Neutrality: understand why your internet can get more expensive
By Dane Avanzi
The great boom of the internet occurred in the early 1990s, with the standardization of the hardware and software industries that started to use the TCP / IP protocol to exchange information on the WEB. This standardization allowed the creation of thousands of standard addresses such as IPV4, IPV6, among others, and enabled the exponential growth of the world wide web that we know today.
It is here that the concept of neutrality is questioned by the respective segments of the industries that today make up the internet ecosystem. If companies with an interest in the Internet used to be limited to manufacturers of hardware, software and telephone operators, today, in addition to these, there are several other companies that were born during the evolution of the Internet, such as Google, Netflix, Facebook, Yahoo , among others, and also the entire chain of multimedia content providers, newspapers, magazines, TVs and record companies.
But, after all, what is this neutrality? Neutrality is the fundamental principle of the internet that gives equal priority to the transport of packages (information) on the network. This equality, which previously existed because the ecosystem was organized to carry small amounts of information, has now evolved. Operators, who are increasingly losing revenue to applications that are capable of transmitting voice and data at very low cost, want to review the charging rules to adapt the new reality to their costs.
The matter has been the subject of legal fights in the USA, and in 2017 the FCC – Federal Communications Commission, a body similar to Anatel in Brazil, decided that operators could charge for type of content, provided the consumer was properly informed. When Brazil published Law 12.965 / 14, it defined neutrality as a basic principle, defining rules for privacy protection, responsibility for publishing content and duties of telephone operators, in order to keep a record of users’ access for six months and expressly prohibiting the transmission of content to be made by type of media that distinguishes between video packages, music, e-mails, etc.
If, on the one hand, access to information is a fundamental asset for human beings, given that we live in the Information Society, on the other, operators need investments to maintain the system with the minimum of quality. Neutrality, in this sense, has produced a paradoxical situation in which a first class ticket is costing the same price as an economy class ticket. This disparity occurs because technically transporting a video package is much more expensive than transporting a text package.
Just as we have to rethink our relationship with water, electricity and other resources, we also have to think about our relationship with the internet, which in large part needs a scarce, finite and non-renewable resource: the radioelectric spectrum. The discussion is even more necessary considering that the internet is present in three out of every four households in the country. According to data from PNAD Continuous ICT 2017 from IBGE, the percentage of Internet use in households rose from 69.3% to 74.9%. Another important fact is that the percentage of people aged 10 and over who accessed the Internet via cell phone increased from 94.6% to 97.0%, also in this period, and the share that used television for this purpose rose from 11 , 3% to 16.3%. This technology has been responsible for democratizing access to information in recent decades, being an important tool for social and educational promotion.