160. Halifax Internet Town Hall
By Andrew D. Wright
Privacy on the Internet. Net Neutrality. Copyright law and Digital Rights
Management. The Digital Divide.
These are four of the hottest topics on the Internet. Governments around
the world have been passing laws determining what people can and can't do
online. Internet access is no longer something that can be taken for
granted. Change is coming, but what will be driving it?
At 7 PM, Monday, October 26th, 2009 the Chebucto Community Net and the
Dalhousie Student Union will be hosting a public Internet Town Hall
meeting in the McInnes Room of the Dalhousie Student
Union Building, 6136 University Avenue in Halifax called "Who is Shaping
Your Digital Future?"
This is the only meeting of its kind in Atlantic Canada, one in a loosely
organized series of such meetings being held across the country. It's your
chance to come out and hear about these issues from the experts and let
your voice be heard. Admission is free and the general public is welcome.
The Digital Divide is the reason that this column and the Chebucto
Community Net exist. It's the idea that everyone should have access to the
tools of communication.
Whose child will do better in school, the one with home access to the
Internet or the one waiting for limited time at a public terminal? The
Digital Divide used to be about simply getting any Internet access, and to
some degree it still is.
These days it's become more of an issue of who can afford access and what
price do they have to pay for it? Senior citizens, people on assistance or
disability and low income families are some of the folks who have to make
sacrifices in their lives to get online. For some, even public access is
not an option and they are getting left behind.
Net Neutrality is the idea that corporations who own parts of the Internet
backbone should have to play fair with network traffic. They should not be
able to make some traffic faster and other traffic slower. They should not
be able to redirect traffic and make some web destinations they control
work better while other web destinations they may not like don't work as
Privacy is something that we Canadians have largely taken for granted. In
the USA and in the UK there essentially is no online privacy. In the UK
the government can jail you for refusing to give them your private
encryption keys. You are not allowed to keep anything secret from them if
they want to know it. In the USA, data can be seized any time it crosses
their border, without any further notice. The Canadian government may soon
bring in similar laws.
Of all the hot-button Internet issues, Copyright and Digital Rights
Management are among the most contentious. What is fair use? When should
rights expire? Is the strict enforcement of copyright ultimately damaging
to our culture and our society?
These are heavyweight questions that will be shaping all our lives in the
years to come. Canada's time as a net "safe harbour" may be drawing to a
The Internet Town Hall will be hosted by CBC's Costas Halavrezos.
The keynote speaker will be Laura Murray, co-author of "Canadian
Copyright: A Citizen's Guide".
Topic speakers include David Fraser, Chair of McInnes Cooper's Privacy
Practice Group; Dalhousie Philosophy Professor Darren Abramson; Terry
Dalton, Chair of ACORN, the Atlantic Canada Organization of Research
Networks and me, Andrew D. Wright, from the Chebucto Community Net.
Please come out and make your voice heard. There will be people listening.
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Originally published 14 October 2009