It’s the end of the web as we know it, and I feel scared: The importance of donating to internet activist organizations.

by Francis Wooby on January 31, 2012

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.

Sounds crazy?

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.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rogers_Chris February 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Hi Francis,

Long time no…whatever it is we do here on the internet!

I just wanted to share the news that we have decided to phase out our network management policy beginning in March. That means upstream P2P filesharing traffic will no longer be managed.

Also, we recently upgraded two of the most popular high speed internet plans with faster download speeds and higher monthly data allowances.

Hope this helps a little.

Cheers,
@Rogers_Chris

Francis Wooby February 7, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Hi Chris,

Great to hear from you!

Excellent to hear about Rogers ending it’s management of P2P upload traffic.

However, for mainstream internet users, the potential problems really sit with monthly data caps. With the ever increasing availability of online video, including free (legitimately free) TV shows, average folks are using up more data. The fear is that Rogers and Bell won’t offer plans that allow users to watch much of this content without going over their limits and paying huge overage fees. We fear this because free online TV content is in direct competition with satellite/cable packages offered by Bell and Rogers.

So the question is, do the plans being offered allow internet subscribers enough data per month, at a reasonable cost, to watch the TV shows available online as much as they’d watch conventional TV?

Now I’m not saying this needs to be $5 a month. I understand that it’s going to cost more than a basic internet plan if we want to use it this way–which is a hell of a lot more data than checking email, Facebook and banking online. But, if I am willing to pay a reasonable premium, are Bell and Rogers going to let me use the ‘net how I want to?

Rogers_Chris February 11, 2012 at 10:04 am

Hi Francis, thanks for the follow up. The answer to your question would depend on how much TV you watch. Rogers Hi Speed Ultimate allows you to download approximately 120 HD movies – that is our top-end offering. We have plans that should suit almost everyone’s needs.

http://www.rogers.com/web/link/hispeedBrowseFlowDefaultPlans

Cheers,
@Rogers_Chris

Francis Wooby February 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

Hi Chris,

Thanks again for commenting here.

120 HD movies a month would be at least 240 HD hours, which would definitely be more than enough TV/movie viewing time.

However, what about cloud computing (keeping files in the cloud via services like Dropbox and SuguarSync and iCloud), online photo management, Skype communications, podcast downloading/uploading, online radio listening, website management (FTP) and other such activities. Are these counted towards that traffic, and, if so, do people risk running over these amounts simply by being online.

Every year we are required, or at least encouraged, to move more of our everyday activities online. My worry is that we’re eating into our “TV time” with stuff we have to do just to keep our households and professional lives moving along regularly.

Another problem is that there is no reliable regulation of this industry, so right now, without grassroots, independent monitoring and reporting and action, it’s easy for ISPs to make us pay for certain speeds, fail to reach them and blame them on “internet traffic.”

Now I feel like there are agents withing Rogers, Bell and other industry players who genuinely want to give customers quality, useful service. But, at the same time, we can’t just ignore the elephant in the room of their business model being severely disrupted by technological and social chance, and them having power to stifle progress in order to suit their own interests, not that of the public.

It feels like a lot of the progress that’s being made is being made begrudgingly on their part due to awareness campaigns run by OpenMedia.ca and similar organizations.

Again, I think that positive change is happening in how ISPs are treating customers, but I am more apt to credit customer backlash/pressure, helped in large part by these consumer advocacy groups.

Thus, I remain in favour of supporting them monetarily and with other resources at your disposal as an individual.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: