Net Neutrality

I have always imagined the internet as a major highway of information, one that can transport both large trucks and small vehicles. Net neutrality, considered one of the most basic rights for users and businesses, keeps that information highway from providing second tiers or lanes for those who pay, or for partners of the infrastructure owners.

However, the United States, through the Federal Communications Commission, reversed the 2015 regulations that were put in place by the former administration of Barack Obama and which protected equal conditions for all internet services.

Now telecommunications companies will be able to block or reduce the speed of specific content and services if they wish, casually chalking it up to competitiveness. In other words, it will let some services or websites travel on that upper floor so their content loads much faster than others.

This not only makes it easier for providers to charge for increasing download speed and disadvantages new or independent platforms that do not have the resources to invest in the higher tier of service, but it could also be used as a measure of censorship both for large media as well as content and services.

As one possibility, and I hope it never comes true, an alliance between a telecommunications company associated with a political party, or if we are really being paranoid, with Donald Trump, could reduce the download speed of publications that critique the current U.S. presidency, such as The New York Times or The Washington Post, but benefit other media sources that have an editorial line tied to the Trump administration. The same model could also apply to platforms that have revealed information such as WikiLeaks.

And Mexico? Net neutrality was established under Article 145, reforming the Telecommunications Law in 2014. Nevertheless, according to the Network in Defense of Digital Rights or R3D, the Federal Telecommunications Institute has not issued any guidelines or regulations with which companies must comply.

A report by R3D in 2015 showed practices that are contrary to neutrality in Mexico, such as blocking content, throttling (intentional acceleration or deceleration of a service by an internet service provider), and toll-free internet (a practice where a telecommunications company does not charge end-users on limited data plans for data used by certain applications or services on its networks).

This toll-free internet is precisely one of the advantages ISPs promote for not supporting net neutrality. If you have a data plan, many companies offer packages that include unlimited use of Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter. However, this places other social networks or services at a disadvantage, since users start to use services that have unlimited use, not ones that are excluded.

It also leads to practices like those R3D exposed with regard to the site Hipertextual which took place in 2000 when the company Telmex tried to block Skype calls because they were seen as competition for the company’s telephone service.

Because of this, it is important for Mexico to establish adequate guidelines that benefit users, without restricting internet usage, and create and maintain the same free space that has existed since the internet’s inception.

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