At this time and if we do not do anything to avoid it, the days are numbered for Internet as we now know it (open, free and of everyone/nobody’s). Its death knell has been sounded by the Telecoms Package, the revision to European framework law which governs networks and communications systems. What it should be a regulation limited to rule the telecommunications market and its proper working is becoming a market where governments, access providers and entertainment industry are negotiating how to distribute control over the Internet and the information and data accessed through it, without having into account users and consumers interests and even worse, ignoring citizen’s Fundamental Rights.
The new package of Directives which will substitute current ones (Framework, Universal Services, Access and will modify substantial parts of the ePrivacy Directive) will represent a new Internet shape, where the access providers will offer different access packages among which, the user will be able to choose what kind of content, services and applications wants to use and pay according to that. This will allow access providers to discriminate among users and assign them broadband depending on their necessities. Also, this new model will facilitate, by means of cooperation establishing “white and black lists”, that only lawful content will navigate through the Net and that also the applications and services are lawful. Governments, on the other hand will trace the personal data we leave when surfing the net and with them, will keep us safe against terrorists, criminals, fraud or what ever is needed.
Everyone wins. Access providers, a new way of doing business; copyright holders avoid piracy and governments get necessary tools to keep peace and security. It could seem that also from the users and citizens, point of view these are nothing but advantages: A greater offer which complies to anyone’s necessities, the certainty that we are not doing anything illegal while we surf and Governments protection against external threatens. Besides of that, the last draft of Directive does not insist on 3 strikes model as the one discussed in France and which would allow disconnection of a user for an alleged copyright infringement without judicial review..
Clearly, a win-win deal.
The only problem is a simple matter of control. Control over our rights and data and over our decisions.
Currently we can access any place in the network. The speed depends on the state of technology and what we are willing to pay. Under the new model, we will not decide anymore. Control goes to access providers, which will be permitted to limit the type of content, applications and services they offer, and to the stakeholders in promoting lawful content, which assist them in developing that offer.
It is unclear whether the 3 strikes model has been banished from the Package because it goes against the rights to freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence and due process that everyone is entitled to, or because it becomes unnecessary by the design of the new business models and packages. With the new system, no need to even ask for disconnection for using the annoying P2P networks (not declared unlawful, so far). A limitation on this type of applications, previously announced (of course, transparency above all), and no longer a problem.
But not only P2P networks, the main objective of this initiative, would be damaged, also free competition and cultural diversity will be harmed. The small publishers and businesses online would be affected and their sites invisible if the stakeholders in designing the packages do not consider their services, applications and content, worthy of promotion.
The Telecoms Package is not the place to regulate content, applications and services, nor is up to service providers to collaborate with specific sectors in promoting certain types of content / services and applications. The large entertainment companies are not the only copyright holders, nor are the contents they manage the only lawful ones. There are millions of information, applications and services on the Internet based on works that are already in the public domain, some other of which use is allowed by the author and others whose use can not lawfully prevent copyright holders (although they try) because are uses permitted by law.
Most importantly, telecommunications networks are about the flow data and information. Ensuring access to send and receive them freely is a right of all citizens enshrined in the Charter of Rights and our Constitutions and it should be the goal of the telecommunications package. The only restrictions or limitations on this right which can be imposed, are determined by Law and must be controlled by the Judiciary. Restricting access to certain types of content, services or applications, is restricting access to parts of the network and to parts of the information circulating. A kind of previous censorship, which violates the fundamental rights of citizens.
If the Directive is adopted, after transposition, it will be Law in each Member State. That Law will conflict with civil liberties and fundamental rights and it will be subject to Courts. We want a single market and a functioning economy, where free competition and cultural diversity are guaranteed, all (big and small companies) have equal opportunities and our rights as users and citizens are respected. We chose our MEPs to defend our rights, not those of large corporations.