Amid the usual hand-wringing over the apathy of the politically disenchanted youth, a simple question pops to mind: what party will stand for Canada’s geeks?
Yes, I know: the NDP has spoken up for Net Neutrality, the Liberals have their Digital Economy Strategy, and Tony Clement is good at Twitter. Seeing digital issues included in party platforms may gratify tech policy geeks like me, but we’re not where the real numbers are at. Only some geeks care about net neutrality and rural broadband. All geeks care about download speeds, cell phone bills, and bandwidth caps. And these geeks are legion.
Let’s consider their numbers: at its height, almost 100,000 Canadians were members of Michael Geist’s Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook Group. Over 482,000 Canadians have signed SaveOrNet.ca’s Stop The Meter petition. These efforts aren’t just the most popular Canadian political causes on the Internet- they’re among the most popular Canadian political causes anywhere. A massive number of Canadians are angry over consumer tech issues, and their votes are up for grabs.
Having spent years in dialogue with the geeks who care passionately about this stuff, I can tell you this: they pledge fealty to no party. Are they apolitical? Many are, in the sense that on the spectrum of left to right, they’d rather play Quake. Those who do affiliate play for all sides: you’ll find crypto-anarchists, neo–libertarians, Pirate Partiers, and all manner of random among their kind. Despite the size of this technographic, they have yet to make a mark on the political map, because generally speaking- they don’t vote. But they would.
The first party to promise the geeks of Canada an absolute end to Usage Based Billing of any kind, a crackdown on unfair billing practices in the mobile industry, accountability on advertised download speeds, and amnesty for non-commercial filesharing stands to take every college-town riding in the country.