Canada May Be The Last Bastion of a Free Internet

Let’s hope it stays that way

As the FCC in the U.S. threatens to dismantle net neutrality, the Independent reports the in the U.K. Theresa May may just censor the whole damn thing. This is not good. If there is one thing that is essential to the free exercise of democracy to innovation to even the functioning of a civil society; it’s a free and open internet.

A free and open internet is essential for democracy, innovation, and society

Yes, undoubtedly, a free and open internet has scores of problems — child exploitation, crime, hate, kitten memes that won’t end — but without it the consequences are more dire. Regardless of where you fall on the Wikileaks-Chelsea Manning-Edward Snowden issues, a free and open internet helped expose some very bad things governments were doing. Things that weren’t just distasteful, but illegal. Revelations about Trump and his misdeeds come to light through the internet. Just as fake news helped bring him to power.

Consider how the internet fueled the Arab Spring. Consider how reports uploaded from far corners of the planet help us understand it better and help those in need. When governments are doing bad things, it’s the internet that brings the news to the world. It’s the internet that helps reunite families separated by war and famine.

It is the internet that gives people a voice and the ear of leaders.

You can’t have all the good of the internet without the bad. We’d like to get there. We strive to get there, but ironically, only a free and open internet will help us achieve that.

No internet, less innovation

My life, my career, has been built on internet innovations. From ARPANET that I uised to transfer my thesis data to NOAA to websites to collaboration tools to blogs. The ability to quickly connect and share information around the world fuels innovation. Not just an enabler — fuel. The internet powers data analysis. Stores the data. Connects minds around the world. Connects ideas together to form the next amazing thing. We sit at machines connected to so much information and so many tools to create that our minds don’t know where to start first.

But you know this already. You’re reading this on the internet. You’ve benefited from the internet probably a hundred ways since you got up this morning.

This post is not for you. This post is for our leaders.

It’s not perfect, but we have to protect it

Internet access in Canada is pretty good. Not great, but good. It’s more expensive, especially for mobile devices, than most of the world. Home internet isn’t nearly as fast or affordable as it should be. Yeah content barriers suck. Copyright rules make it hard or impossible to consume all of the content we want. However, we can consume content freely. We can share our ideas and opinions freely. We can get to dark corners of the internet that maybe we shouldn’t. But, no one is checking or censoring our net. Throttles aren’t in place. All players are equal. Good and bad, this is how the internet was intended to work.

And there hasn’t been a peep from the government about messing with it.

And for that we need to be thankful.

During a strike Telus got it’s wrists’ slapped for trying to block content from it’s networks. That didn’t end well for them. The government made it clear to telcos that they are common carriers. They don’t get to pick and choose what travels over their networks or how quickly.

That’s how we roll in Canada. We believe the cost to our freedoms is far to high to mess with the internet.

Let’s remind our leaders of this

By the time you’re reading this post, I will have emailed a link to this post to my MP, the Minister of Science, the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

This is not a protest. This isn’t an angry letter screaming at them to change things. This is a statement that as Canadians we appreciate our government keeping the internet free and open. For all its ills and scum, a free internet is far better than a closed and throttled one.

An internet where you can speak your mind. Where you can build the next great thing. Where you can write a post on Medium and then send it to your representatives letting them know how you feel about an issue.

Find your MP send them a note. Maybe send them a link to this post if you like. As Canadians this is moment when our leaders need to know that we want to keep our free and open internet. We believe it’s essential to democracy, innovation, and society.

We believe they ought to know.

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