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Last week I attended the First Internet Forum in Brazil, and I was surprised to see a representative of SindiTelebrasil (Brazilian Telcos Syndicate) reading a statement in one of the debate halls (at the Track 5 debate, where net neutrality was one of the themes), asking for some flexibility on the regulatory net neutrality definition in Brazil. The content of the text (or part of it – sorry, in Brazilian Portuguese only) can be found here.

They are basically stating that the concept of net neutrality to be adopted in Brazil (at ANATEL, the agency that regulates the Telcos in Brazil, using a ‘trap’ already inserted by the Syndicate inside the “Civil Rights Framework for Internet in Brazil”), need to be  expanded to allow “… providers to offer customized services that meet specific consumer profiles and adopt measures to manage traffic and differentiation, including those involving differentiation of costs, prices and prioritization by type of traffic. ”

It may sound too much technical and simple, but it can impact a lot the life and pocket of every Brazilian Internet user, and I’ll explain why.

In 2009, the Internet Management Committee in Brazil (CGI.br) approved and published a resolution which defines the “Principles for the Internet Governance and Use in Brazil. ” The resolution has 10 points to be considered as the basis for Internet governance in our country, and the item 6 of the document talks about Net Neutrality:

6. Net neutrality
Traffic filtering or traffic privileges should cover only technical and ethical criteria, not being acceptable political, commercial, religious, cultural or any other form of discrimination or favoritism.

Explaining the matter in a simplified way, imagine that the Internet is a great road through which several vehicles are running, each one carrying a piece of a load between two points. The principle adopted by the CGI.br says that “technical and ethical criteria” should be used to control the flow of traffic, not allowing any “political, commercial, religious, cultural or any other form of discrimination or favoritism” to be applied.

If the CGI.br principles are followed, the data traffic on the Internet will be regulated much like vehicular traffic on the roads, where technical and ethical criteria are used to “give preference” to the traffic of certain types of vehicles (such as emergency vehicles). This is the principle of equality in the treatment of packets.

On the Internet, rather than loaded vehicles, we have data packets carrying application data we use in everyday life, such as web pages, images, audio and video, which are necessary for us to use services such as VoIP (Skype), video (YouTube, Netflix and similar services), P2P traffic (like torrents) and everything else we use in day by day activities on our computers and phones.

CGI.br’s proposal simply asks that the flow control of data is done by technical and ethical criteria, such as traffic prioritization to audio and video, as any delay in delivery of these packages impacts a lot the user experience when using the services.

What SindiTelebrasil want is the opposite. They want rules that allow them to apply “other criteria” to control the data flow, allowing them to charge the consumer according to the type of use (and services) he uses on the network. Can you imagine where wh may go with that ?

If we do nothing to fight against their proposal - and they have a huge influence power in their hands – we will probably see in a few more months the Brazilian Internet fragmented, according to the purchasing power of the Internet users. We will have the Internet “for the rich” (with audio, video and P2P networks) and Internet “for the poor” (limited to web pages and probably some images too)… I will not even mention the ‘total lack of interest’ of the telco companies to see services like Skype working well in Brazil or of the cable TV operators (who also sell broadband connections) to see services like Netflix and similar ones coming to full swing in Brazil, offering an inexpensive alternative to expensive pay TV offerings that we have here.

The telcos justify their request, saying that without this ‘regulation’, the Brazilian Internet will collapse and that if everyone decide to use all the band that they are selling, the Brazilian Internet goes down… I’m here wondering whether I am alone in finding this a huge absurd. As one friend of mine said, once again they want to privatize profits and socialize losses.

It is worth noting that the struggle of the moment would be to force the telcos to deliver the real Internet bandwidth they are selling to us, and you may be impressed because, in most ‘Broadband’ contracts of in Brazil, the ‘guaranteed’ bandwidth is 10% of the contracted bandwidth. Yes, right now we may have people fooling you selling a 2 Mbps connection and delivering only 200 Kbps.

There are several activist groups in Brazil that are articulating themselves to defend our rights against this attack to our freedom in the Internet (yes, the telcos may decide that you will no longer use Skype, watch videos or use P2P networks and you will not be able to do anything about that), and so I invite you to look for more information on Internet user groups like the Mega Nao and find out how you can help to, at least, maintain the Brazilian Internet as it is. If not for yourself, do it for your kids, so that in the future they may have an Internet similar to the one you had and brought you here.

I also bet that the same discussion is under the legislative and regulatory houses on you country, so you better hurry up !

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