Chile Bans Free Delivery Of Social Media Services To Uphold Net Neutrality

from the tricky-stuff dept

Net neutrality is a hot topic on both sides of the Atlantic, but it's not only in those regions that governments are trying to formulate policies that will keep the Internet fair and open for innovation. One country at the forefront of this field is Chile, which passed its net neutrality law in 2010. Here's how how Global Voices summarized the legislation:

The reform implies, among other things, that Internet Service Providers will not be able to arbitrarily block, interfere, discriminate, hinder or restrict content, applications or legal services that users perform on their networks.
That's a pretty standard framing for net neutrality, with a prohibition on discrimination -- and that includes positive discrimination. As GigaOM reports, Chile has now taken action against this kind of preferential treatment online:
The Chilean telecommunications regulator Subtel has banned mobile operators from offering so-called zero-rated social media apps -- services like Twitter and Facebook that, through deals with the carriers, can be used without having to pay for mobile data. Subtel says such practices are illegal under Chilean net neutrality law.
That might seem perverse, since it means that Chilean mobile users must now pay to access those services, but it is nonetheless exactly what governments that have mandated net neutrality need to do. That's because providing these services for free makes it much harder for newcomers -- specifically new services from local startups -- to compete with established ones that are provided free. Indeed, it's striking how Facebook, for example, has kept its head down during the net neutrality debates -- doubtless conscious that it has benefitted hugely from these schemes that run counter to net neutrality principles. As Vox wrote recently:
One factor in Facebook's growing global popularlity is Facebook Zero. Under this program, Facebook pays the data charges for users who log into a stripped down version of Facebook from their mobile phones. The program has made Facebook accessible to millions of users who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford it.
That's clearly anti-competitive. But what about this from 2012?
Orange has struck a deal with Wikipedia to make its digital encyclopaedia available free of data charges to millions of mobile phone users across the Middle East and Africa.
Although that breaks net neutrality in the same way as Facebook Zero, Wikipedia sees it as something that should be encouraged:
Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organisation that runs Wikipedia, said: "Wikipedia is an important service, a public good, and so we want people to be able to access it for free, regardless of what device they're using. This partnership with Orange will enable millions of people to read Wikipedia who previously couldn't."
That's certainly true, so perhaps there should be an exception to net neutrality for non-profits. But that would still produce the same tilting of the playing field in favor of one supplier, making it hard for a new rival to Wikipedia, say, to compete. Tricky stuff this net neutrality....

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2014 @ 2:26pm

    Wireless providers are at fault for charging exorbitant prices "per MB", and website providers are at fault for making high-bandwidth websites.

    As long as you allow them to make backroom deals with each other, neither of these problems will get resolved.

     

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  2.  
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    Lord_Unseen (profile), Jun 16th, 2014 @ 2:46pm

    Money not well spent.

    As noble as the endeavor for Wikipedia sounds, they're heading in the completely wrong direction. Money and effort that's being spent getting Wikipedia to impoverished areas would be better spent getting cheaper internet access for those areas. This would allow them to access Wikipedia and anyone else they'd need to. Of course, doing something like this wouldn't give a single company the advantage and make them look like the good guys at the same time, would it?

     

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  3.  
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    Dan J. (profile), Jun 16th, 2014 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Money not well spent.

    I don't see that. First, you can always make an argument that money spent should be spend elsewhere. Arguably, money spent to provide 'net access would be better spent providing food to those who are starving. Huge numbers of people don't have access to safe drinking water. I don't think anyone has the right to criticize where someone else donates their money.

    Second, I'm not sure what company you're pointing at in reference to looking like the "good guy." To the best of my knowledge, Wikipedia IS a good guy. I'd perhaps quibble with some of the editorial choices but disagreeing with someone doesn't mean they're wrong and thus "bad." Wikepedia is a non-profit and they provide a very valuable service.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2014 @ 8:17pm

    Re: Money not well spent.

    Perhaps if Wikipedia paid for access not only to their website but also to other competing sites? But that almost seems to open up another set of potential problems?

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Techanon, Jun 16th, 2014 @ 9:50pm

    Re: Re: Money not well spent.

    Second, I'm not sure what company you're pointing at in reference to looking like the "good guy."


    Just a guess: Orange?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Techanon, Jun 16th, 2014 @ 9:58pm

    I noticed they stopped airing commercials offering these 3 social services for free. So that's why...

    Good, 'cause these commercials made me wonder if the net neutrality laws didn't apply to mobile or if the regulators weren't doing their jobs properly.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Whatever, Jun 16th, 2014 @ 10:15pm

    True net neutrality would make you guys whine like little children.

    If you really want to push something, push something like the "enough bandwidth compared to what is sold" rule, where an ISP has to show at least 10% or 20% of the bandwidth sold per client as actually being available from node to net. Net neutraity only really is an issue where there isn't enough bandwidth to go around.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Techanon, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 1:21am

    Re:

    How about having the ISPs do and publish/update quality of service checks every 3 months, along with publishing their overselling ratios?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 1:34am

    Re:

    No, it is not. It is about blocking VOIP data. About denying access to Whatsapp because it conflicts with overpriced SMS service. About charging twice for one piece of service. And about free markets. Bandwidth limits have comparatively little to do with it.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 2:40am

    I think Wikipedia is a vital resource for humanity, but I believe they're wrong on their stance of cutting data deals with mobile carriers.

    Cutting deals like this will probably end up hurting humanity more than helping it, in the long run. It's not like Wikipedia's website is bandwidth intensive to begin with. It's mostly just text with downscaled pictures.

    If they really want to help lower mobile bandwidth, why not create a mobile friendly version with lower bandwidth requirements.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 3:04am

    Re:

    So if you bought a liter of gas, you would be happy with 100-200ml?

    What kind of gas mileage do you get? About 3-4 mpg?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 3:28am

    Good on Chile. Without it companies like Facebook will offer using their social network for free, while for any new social network, the users would have to pay for data, making it that much harder to quit Facebook, and join that new social network.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 5:13am

    Re:

    "True net neutrality would make you guys whine like little children."

    Sort of like you then. (rim shot)

    So, enlighten us with your vast knowledge on this subject oh great one. Exactly what would the average surfer find objectionable about what you claim to be "true" net neutrality. Oh, and some data to back up your wildass claims would be great.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 7:04am

    All this means is that any deals made will now have to be between the ISP or Wireless companies and the content providers leaving the users worse off as we know that these deals will almost always be between legacy (yes that's you now Facebook) players.

     

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  15.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 17th, 2014 @ 7:23am

    Re: Re: Money not well spent.

    First, you can always make an argument that money spent should be spend elsewhere. Arguably, money spent to provide 'net access would be better spent providing food to those who are starving. Huge numbers of people don't have access to safe drinking water. I don't think anyone has the right to criticize where someone else donates their money.

    But in this case, his suggestion for where to spend money would solve the same problem that they're currently trying to solve, and more (though it would probably also be more expensive). Your examples are of completely unrelated areas.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 17th, 2014 @ 7:28am

    Re:

    All this means is that any deals made will now have to be between the ISP or Wireless companies and the content providers

    Those are exactly the deals Chile's net neutrality law prohibits (such as the one featured in this story - did you read it?).

    Or were you responding to another commenter, and didn't click "reply to this" or quote any text?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 17th, 2014 @ 7:57am

    Re:

    "Net neutraity only really is an issue where there isn't enough bandwidth to go around."

    Simply untrue. The need for and importance of net neutrality is independent of the amount of available bandwidth (although the effects of the lack of it are made worse in a bandwidth-starved environment).

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anon, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 10:23am

    Not Really

    The situation as described is not a violation of net neutrality. There's nothing wrong with Facebook, or Wikipedia, or Netflix, or LinkedIn paying for my connect time or data. That's just a business model. What's wrong is not offering the same deal to all comers - if FaceStartup.com can't get the same pennies-per-megabyte rate as the big boys... or if I can't get t too. I might even concede that a discount for volume should be OK, provided it's realistic. Let's say a 10% or 20% discount for massive volume sounds like normal business practice - but a 50% or 70% price reduction for the "big boys" or affiliates is simply highway robbery for everyone else. You can't claim it costs 70% less to carry bulk traffic.

     

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  19.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 17th, 2014 @ 10:37am

    Re: Not Really

    The situation as described is not a violation of net neutrality. There's nothing wrong with Facebook, or Wikipedia, or Netflix, or LinkedIn paying for my connect time or data. That's just a business model. What's wrong is not offering the same deal to all comers - if FaceStartup.com can't get the same pennies-per-megabyte rate as the big boys... or if I can't get t too.

    That situation is exactly what net neutrality advocates want to avoid: every website operator and data provider having to pay extra to every ISP and mobile carrier to make sure their users get adequate performance. There are tons and tons of site operators - I would assert most of them - who would not be able (or perhaps willing) to pay *anything* to get faster or cheaper access. Multiply that by the number of ISPs and mobile networks in the world, and I hope you can see letting these deals go through is problematic.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Re:

    The deals would not necessarily be based around bandwidth or access charges but advertising and access to preferred features.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anon, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Re: Not Really

    NO, not at all.
    The issue is not that the ones who don't pay would be blocked or slowed - you are right, that would be violating net neutrality. The issue is that you get the same content at the same rate no matter who you browse to - just that if you are looking at Facebook, it costs nothing. I see nothing wrong with that model. We have pay and free TV now, the idea is the same. You can watch CNN for "free" (just watch these commercials), or you can pay and watch HBO with no commercial interruptions. (I assume, I haven't seen HBO in decades). As long as the "free to browse" option is for sale to every provider, at roughly the same price, that is perfectly fine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Re:

    more like:
    fuel company sells unlimited fuel for your car on a monthly basis, with a 2-year lock-in.

    The small print indicates that this is only for use on closed tracks, and the fuel is marked and cannot be used on public road systems. Of course, as the fuel is marked, once you've used it once, you can't use your vehicle on public road systems again ever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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