On October 14th, 2014 The Internet Rights Charter prepared by the Study Committee promoted by the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Laura Boldrini and led by the jurist Stefano Rodotà, was presented to Montecitorio.
The document aims to promote the citizens’ rights online and to defend them against possible government and market impositions.
The Internet Rights Charter comprises fourteen articles based on the rights of digital citizenship, from the right to privacy to the right of access to education and from the right to be forgotten to the neutrality of the net.
In particular, with regard to the last point, which is currently the subject of much debate, the Internet Rights Charter declares its position by specifying that “the right of access to the web must be on an equal footing, with procedures which are both technologically appropriate and updated and capable of eliminating all obstacles of an economic and social nature.” As is well known, the aim of the principle of neutrality of the net is to prevent telecommunications oligopolies from creating fast tracks for chargeable services and governments from preventing gaining access to information.
The document was submitted by the Committee in draft form and will be the subject of a public consultation open to comments and proposals from the public as from October 27th. To examine the 14 articles and for further information on the consultation, please go to the relevant page on the website of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
On the 22nd of April 2014 the Marco Civil, the Brazilian “Internet Constitution”, was granted final approval by the Brazilian Senate. The law, which regulates the rights and obligations of network users, was signed by President Dilma Rousseff at the opening of the “NetMundial” conference, a two day event dedicated to worldwide network governance.
After a work project lasting five years the regulations protecting privacy, freedom of expression and net neutrality were approved in Sao Paolo. With specific regard to net neutrality, the Brazilian Internet Constitution is considered by civil liberty activists as a revolutionary document in Internet history. The regulations will in fact prevent telecommunication companies from setting up preferential channels to band access as a prerogative of some services and to the detriment of others, as is an emerging trend in the business strategies of connectivity providers worldwide.
The law process speeded up after Edward Snowden’s revelations from which it emerged that the United States were monitoring President Rousseff’s communications.
However, as regards datagate, the Brazilian law proves to be less effective on comparison with its first formulation.
In fact one of the most contested innovations contained in the bill, namely the idea of preventing the storage of Brazilian citizens’ data on servers located abroad, was deleted from the main body of the regulation before Senate approval.
By virtue of the removal of the above mentioned proposal, another article of the regulations has been strengthened, which provides that companies that collect user data generated in Brazil must submit to the Brazilian government regulations on Data Protection, regardless of the location of the servers where the information is stored.
The Marco Civil also contains provisions against the attribution of liability to intermediaries, formalizing that providers are not responsible for the content published online by users, a hotly contested topic for years in Europe but on which Brazil had not yet legislated.
Under the new legislation, service providers will only be liable for third party content if they fail to ensure the removal of material pursuant to a court order.
As we have read in the press, the moment of the President’s signature was accompanied by applause and clamour from the NetMundial audience which was made up of experts and representatives of the major worldwide network companies.
In a speech which briefly preceded Rouseff’s signature, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, expressed the hope that other governments would follow Brazil’s example and join together in signing the paper described as a wonderful example of how governments can play a positive role in the advancement of civil rights on the Internet and in maintaining an open network.
Following the President’s speech, the European Commissioner Neelie Kroes also expressed her enthusiasm and defined the Marco Civil as “real cause for celebration”.
The widespread use of broadband connection wireless devices, from smartphones to Internet keys, has highlighted the ISPs’ need to turn to rational data traffic management techniques to solve problems of congestion on mobile networks.
In fact, the level of network congestion is constantly rising. In the first quarter of 2010, 3G data traffic reached a level of 24,743 terabytes, which was 101% more than the same period the previous year.
Clearly the quantity of network resources used by each customer varies in relation to the different services offered by each particular mobile network. Of the various applications, file sharing with p2p technology and VoIP calls, such as for example those made with Skype, have been identified as those activities which make the greatest drain on network resources.
Therefore to avoid network congestion, several mobile operators have introduced new techniques aimed at limiting access to P2P and VoIP services to their own customers who are obliged to pay for these particular services, whereas other operators still allow their customers free access to these services. These different approaches have modified the traditional ecosystem of the network, effectively creating preferential access to the resources and modifying the main economic players’ traditional ways of interacting.
The Italian Communication Regulatory Authority (AGCOM) has recently published an investigation into these aspects, which in line with what has already been produced by other national Regulatory Authorities, analyzes different aspects of traffic management from the view point of safeguarding competition and the consumer and of the principles of neutrality and freedom of the network.
In the last few days public consultation of the AGCOM investigation has started with the aim of obtaining further evaluations and information from stakeholders regarding the new technical and commercial approaches which affect the principle of net neutrality, the organizational make up of the sector, safeguards for consumer protection and, more generally, possible future regulatory actions.
Among the aspects which have already emerged as priorities in the international debate are transparency of information and the definition of instruments for safeguarding the consumer, who must be able to make his choices in full awareness when using VoIP and P2P mobile services and more in general, when using new mobile services.
However, it has also emerged from the investigation that operators also have potential problems with VoIP. In fact VoIP mobile uses Internet Protocol which makes it possible to make voice calls through terminals where software provided by the net operators has been installed (so-called VoIP managed), or which has been provided by independent content providers (so-called VoIP unmanaged), such as Skype for example.
Yet, the entry of third party content providers risks having a negative impact on operators’ turnover in that the availability of mobile VoIP services allows the end user to substitute traditional voice and text services with data networks.
AGCOM aims to identify the forms and methods that regulatory actions might take through the use of public consultation, in compliance with the principle of adequacy, necessity and the close connection between the action and the final aims.