Recently, I signed up for an automatic monthly donation to www.openmedia.ca. Now I’m not rich, and my contribution is a modest one, but I know that it’s still important, and not just because they sent me a nice thank you note telling me so.
I know it’s important for the general public to start supporting organized efforts opposing big business and government interference in the development of the internet. I know this is important because these companies, and the government agencies and representatives beholden to them, will not stop attempting to retard advancements with the web, because for them it means lost profits.
Just do a little reading up on what Bell, Rogers and the CRTC have been up to in Canada (OpenMedia.ca is an excellent information source, by the by.) when it comes to "traffic shaping" or "user based billing". Look into Canada’s changing copyright law. South of the border, check out the recent SOPA debate. And this is just the local stuff.
The common denominator is that powerful entities do not want the internet to keep providing the ability to easily publish, broadcast or consume whatever we want, whenever we want. They want to set the terms, and, of course, the price. They have business models based on getting so many million viewers/readers/listeners for their set programs at prescribed times and selling very highly priced advertising attached to these eyes and ears.
This model just doesn’t work anymore given the flexibility technology provides when it comes to consuming content. Understandably, this is a monumental, frightening moment of change for the industry to face, so it almost makes sense for them to try restraining the natural progress of technology, legislation and culture itself. It doesn’t make it the right thing to do, though, and we shouldn’t accept it.
Thus far, the public has been putting up a good fight. Especially within the online community, there’s been a lot of awareness raising successfully translating into pressure being put on elected representatives to stop capitulating to big telecoms. However, I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg. Companies stand to lose untold fortunes and the very reigns of control over technology. I doubt that they’re going to give up because SOPA didn’t pass this time around, or the CRTC did allow Bell and Rogers to choke out the smaller competition unfairly (yet). Telecoms are going to keep attacking from various angles until they get what they want: a slower, ad-laden internet with limited content dictated by a select few.
The onslaught of weaselly lawyers trying to change legislation, back room business deals, greasy lobbying efforts, hammering media campaigns and so on is going to be relentless and overwhelming, which is exactly what they want. They want the public to be distracted, confused, bored and/or worn down enough so that there’s no effective opposition, giving them an opportunity to take down the web in its current form.
What organizations such as www.openmedia.ca and www.internetsociety.org do is help monitor the numerous fronts and let us know when there’s something happening (e.g. a government regulation the telecoms are trying to have changed) so that we can take direct, focused, collective action. They help illuminate issues so those against a free, open internet don’t have the cover of darkness to work under. They help marshal our resources and direct them to where they’re most needed, and will have the best impact.
Such organizations are empowering tools for the grassroots, and are necessary in maintaining an effective defense in what’s sure to be a long, multifaceted, continuous assault on our online freedom.
That’s why I know my small monthly is important.