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Our digital Polar Bear Swim for the open Internet

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Vancouver Polar Bear Swim

No sooner had the egg nog passed its expiration date in our fridges than your OpenMedia team were called back to action to protect the open Internet. As soon as January struck, a litany of new threats to the Internet cropped up and we dashed back to our fog-enshrouded office to respond. No rest for the wicked, I suppose, though our livers will probably thank us for the break from our revelry.

On January 3rd, we learned that, under pressure from big media dinosaurs, Netflix had plans to start blocking Canadian subscribers from using VPN services to watch material only available in the U.S. and other countries. Now, Netflix got us through many a rough post-holiday party morning, so we’re just not having that. No one bullies my hangover remedy. 

Photo by Margarita Banting via Flickr

Next, rumours that Shaw cable planned to increase prices for now slower Internet service proved to be all too true. Happy freaking new year, Canada. So we took to social media and our website, letting our community know about Shaw’s new price-gouging scheme - and you guys responded in a ringing chorus to challenge any Auld Lang Syne sing-along to which I’ve been party. Here’s what Facebook follower Arsham had to say:

“Shaw claims it's cuz Canadians will use 3x more Internet in the next 3 years. Never mind the fact that fiber switches and routers will be 1/4 the price per port of today and there's oodles of dark fiber available. What makes me the most angry is how Shaw insults our intelligence.”

But apparently Shaw’s gluttony for price-gouging and punishment knows no bounds, because on January 8 it was revealed that they decided to push indie ISPs like Teksavvy and Distributel around, by tacking an 88 per cent price increase onto the already ridiculous fees they charge for access to their networks. Shaw is trying to force indies into overcharging their customers to the degree that the big networks already do and drive them into irrelevancy. Classy.

On Thursday we also learned that Big Media giants were already engaging in wide-scale abuse of new changes to Canada’s unique notice-and-notice copyright rules. Notice-and-notice has been lauded world-wide as a forward-thinking approach to copyright issues, since it injects due process back into dispute resolutions. Rights-holders can issue a notice to a purported copyright infringer, and the accused can then fight the notice or take down the material at their own discretion. Elsewhere, the mere accusation of a copyright violation results in immediate takedown of material, forcing ISPs and websites to police the Internet and giving far too much indiscriminate power to the accuser.

What changed about Canada’s notice-and-notice law? Not a whole lot, except that ISPs are now obliged to pass notices of copyright violation onto their subscribers. You’d think this nod towards big media rights holders would make their hearts grow three times as big, but the spirit of giving has waned, apparently. Well, in keeping with their trolling roots, some “rights holders” (often shell companies that represent media empires, not the actual rights holders themselves) have been leveling ridiculous threats at downloaders, claiming that they will be sued for up to $150,000 and get kicked off of the Internet, even though the new law has no such provisions. Classier still.

All of these developments proved grist for our growing and nimble community. Our blog posts have been going gangbusters on reddit. Our share images have been liked and shared thousands of times on Facebook -- in fact this was the one of the busiest social media weeks in OpenMedia’s history. Community member Le Pixel Solitaire even translated one into French for us. Give them a share below if you haven’t already - the more people who spread the word, the more effective we can be:

Facebook Twitter GooglePlus

Facebook Twitter GooglePlus


We Vancouverites have a new year’s tradition -- the Polar Bear Swim -- in which hungover nutcases strip down and dash into the frigid waters of English Bay on the first of January to shake off the December lethargy and ready the senses for a new year of challenges. This first week of Internet madness has been our digital Polar Bear Swim, so as we shake off the bracing drips, boil up some hot coffee, and dust our keyboards off, we have one thing to say: Bring it on, 2015.

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