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Top 6 ways we came together to save the Internet in 2014

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2014 was a banner year for OpenMedia. Our team grew substantially, we moved into new offices, 3D printed an anteater, rescued an air hockey table from the landfill, and… what else... Oh yeah, fought day-in-day-out to keep the Internet open, affordable and free from surveillance.

To celebrate our shared achievements over last year and get us ready for 2015, check out the top 6 OpenMedia moments from 2015:

1. We fought back against TPP secrecy

In April, we sent a hard-hitting message to TPP negotiators in Washington, D.C.

Our Stop The Secrecy light projection graced several iconic Washington buildings over the course of several nights, and our online petition was part of over 3 million TPP-focused actions.

Thanks to the Internet community speaking out, the TPP negotiations were delayed continuously over 2014. Decision-makers also took notice: U.S. Senator Ron Wyden spoke out against secrecy at the TPP:

“Too often, there is trade secrecy instead of trade transparency. Bringing the American people into full and open debates on trade agreements that have the effect of law is not too much to ask... [The agreement] must reflect the need for a free and open internet”

Finally, our own Meghan Sali delivered your voices to TPP negotiators in Washington DC - telling them that we’ll never stand for secrecy or any agreement that threatens the open Internet.

2. We launched a hard-hitting video against CSEC spying

The reckless activities of spy agency CSEC have become a critical issue for privacy advocates in Canada. Building off the successful video on C-13, OpenMedia worked with a talented local design volunteer (Dafne Melania) to produce a high-quality online video that makes CSECs spying activities tangible for everyday Canadians.

The video launch was a success with over 14,000 Canadians watching and sharing the video with their friends and social media contacts.

3. We launched a crowdsourced report on free expression.

October saw the long-awaited release of Our Digital Future: A Crowdsourced Agenda for Free Expression. The report was the result of months of consultations with artists, Internet users entrepreneurs, innovators and copyright experts. Over forty thousand people (!) used our innovative drag-and-drop tool to help us create three recommendations for sharing and collaborating online in the 21st century, and overall three hundred thousand Internet users contributed to this project.

The report made huge waves, and It’s Our Future, a multi-media short film that we made with UnaLuma productions based on the recommendations was viewed over 8,000 times on Youtube.

4. Warrantless spying on private phone and Internet records got the boot at the Supreme Court

In late 2013, despite thousands of Canadians speaking out for greater protections for our privacy, Peter MacKay and the government introduced Bill C-13 -- a law that would grant Canadian telecoms immunity for handing your private information over to the government. This piece of legislation covered a loophole for a practice that we discovered had already been occurring in record numbers - Canadians’ private information was making its way into government hands at the rate of once every 27 seconds.

Then, in June, the Supreme Court handed down the R. v. Spencer decision which declared that Canadians’ telecom records should not be handed over to government agencies without a signed court order. This was a huge win that our community fought hard for. Despite Bill C-13 eventually being rammed through the House of Commons, this win means that we still enjoy some basic safeguards for our sensitive online information. We’ll be keeping up the fight to overturn the other reckless aspects of this legislation throughout 2015.

Given that this is an election year, we thought that Peter MacKay’s constituents might be interested in knowing how hard he was pushing for these privacy-invading laws, so we launched this hard-hitting ad on the radio in his home riding of Central Nova. Check it out on SoundCloud at: https://soundcloud.com/openmedia-ca/tell-peter-mackay-to-withdraw-bill-c-13 and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

5. We fought for Net Neutrality and got big wins

We’re not going to blow smoke here - initially, things did not look good for net neutrality in 2014. Big Telecom was fighting harder than ever for the right to build Internet slow lanes and throw all your favourite websites into them if they didn’t cough up the dough. The FCC caved on strong Net Neutrality rules, allowing Verizon to force Netflix to pay extra for access to its customers.

In a way that we’ve never seen before, the Internet came together, fought back, and forced the issue back onto the table. Commenters on the FCC’s website broke the thread dedicated to net neutrality, submitting the most comments on an FCC docket in history and putting Janet Jackson’s “nipplegate” record to bed: over 3.7 million in total.

We slapped a suit on our Access campaigner Josh Tabish and shipped him off to Washington, D.C. to meet with senior White House officials alongside over two dozen leading Internet freedom groups to talk about net neutrality. Josh delivered the voices of OpenMedia supporters, and, lo and behold, a short while later President Obama spoke out against the Internet Slow Lane in the strongest way possible.

Now, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has been speaking out in favor of bringing broadband services under Title II legislation -- securing net neutrality and burying the Internet slow lane.

Meanwhile, in Canada, OpenMedia continued to support a complaint made to the CRTC by a concerned citizen named Ben Klass. The complaint claimed that Bell was discriminating against competing apps and services, such as Netflix. The markup is estimated at 800 per cent.

To support this effort, OpenMedia produced tons of content and an online petition to show that Canadians support net neutrality. OpenMedia has also put an official intervention into the CRTC proceeding with the help of our lawyers at CIPPIC.

6. We were all up in the CRTC

CRTC commissioners got to know us and our community very well in 2014. Over 20,000 Canadians participated in “Let’s Talk TV’ meetups both online and offline about the future of TV services in Canada. We hand-delivered your voices through the Connecting Canadians: The Future of TV is the Internet report.

OpenMedia.ca also built the definitive case for opening Canada’s wireless networks to lower prices for all Canadians. We also supported community member Ben Klass presented about Big Telecom blocking affordable mobile phone and Internet options for Canadians. Check out his presentation here.

Finally, in November, our own Josh Tabish and Cynthia Khoo sat down at a CRTC hearing on the future of independent Internet service providers in Canada, and presented your comments in favour of helping indie Internet services to succeed. Check out the video highlights of Josh and Cynthia’s presentation here. A bunch of community members showed up and cheered Josh and Cynthia on. We’re not certain, but as far as we could tell the commissioners had literally never heard applause during a CRTC meeting before so there’s another first for you.

That’s all great, but what’s next?

Good question. 2015 has already seen your OpenMedia team spring back into action. We’ve been fighting U.S. copyright bullies, letting you know about Shaw’s unfair price hikes on new, slower Internet packages, and spreading the word about pressure Netflix has been receiving to crack down on VPN users.

It’s already been a busy month and there’s plenty more on the way. Keep watching this space for some big upcoming things: we’ll be releasing a crowdsourced report on privacy rights in Canada in the near future, giving a big (hopefully) final push to stop Internet slow lanes once and for all, and fighting to keep free expression the norm online around the world. An even better way to keep up with developments over the next year is to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and tumblr -- we post regularly to these social media platforms and tend to break news there first.

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