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Mr Luca Belli, Head of Internet Governance, Center for Technology and Society at FGV, presented the agenda for the session and introduced the panelists. Mr Sebastien Soriano, President of Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et des Postes (ARCEP), started the session by presenting the European Law for telecom regulation and pointed out the difference in the institutional setup between the USA and Europe. He pointed out the coherent support from Europe and a firm commitment to net neutrality and added that the idea of the framework is to have flexibility in implementing it. He further denied any loopholes in the European framework for net neutrality and stressed on the need to observe these frameworks with a long-term perspective while being judged based on a case by case basis.
Luca presented the zero-rating map which includes information on the countries that have net neutrality regulation. He observed that the most zero-rated application is the Facebook free basics and added that major operators and major companies are ‘Scrambling for data’, by offering free services and mining user data.
Ms Amba Uttara Kak, Tech Policy Fellow, Mozilla, presented the case from India with respect to Net-neutrality. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) banned all forms of zero-rating. She added that ‘while the rest of the world is still figuring out when differentiation is discrimination, in India all differentiation of pricing is discrimination policy.’ She summarized and added that ‘economic theory is important when dealing with zero-rating, but just as important is the political economy of regulators and of regulator processes’.
Ms María Paz Canales, Executive Director, Derechos Digitales, added that there is no clear line forbidding Zero-Rating and it is left open to interpretation. She emphasised that net-neutrality rules are complicated, and they need to look at both sides, economic and telecom issues, along with the benefit of the consumer.
Mr Alfredo Velazco, Executive Director, Usuarios Digitales, presented the case from Ecuador and pointed out that there are ambiguities in the definition of net-neutrality by law. He presented a comparison of services being offered on the zero-rated portals and raised concerns about access to content.
Ms Maryant Fernandez, Senior Policy Advisor, EDRi, presented how the civil society in Europe fought hard for net neutrality. She noted how the legislators left some issues with not much clarification. She cautioned that the current functioning of the internet as an innovation ecosystem is being undermined by the collective effects of zero rating. She ended on a positive note pointing out to how the EU policymakers have made very clear statements in favour of net neutrality. She presented the website respectmynet.eu, which allows users to report net-neutrality issues.
Members of the audience presented their opinions on why zero-rating should be totally banned. Luca summarised the session and invited the audience to contribute to the zero-rating map.
By Krishna Kumar Rajamannar