internet that works for all of us then we're going to have to fight for it. You can learn more about our work to safeguard digital rights in 2015 at OpenMedia.ca

This piece was originally published in Common Ground and on Rabble.ca

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