Youth Policy Activism

On April 26, 2012

Leslie Regan Shade (2015).  “I Want My Internet! Young Women on the Politics of Usage-Based Billing.” In eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Theory and Policy Into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices. Eds. Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 411-434.

The digital policy literacy model was used to examine a case study of digital policy activism. Here  I looked at young women’s knowledge of infrastructure issues through activism against usage-based billing, a practice that allows internet service providers (ISPs) to calculate how much data their users upload or download to the internet, and to charge them according to their usage. Led by OpenMedia’s Stop the Meter campaign, criticism against UBB focused on the oligopolistic telecom market which disadvantages independent ISPs, and the high costs of internet access in Canada compared to other countries, exacerbating concerns about digital divides.  This chapter examines how young women engaged with the Stop the Meter campaign by using YouTube to speak out against UBB and for urging their viewers to sign OpenMedia’s online petition against UBB. The digital literacy model highlights how the young women displayed an awareness of the policy stakeholders, telecommunications ownership, and infrastructural constraints in the UBB debate. Further, the young women acknowledged the importance of the internet and robust public interest policies for Canadian identity and citizenship, seeing access to the internet as a basic right. However, in promoting the public interest in digital policy, a tension persists in perceiving users as digital citizens or as digital consumers.  This, I argue, may be a constructive dialogical space for young Canadians to further their knowledge of digital policies, to effectively intervene, and to shape policy.

Should broadband access be considered an essential service? Broadband and Community Access in Canada: A Canoe Trip Up North, Featuring a Veritable Cast of Characters….
A video-podcast available on Vimeo 

Media Studies MA students in Professor Leslie Shade’s Fall 2010 Media Policy course considered the issue of whether broadband access should be considered a basic service for all Canadians. They created a video-podcast exploring the issues, in light of the CRTC hearing hearings for 2010-43, “Obligation to serve and other matters” that took place in the Fall.

Roddy Doucet, a student in the class, commented, “With the decision to allow incumbents the right to charge higher rates for rural telephone lines and its continued reliance on market forces to achieve accessibility goals the CRTC demonstrates its lack of vision for a national broadband network that works to reduce boundaries and unify Canadians.

Our class research demonstrates that access to broadband, at fair and affordable prices, allows unique regionally-based small businesses to flourish, improves quality of life, and allows education and research to flow freely around the country and the world. Canadians look to our regulatory agencies to protect them against price-gouging and also shape the future of our communications networks and sadly the CRTC is failing us.”

The discourse over the state of Canada’s broadband infrastructure illustrates the contentious debates between industry, government, the CRTC and public interest groups over whether and if regulatory intervention can increase competition in the broadband sector. Dominant industry groups contend that too much regulation will merely stifle competition by restricting their ability to innovate and invest in established and emerging markets. Public interest groups argue that only government intervention, whether through a pro-active regulatory environment that requires incumbents to contribute to building out broadband in under-served and remote areas and/or a more fulsome funding structure for community broadband initiatives, can ensure and sustain wider broadband access for Canadians.