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A Top 10 To Do List for Keeping Canada's Internet Open

08/18/2013 11:17 EDT | Updated 10/18/2013 05:12 EDT

Ensuring Canada has an accessible, affordable, surveillance-free, and open Internet is essential for our economy, culture, and global competitiveness.

We now have a new, heavyweight Industry Minister in James Moore -- someone with the power to take on Canada's entrenched Big Telecom giants. Here are 10 actions Minister Moore should take to leave a lasting positive legacy for Canadian Internet users:

10. Invest in city-wide open wireless Internet initiatives

With Fredericton, NB leading the way with free community wifi and Olds, AB installing lightning-fast fibre Internet, Minister Moore should draw inspiration from these examples -- what's possible in Olds and Fredericton should surely be possible in towns and cities right across Canada.

9. Tackle Canada's Digital Divide by investing in Internet access for low-income Canadians and residents of Northern Canada

According to Statistics Canada, only 46 per cent of Canadians in the lowest income quartile have access to the Internet in their homes. This contrasts with 97 per cent of Canadians in the top income quartile who have home Internet access. We need clear action from the Minister to ensure that all low-income Canadians have home access to the Internet at a rate they can afford.

Residents of the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut also face unique challenges when it comes to Internet access. Minister Moore should listen to what residents of the territories are saying about the need for a long-term, sustainable, community-driven solution to their connectivity needs.

8. Install Fibre Internet in our public institutions such as schools and hospitals

The lightning-fast speeds offered by Fibre Internet are the way of the (digital) future. The small Alberta town of Olds is showing the rest of Canada the way forward by installing its own fibre network offering speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps.

Minister Moore should follow Olds' example by rolling out Fibre Internet in all of Canada's public institutions -- our schools, universities, hospitals, libraries, public housing, and community centres.

7. Protect our online privacy by putting a stop to blanket online surveillance

Recent revelations of blanket spying by secretive government agencies on our everyday Internet activities have shocked Canadians and have made many think twice before sharing content or doing business online.

Although secretive spy agencies like CSEC are the responsibility of the Defence Minister, their activities are undermining Canadians' confidence in our digital economy. Nobody wants to be spied on when conducting business online. Minister Moore should persuade his Cabinet colleagues to listen to Canadians and put an immediate stop to any programs of indiscriminate and arbitrary online spying.

6. Lower the cost of wireless Internet by opening our networks to independent Canadian providers

Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for Internet access, whether it is wired or wireless. The best long-term solution for choice and lower prices is for Minister Moore to open Canada's locked-down wireless networks to independent new service providers. This would mean innovative Canadian providers could offer affordable services to Canadians without needing to build an entire nationwide network of their own.

5. Improve the accountability and protect the independence of the CRTC

The best guarantee of an open Internet is a policy-making process that is open, citizen-centered, and public-interest oriented. That's why it's so important to protect the independence of Canada's arms-length Internet policy-making body, the CRTC.

Canadians deserve to see greater transparency in how members of the CRTC are appointed. Minister Moore needs to ensure broader stakeholder and citizen participation in the appointment process of CRTC commissioners. The government should also show how all new appointments ranked on the criteria listed in CRTC job postings. These criteria should include significant experience in the public interest or Internet user advocacy community.

4. Protect net neutrality by introducing severe penalties for Internet service discrimination

Net neutrality is the idea that all data on the Internet should be treated equally. This vitally important founding principle of the Internet helps drive economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It's under threat from greedy telecoms and media conglomerates who want to privilege their content over that of others.

Internet users want to see Minister Moore take action to protect net neutrality -- such as by introducing audits and severe financial penalties for Internet service discrimination.

3. Stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership from breaking our digital economy

The secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership contains extreme new Internet censorship rules that could break our digital economy by drastically restricting how Canadians can innovate and manage content online.

Over 135,000 citizens have spoken up against the TPP's Internet trap. Although this issue is largely dealt with by Canada's Trade Ministry, if the TPP goes through it could have a devastating impact on Canada's digital economy. Minister Moore needs to influence his colleagues to put a stop to these extreme, invasive, and costly rules.

2. Stimulate the economy by bringing fast Internet access to all Canadians

Canada's 21st century economy depends on all Canadians having affordable access to fast and reliable Internet. The federal government should invest proceeds from the forthcoming auction of valuable wireless spectrum into ensuring that all Canadians have access to 21st century Internet infrastructure.

Investment decisions should be guided by public interest criteria and made in consultation with citizens and, where appropriate, forward-thinking local governments.

1. Open Canada's networks to independent Internet providers

According to independent OECD reports, Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for Internet access. We need bold action from the government to improve choice in our Internet market, which is currently dominated by just a few huge conglomerates.

Minister Moore should follow the successful example of the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand by opening up Canada's wired networks to independent service providers. Let's not let Canada fall behind.

Do you agree it's time for action to ensure that all Canadians have access to fast, affordable, surveillance-free, and reliable Internet? Speak up today by using this easy-to-use online tool to send our Action Plan for a Connected Canada to your MP and urge them to take action.

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