A Social Media Revolution Closer to Home? Or, The North, Strong and Free

The world may be paying attention to Egypt’s unfolding revolution, but the Middle East isn’t the only place playing host to online-enabled political activism. This piece comes from Kayle Hatt, an up-and-coming Canadian political organizer last seen on these pages writing about Six Questions a Candidate Should Ask before Tweeting, Blogging or Posting a Status Update, an article that was very well received six months ago and that still draws readers regularly.

A Social Media Revolution Closer to Home? Or, The North, Strong and Free

By Kayle Hatt

There is an e-revolution happening right now, citizens using the internet to demand a change in government policy, but I’m not talking about Egypt…this is happening in Canada.

It’s been called Canada’s “biggest citizens’ movement in generations” and it’s a fight of the future of the internet (something of particular interest to readers of this blog). It’s a battle against the major telecom companies and the government over access and the affordability of the internet.

A ruling from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada’s equivalent of the FCC, on October 28th removed the ability of independent ISPs to offer unlimited internet service for a set monthly fee in favour of a the UBB push is designed to offset revenue lost because of people who are cancelling their cable to stream TV online. It’s something that should concern Americans because our two telecommunications industries are closely connected and because, as advocacy group Open Media has said, “the world is watching”. They point out that “Canada is a petri dish for big telecom companies to experiment in their efforts to take back control of communications.”

However, their characteristic politeness aside, Canadians are having none of it. An online petition by Open Media has attracted over 416,000 signatures, an impressive figure given that Canada is only a tenth the size of the US (13 million people voted in the last election). The #UBB has been a trending topic on twitter, NDP MP Charlie Angus and candidate Marc Laferriere held a virtual town hall at the Personal Computer Museum in Brantford. Protests have been held in numerous Canadian Cities, with more planned, Angus also hosted a Twitter rally on February 7th.

The efforts seem to be paying off: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative) expressed his displeasure with the CRTC’s UBB decision last week and then on Thursday the Industry Minister announced (via twitter no less) that there would be a full review of the decision. Activists aren’t claiming victory or letting up just yet, though; they say that there is too much at stake…so stay tuned for more developments!

Thanks, Kayle! Keep us posted, and definitely keep coming up with good ideas to share with the E.pol crew. –cpd

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Kayle Hatt
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