Parties Weigh in on Canada's Digital Future In Tight Election Race

Report details positions on one of the foremost issues shaking up the polls this election

VANCOUVER, April 28 /CNW/ - Today, OpenMedia.ca published the results of its Digital Future Survey. The in-depth survey is backed by OpenMedia.ca's half-a-million strong supporter base. The goal of the study is to provide voters with a clear guide as to which parties will best deal with Canada's increasingly problematic Internet usage-based billing. The results give a snap shot of each parties' pro-Internet standings as well as an in-depth look at their digital policies.

*The full report can be found at http://openmedia.ca/survey
*A summary pulling out the highlights from the report can be found at the bottom of this release.

The major parties -- with the notable exception of the Conservatives -- have responded to the desire for pro-Internet commitments this election. Despite letters from over 20,000 Canadians in just the last two days demanding that they complete the Survey, the Conservative Party has remained silent.

While the Conservatives held back, the other parties made significant pro-Internet commitments, outlining how far they will go to make the Internet open and affordable, and stop Big Telecom from stifling the digital economy.

The Digital Future Survey dealt with the most popular issue on the Internet: the Internet itself. Internet pricing in Canada is increasingly out-of-step with global realities, and it regularly draws ire from Canadians. Canadians have taken a strong stand in favour of the open Internet: nearly half-a-million have signed OpenMedia.ca's petition calling for unmetered Internet access, making Internet openness a key election issue.

The pro-Internet community has shaken up politics this election by motivating youth and other traditional non-voters to become engaged advocates. In the face of this democratic resurgence, including pleas for pro-Internet commitments from nearly 50,000 Canadians, the Conservatives' silence is all the more striking. In the Internet age, parties need to prove themselves to be more, not less, willing to respond to demands for accountability and transparency from newly engaged citizens.

A Canadian participant on the OpenMedia.ca Facebook page said: "This is 100% the deciding factor for myself and several other of my 18-24 year old friends."

Report Highlights

Survey results reveal that, out of the major parties, the NDP would spend the most -- $500 million per year over four years -- to improve Internet access and penetration. In their response, the Liberal Party made special mention of a 15% tax credit they would grant to those who invest in Canada's digital economy. The Green Party is advocating a "superfund" to be allocated for municipalities to invest in broadband infrastructure, and the Bloc would put $900 million to broadband development.

The Digital Futures Survey was specifically designed to address underlying structural issues that have caused Canada to fall behind in the global digital economy. The NDP stated they would enact functional separation laws i.e. stimulating competition by breaking Big Telecom up into retail and wholesale divisions. The Liberals also said they are supportive of the idea. While neither the Green Party nor the Bloc addressed functional separation directly, the former called for the Competition Bureau to be more involved in CRTC rulings while the latter stated that they would support legislation that stimulates competition.

The Liberal Party stated that they oppose "anti-competitive" usage-based billing, likely referring to the imposition of the pricing regime onto independent ISPs. This appears to closely mirror the Conservative stance on usage-based billing: hold back from banning it outright, but prevent it from dominating the Internet service market. The Bloc and the NDP would prohibit UBB outright. The Green Party took a somewhat different stance, stating that they would call for reviews of all CRTC decisions regarding Internet billing.

About OpenMedia.ca

OpenMedia.ca is a national, non-partisan, non-profit public engagement organization working to advance and support an open and innovative communications system in Canada. Our primary goal is to increase public awareness and informed participation in Canadian media, cultural, information, and telecommunications policy formation.

About Stop The Meter

In October, Canadians were outraged by the news that the CRTC had decided to allow Bell and other big Internet service providers (ISPs) to impose new fees on independent ISPs - usage-based billing. Now every Internet user in Canada is likely to feel the sting of a less affordable Internet, and a less competitive Internet service market. Recognizing the importance of this issue, OpenMedia.ca launched the Stop The Meter campaign.

Since its inception, this multi-platform petition, based at http://www.StopTheMeter.ca and in French at http://openmedia.ca/compteur, has become a record breaker and a game changer. Over 485,000 names have now been added to the website, Facebook, Twitter, and in print.


SOURCE OpenMedia.ca

For further information:

Lindsey Pinto
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
778-238-7710
lindsey@openmedia.ca

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