By the Blouin News Technology staff

Brazil cements internet as a public utility

by in Personal Tech.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. AFP PHOTO / ERNESTO BENAVIDES

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. AFP PHOTO / ERNESTO BENAVIDES

Brazil has been a flashpoint in the post-Snowden world. The government has been engaged in vocal battles with the U.S. as President Dilma Rousseff expresses shock and outrage at being a target of the National Security Agency’s surveillance tactics, and has been spending most of the months since Snowden’s NSA leaks trying to cobble together a native data protection policy. Rousseff’s extreme measures included trying to pass legislation requiring U.S.-based technology companies to create Brazil-based data centers in order to operate within the country — a policy that did not fly, thankfully for all of Brazil’s web users. But — in the midst of the NetMundial conference in Sao Paulo — Rousseff has presented a new law that appears to be one of the most progressive internet provisions of any country.


Source: Google, 2010.

Source: Google, 2010.

The bill that was ratified by Rousseff this week and presented to the NetMundial conference, which has gathered to discuss the concept of global internet governance, essentially protects the rights of web users to their own metadata and guarantees equal access to internet channels regardless of internet service provider. The law limits what kind of data can be retrieved on individual users, and names the internet as a public utility, making ISPs and telecoms unable to create preferential treatment for those content providers who would otherwise pay more to gain high speed and better quality access to users.

The AP quotes Interior Minister Jose Eduard Cardozo:

I believe that neutrality, privacy, freedom and the absence of discrimination guaranteed in the text are really going to put Brazil in the vanguard, as a model for various other countries.

This law is in direct opposition to the newest policies put forth by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission this week in regards to the concept of net neutrality. Indeed, Brazil’s internet “Bill of Rights” (as many proponents are calling it) is exactly what the FCC’s older policies — the ones that have twice been overturned by U.S. courts — tried to do. The FCC never made a real effort to name the internet as a public utility, much as public telephone networks are, but it certainly championed that effort in order to establish a law-enforced open internet. The FCC is now backtracking on its previous net neutrality policies to try to find a middle ground in legislative forums.

Reuters notes that internet founders, analysts, and experts such as¬†British physicist and web inventor Tim Berners-Lee have hailed Brazil’s internet ruling as the most forward-thinking legislation possible regarding the entrenchment of the open internet. While it is the most liberal, Brazil will still likely have to work with U.S. tech companies to ensure that its new metadata collection policies are adhered to. Even then, how can Brazilian users be sure? At least a bill of rights is a step in their desired direction.