miércoles, 12 de noviembre de 2014

Beyond #NetNeutrality (IV): Social neutrality

The readers of this blog know that the reinterpretation of net neutrality in a broader sense is one of my major concerns. I have dedicated previous post to the matter. We need to speak about digital neutrality better than about net neutrality, to take care of neutrality in the services provided by the great Internet platforms. There is a growing need to have some kind of guarantee of neutrality in the algorithms they used in their relationship with the users. But also this Internet giants are the only that have the resources to provide new intermediary services that could enlarge their control of the network under the excuse of providing a better user experience. 

It´s good to see that the idea of digital neutrality begins also to be in the table of our politicians. For instance, the new digital commissioner for the Digital Single Market spoke about the need to guarantee search-neutrality in his inaugural hearing beyond the European Parliament. But the problem with digital neutrality is that the flexibility of digital technology gives room of maneuver to find new imaginative ways to circumvent the neutrality. Zero-rating acces services is one of this ways.

Zero-rating or sponsored data services are based on the practice of not charging the customers for the Internet data used by a certain application or group of applications. Although these kind of services where originated for mobile data services, it´s difficult to find a reason why these services could not be provided in the fixed broadband scope. This could be worrisome, because in the cases we can already find in the mobile market the sponsored services are linked to applications like facebook or google. So these kind of services are potentially a new lever to circumvent digital neutrality by the Internet giants and increase its control of what we can access and we are not able to access in the Internet.

Not all the people see this way sponsored services. Some people defend sponsored services as a tool for bridge the digital divide. The rationale is that a restricted Internet is better than no internet. I see it the other way. The sponsored services are a tool for creating an Internet for the poors and an Internet for the rich. Furthermore, it reminds me the soviet era where there were one group of shops with all the products for the party members and other shops with a restricted supply of products for the rest of the people. So now we have extend the debate of the net neutrality from digital neutrality to social neutrality.

But I´m sure this will not be the last post on net neutrality and its many faces. Many more ideas about the twists of net neutrality will appear with the details of the more than 3 million of contributions that the FCC has received to the debate.

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