Protests Mount Against Mexico's Proposed Telecommunications Law, Which Would Bring In Censorship, Allow Real-time Surveillance And Kill Net Neutrality
from the toxic-mix dept
Many people will be familiar with the name Carlos Slim as intermittently the richest person in the world, generally vying with Bill Gates for that title. Some will probably be aware that his huge fortune -- currently listed as $69.67 billion in his Wikipedia entry -- is derived from a business empire based on telecommunications. But as this article in the Los Angeles Times points out, ordinary Mexicans have paid a high price for his success -- literally:
telephone service, both land-line and cellular, is dominated by companies owned by Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, one of the world's richest men, who has grown his businesses throughout Latin America. That means Mexicans pay some of the world's highest prices for some of the spottiest phone service.
Nor is that the only sector in Mexico where business power is highly concentrated:
For years, most of Mexican television has been dominated by a single company, Televisa, the largest broadcaster in the Spanish-speaking world. (Most of the rest is controlled by another single company, TV Azteca.)
On the face of it then, a new Mexican telecoms law that aims to loosen the grip of those dominant companies should be a good thing. But increasingly people are worried that its bad elements may outweigh the good, as Global Voices explains:
Billed as an effort to break up Mexico's notorious telecommunications and broadcast monopolies, the law covers a broad range of electronic communications issues -- and treads heavily in human rights territory. At the behest of the "competent" authorities, the law authorizes telecommunications companies to "block, inhibit, or eliminate" communications services "at critical moments for public and national security." The law also authorizes Internet service providers to offer service packages that "respond to market demands" and differentiating in "capacity, speed, and quality" -- a measure that could preclude protections for net neutrality in the country. To top it off, security measures in the law would allow authorities to track user activity in real time using geolocation tools, without obtaining prior court approval.
That's a pretty toxic mix -- censorship, real-time surveillance and no net neutrality. The good news is that Mexicans are starting to mobilize against the proposed measures:
ContingenteMX, a nonprofit collective consisting of Human Rights, environmental and social network activists and citizens, hereby demands a guarantee that the inalienable right of free Internet access -- established on the Constitution -- be clearly spelled out in Mexico’s Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law. It also requests that the constitutional citizen initiative "Internet Libre para Todos" (Free Internet For All), signed by over 223 thousand duly identified citizens and delivered to Congress in 2013 as a proposal to guarantee the right of Internet access become law.
According to a report on vice.com, people have already taken to the streets in protest against the new law. In addition:
Mexico's human rights commission has already denounced the legislation for violating basic constitutional rights including the right to privacy and freedom of expression. In the coming weeks the legislation will go before the senate and Internet freedom activists are hoping it will get voted down.
Let's hope so too.