The Internet is free…. and blah, blah, blah


March 2015, article published in El Periódico de Catalunya

The Internet is free…. and blah, blah, blah

The FCC, the body that regulates the Internet in the United States, just publicly announced that there will not be a two-speed internet, a fast one for big corporations and a slower one for small businesses and individuals. This especially worried telecommunications operators who stand for just the opposite (especially due to mobile lines, which, in order to transmit data, have a greater demand for infrastructure and therefore investment).

In my opinion, this is good news. It sounds like freedom. I say it sounds like, because the debate doesn’t end here. In my classes and conferences I explain that the Internet is an enormous highway, that permits data transfer, that one way or another usually ends up being seen on all kinds of devices like phones, tablets, desktop computers, car screens (this last case I just saw today very clearly at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, where I spent the whole day), televisions… In fact, the Internet is useful in so far as that it fulfills two criteria: that there is diversity of data among which to choose, and that this information is easy to find (we have grown tired of looking for information – now what we want is to find it, hence the enormous development of apps, for example).

What happens is that the Internet is one more cog in the wheel of hardware and software developers. And each one, from their own perspective and commercial interests, is betting from the start of time to close, to make the infinite space that is the Internet, less accessible. I’ll give two examples. I’ll start with Apple, a company that belongs to the first group. If you decide to launch an app for their operating system (iOs), the company, with headquarters in Cupertino, will take months to authorize it (if indeed they do so), so that your app may form part of the tens of thousands of applications listed in their store, the App store. This, without a doubt, is putting a limit on the freedom of information, because Apple decides what is standard.

The case of Google
For the second case, I would like to use the example of Google and their product, Chrome, the most-used browser on the planet, with some 750 million users. This prodigy of science, that with each request for information returns millions of results, has two limitations: On the one hand, it’s subject to what the masters of Google want to show us, whatever the reason may be; and on the other hand, it learns from our tastes (it shows us results that it knows we will like more, which means that it is less diverse as time goes on). Therefore, I fear that while it is good news that the FCC considers the Internet to be a public-interest good, we don’t understand that we are regulating the telecommunications operators locally and restrictively and that nonetheless we do not have a norm that applies to players with a global reach that offer services similar (or identical) to these companies. Or is it not Skype (whose owner is Microsoft) really a telecommunications company that transmits voice and data? The Internet is free…and blah, blah, blah.

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