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OpenMedia Empowers Canada to Defend Net Neutrality
By Alisha Pillay
OpenMedia is an award-winning civic engagement organization that works to keep the internet “open, affordable and surveillance-free”. Founded in 2008 by FCAT alum Steve Anderson, Steve’s interest in the political economy of the internet was sparked early on in his undergraduate career.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in Communication at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), Steve felt compelled to create a network that defends an “open internet”. Starting off by developing a website that aggregated independent news from around the world, Steve’s website slowly transformed into a non-profit organization that garnered considerable public interest. This transformation was due largely in part to reports that internet service providers (ISP’s) were engaged in discussions that threatened net neutrality. In response, Steve used his website to inform the public about the harms of allowing ISP’s to monopolize the internet.
So what exactly is net neutrality and why is it important?
Net neutrality is the concept that all content on the internet is easily accessible. Open access has resulted in all kinds of innovation. By enabling large ISP’s control over the internet, content producers face having to pay higher rates for better visibility and faster load times. This kind of control would result in restricted access to a wide range of services and ideas - a huge impediment to societal progression. In other words, we’d be weaving ourselves a very tangled web. Keen to expand his knowledge on the subject matter, Steve enrolled at Simon Fraser University (SFU) to start a master’s degree in Communication.
Connected with the local community, Steve partnered with SFU professor Robert Hackett to organize a workshop at a conference called “20 Years of Propaganda”. A crucial step in the development of OpenMedia, this was Steve’s first opportunity to raise the idea of developing an organization that advocates for an open internet. With stakeholders like the Council of Canadians and other various other community groups in attendance, Steve rallied the support he needed to move forward with his vision.
OpenMedia’s first campaign took place at a public hearing hosted by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in 2008. "The Diversity of Voices" hearing marked the launch of a network of organizations and people that would evolve into OpenMedia. Since then, OpenMedia has accrued an immense amount of public support as they fight for what they refer to as the “three pillars of internet freedom”: access, free expression and privacy. With offices in Vancouver and London UK, this local NGO is rewiring the way we think about online freedom.
For more information or tips on how to support OpenMedia, please visit www.openmedia.org.
Also, check out Steve's most recent project New/Mode - a social enterprise whose mission is to "enable democratic participation in the digital age".