Over the weekend I happened to pass by a shop of my mobile provider. As I was starting to almost exhaust my data allowance every single month, I decided to check in for a boost of my data plan. First, I was offered just an increase of my data plan, but there was a new plan that caught my attention: an add on to my existing data plan giving me up to 10GB of data to be used with one category of apps of my choice.
There were up to five different categories: messaging, email and cloud, social media, video and music. If my favourite messaging or other type of app was not included in that group, no problem; it could be included upon request at no cost.
The deal seemed more than good, for just an additional 7€ (5€ on a promotional offer), I was getting 10 Gb to use up with the category of apps I use the most. This was not just a good price, but by targeting my most used app, I was freeing up a lot of data from my monthly allowance I could use with any other app or service, thus greatly expanding possibilities to continue using the full Internet. So I decided to get the social package. Now I can use my favourite apps as much as I want, without worrying about data caps, and can keep accessing the full Internet more and at all times.
But then a friend of mine advised me that I was helping the evil. He told me that my new data plan was presented on the other side of the Atlantic, in the USA, as a horrible thing, a real Internet Armageddon, where the US risks to end once the Net Neutrality law –the Open Internet Order– has been rolled back.
I thought, this has to be something close to the so called fake news! Why on earth, I wondered, having 10 GBs more data is limiting my freedom to use the full Internet and to access the services I want? So I opened one of my favourite Apps, Twitter (now zero-rated), and found this tweet from a politician: “In Portugal, with no net neutrality, Internet providers are starting to split the net with packages“. 65.000 retweets, 53.000 likes. Wow, that is as close as a politician can come to feel like Rihanna.
But, wait a second: No Net Neutrality law in Portugal? Portugal is a Member State of the European Union since 1986. And yes, the EU has last year adopted a Net Neutrality Regulation after a long and intense legislative process. A Net Neutrality law, passed by the European Parliament and agreed to by all Member States governments, not a purely administrative Net Neutrality order like in the USA. And the joint Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), including ANACOM from Portugal, has drafted guidelines on how to apply this Net Neutrality law, making it one of the most prescriptive and detailed around the globe.
Should we call that fake news? I’d rather think this is only the outcome of a poor research or a bad day of a congressman´s office in search for a nice headline. But as it happens with fake news, the confusion was all over social media. Many others including Tim Wu, who coined the term Net Neutrality, were tweeting the same and even media who you would think have a comprehensive review of their releases picked it up
Yes. This is the post-truth era. Fake News everywhere. Hundred thousand of poor North Americans are now convinced that they will live in the future in a digital inferno “like Portugal !!!”, without Net Neutrality law sheltering them from being abused from disgusting operators, who have no other intention than to finally destroy the free and open Internet.
Ok, here we go, my dear US friends: Portugal is a lovely country on the western coast of Europe. Great people. Nice weather, good food and wine. Even some great golf courses around. Great Net Neutrality law. 60% of household have an awesome FTTH network at home. And its operators make most of its revenues with the free and open Internet.
Relax, North America.Net Neutrality has proven to be fully compatible with both a free and open Internet and great customer choice and satisfaction. My only hope is that EU regulators don’t feel again additional pressure coming from the other side of the Atlantic and keep a reasonable interpretation of the existing Law applicable in the 28 member states.