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Telefónica debates at Rightscon the future of the Internet

 

At the heart of European policymaking, last week we gathered in Brussels more than 1,500 people from Civil society, academia, Internet companies, telcos and institutional representatives to share visions around hot issues related to digital rights and the transformation of our societies at Rightscon event organized by Acess Now.

 

We debated about encryption, freedom of expression, privacy rights, surveillance or connect the unconnected hot topics.

 

Nowadays there are more than 3.2 billion people using the Internet worldwide. Never in the history has a technology reached so many citizens so quickly. This means the impact on our private and public life is moving our societies towards a new era. From the perspective of consumer, civil or fundamental rights, this transformation deserves a profound reflection taking into account the different sensibilities and roles within a society to reach a more precise picture of today’s situation and trends.

Indeed, we believe that collaboration, sharing experiences and views including governments, regulators, private sector, academia, civil society is a joint responsibility. Rightscon event is precisely a milestone in this direction. That’s why we’re supporting inclusive spaces for key conversations to take place.

As a telco company we are deeply committed with rights-based policies to empower the people. In this regard, transparency is a critical driver in this direction. Telefónica, together with other telcos, is elaborating in an annual basis a transparency reporting. This comes as last week, we became members of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), after four years sharing best practices and implementing guidelines for promoting freedom and expression rights in the Telecom Industry Dialogue (ID). Within the ID and GNI we have been also very vocal on shutdowns highlighting the negative impacts not only on digital rights but also economically.

Regarding the debate on connecting the unconnected, there was consensus among participants on the idea that the criteria focused on Internet Access affordability is not enough to achieve global goal of bringing 60% of the world’s population online by 2020. In the short term innovation is necessary, both from the supplier and customer side.

 

 

At Telefónica, we have partnered with Google (loon project) and Facebook (telecominfraproject), to boost connectivity for all.

 

Beyond this, we are also striving innovative initiatives working on scalable technological solutions (Software-Defined- networks and Network Function Virtualization). From the demand side, we are pioneer in developing “pre-paid tariffs” in mobile services, which has allowed a penetration on 112%. And among other initiatives we are fostering local start-up ecosystem for developing local relevant content and supporting talent.

A Important thing is that governments are aligned with the objective of connecting all, putting the digital agendas in their top priorities, modernizing their regulatory frameworks, favoring competition, ensuring the amount of spectrum, promoting innovation and applying the principle “same service, same rules, same taxation and user protection”.

 

Concerning digital rights discussion, our positioning is based on the understanding that governments have the obligation of protecting and respecting human rights while providing security and safety to their citizens.

 

That is, we recognize their legitimacy to balance rights and security measures always after having carefully considered the compatibility with the rule of law and policies filling the conditions stablished by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We are aware that the challenges that we all face are huge. The rapid speed of technological changes are posing new questions, are modifying behaviors and cultures and the available tools for giving adequate responses to citizens. Are we entering in a post regulatory World?

This is a debate that deserve to take place. It is about a new era in which the traditional order is not giving the needed responses while the technologies and the changes associated are happening in a global scale with local particularities. We do believe that we need a new model of governance for a global world that prioritize the citizens (consumer protection and digital rights).

 

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Paloma Villa /@villamateos

Manager of Public Policy and Internet, Telefónica.