You can measure the strength of a country’s democracy by how neutral its internet access is
Ajit Pai, the former Verizon mouthpiece and now, sadly, director of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a plan to end internet neutrality and the internet as we know it, and fulfilling our worst fears. Pai knows who is masters are, and is willing to carry out their wishes at any cost.
Since its inception, the internet has been neutral, and that is what defines it: a place where good ideas could prosper, regardless of who was behind them, a place where one click is the same as another, one bit is equal to another and arrives at its destination at the speed the user has contracted, and does not depend on preferential agreements that privilege some and penalize others. Sure, it’s possible to improve transmission, you can work on the latency, you can make peering agreements, but they are available to everybody and are not part of a deal that results in winners and losers.
How will the Internet change if the laws currently protecting net neutrality are eliminated? Yesterday’s Comcast tweet, shown above, in which the company claims it will never block or restrict anyone’s traffic, is an insult to our intelligence: that is precisely what it intends to do, so as to generate more income by selling privileged access and faster channels to those who can afford them, as they already do with their zero-rating agreements. The credibility of a telecommunications company today is absolutely nil in that regard. Never, under any circumstances, trust a company when it says it will act in everybody’s interests. The claim that protecting net neutrality is somehow artificial, dangerous or against the free market is simply an excuse to turn the internet into what cable television has become. And of course it is no coincidence that it is precisely the Trump administration that is obsessed with controlling access to the internet.
Protecting internet neutrality is fundamental to protecting innovation, the ability of the internet to generate and develop new ideas based on their real worth, rather than being squeezed out through deals that will give others privileged access. Without net neutrality, we will see internet in packages priced according to their use, operators capable of deciding which competitors succeed and which do not, and the possibility of companies creating their own services and privileging them over those of third parties. Forget about what Comcast says, they have never been trustworthy anyway: it is just a matter of time.
We must never forget that we have the right to receive and generate data traffic that has not been manipulated, modified, blocked, diverted, prioritized or delayed depending on the type of content, the protocol, the application used, the origin or destination of communication, or any other consideration. All traffic should be treated as private and therefore, secret and should only be able to be sequestered, spied, traced, filed, or analyzed with a court order, and in no case be subject to censorship or the administrative hijacking of content, just like any other private correspondence or communication. To deny this principle is to deny the internet.
But the worst part of this attempt to end internet neutrality is the blatant disregard for the thousands of messages sent by people demanding the importance of a free, open internet and protesting the misuse of laws created to further certain business or political interests. Internet neutrality has become the barometer that measures the health of a democracy. Some of the most powerful countries in the world are either authoritarian states, like China, or are corrupt democracies like Russia, or are in the hands of populist governments capable of just about anything, as is the case with the United States under Donald Trump. If we lose the battle for internet neutrality then its potential to be a vehicle for change, a force capable of renewing society, will be severely restricted.
(En español, aquí)