Net neutrality movement strengthening in Latin America

By
Thursday, September 8, 2011

Latin America could end up leading the world in terms of implementing network neutrality laws as there is already a strong movement in the region, José Huerta, spokesperson for Chilean net neutrality lobby group Neutralidad Sí, told BNamericas.

Neutralidad Sí was the driving force behind the movement that finally resulted in Chile becoming the first country in the world to approve a net neutrality law in July 2010.

Colombia built a requirement for net neutrality into its public services plan, approved in April with regulations pending; then in June this year the Netherlands followed Chile's example; and this week Argentina's San Luis province approved its own internet neutrality law.

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Huerta attended the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held in Trinidad and Tobago in August, and said net neutrality was a much talked about subject.

"The notion of net neutrality becoming part of legislation in different countries was a major topic. At the IGF, we proposed to the representatives of all of the Southern Cone countries that Latin America take on consistent positions on big issues like network neutrality, data protection and intellectual property," Huerta said.

"We have a number of countries in the Southern Cone that are already heavily involved in this, and I wouldn't be surprised that this continues to grow throughout the region," he added.

Though unfamiliar with the details of the net neutrality law in Argentina's San Luis province, Huerta said that there is a lot of interest in the country for clear rules and policies that protect consumer rights on the internet and that he would not be surprised if before long net neutrality is adopted on a national scale.

NET NEUTRALITY IN CHILE

Net neutrality has been in operation in Chile since March, after an amended version of regulation was approved.

The regulations were amended at the request of Neutralidad Sí, which believed some of the clauses did not represent the spirit of the law.

One sticking point was a clause of "previous disclosure," which appeared to allow ISPs to discriminate against certain content providing they stated their intentions in the terms and conditions of the contracts signed by users. In Huerta's opinion, this defeated the exercise's whole purpose.

Neutralidad Sí team members are also participating in another NGO called Meta, which is working with operators and the government to ensure that the law is interpreted correctly and that information for users is clear and standardized.

In October, Meta will launch a publicity campaign inviting users to educate themselves about their rights as internet consumers.

Operators in the meantime have been striving to comply with the first elements of the law, namely publishing clear details of what each plan involves and what restrictions, if any, apply.

Technical details of levels of internet speed are among the issues that must be clarified, as well as whether the capacity is shared or dedicated.

The government is also going to take measurements of the internet plans to check that operators are actually offering what they promise to the consumer.