The petition has the support of teachers’ associations, civil society organizations, and a deputy.
Last Wednesday (3/18), Intervozes – Coletivo Brasil de Comunicação Social filed an application with the National Telecommunications Agency (ANATEL). The appeal is that the agency publishes a preliminary injunction prohibiting the suspension of mobile or fixed Internet connection services for 90 days, including in cases of data caps limitations. The petition was also sent – accompanied by request for manifestation – to the National Consumer Secretariat and the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br). The claim seeks to minimize the damage caused by citizens home isolation, in the context of COVID-19 pandemic, and won support from the Faculty Association of the University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the rectory of Unicamp, National Confederation of Education Establishments Workers (Contee), National Confederation of Education Workers (CNTE), EducaDigital organization, the UNESCO EAD Chair at the University of Brasilia, the Brazilian Federation of Scientific and Academic Communication Associations (Socicom), the Brazil Chapter of the Latin Union of Political Economy of Information, Communication and Culture (ULEPICC – Brazil), the Union of Teachers from the Federal Universities of Ceará (ADUFC), the direction of the International Electronic Journal of Political Economy of Communication and Culture (EPTIC), Navve and federal deputies Luiza Erundina (PSOL-SP), Margarida Salomão (PT-MG), Natália Bonavides (PT-RN) e Alessandro Molon (PSB-RJ).
During the pandemic, ensuring Internet access is essential to ensure that citizens can stay at home and continue, albeit with limitations, their activities, especially productive ones. Proof of this is Decree 10.282/2020, published on March 20, which defines the public services and essential activities, that should remain in operation during the pandemic. Such services include telecommunications and the Internet.
The United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) rapporteurs for freedom of expression issued a joint statement stressing that governments should protect and promote free access the information. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently listed the challenges for guaranteeing education this year to offer guidance and action by governments. It highlights the “unequal access to portals digital learning: lack of access to technology or good Internet connectivity is an obstacle to continuous learning, especially for students from disadvantaged families.”
According to the 2018 Brazilian ICT Household Survey, launched in mid-2019, 85% of class D and E Internet users access the network exclusively by cellphones, 2% only by computer and 13% connect via both mobile and computer. According to data from ANATEL, 55% of mobile accesses in the country are prepaid. And it is well known that most post-paid users are “control” customers, who pay a fixed monthly fee, but have a strict data caps limit. The enforcement of data caps plans will preclude citizens from under-privileged backgrounds to access information and education and work, which hinders the ability of this vulnerable group to remain in home isolation. The lack of regular connectivity has a material impact on their health and social rights.
In an official letter sent to Internet Service Providers last week, ANATEL recognizes that “the evolution in the number of confirmed and suspected cases in the last days requires, however, that new advances be made. With a scenario of greater physical distance between people, quarantine, and remote work requests, network access connections will become even more essential. The preservation of workflows, of education, of access to health information and also of leisure, will depend to a great extent on telecommunications services”.
“We need to understand the reality of most Brazilians, who earn less than a thousand reais a month and also want to be informed, work, and continue with their studies. The suspension of navigation other than for default is illegal, according to the Brazilian Internet Bill of Rights. In this pandemic moment, we need an energetic decision by ANATEL, via injunction. Data traffic does not generate costs for operators and does not wear down the infrastructure. The business model based on the data caps is an artificial scarcity generation strategy. It is not reasonable for companies to use this critical moment to increase their profits “, declared Marina Pita, executive coordinator of Intervozes and representative of the collective in the Defense Committee for Telecommunications Services Users (CDUST) of ANATEL.
Brazilian Internet Bill of Rights
The internet connection service has become universal, as provided in article 4 of Brazilian Internet Bill of Rights, establishing that this service must be accessible to all. The same law establishes that access to the Internet is an essential service for the exercise of citizenship and that it can only be interrupted if the consumer is in debt to the provider. But that is not what happens in Brazil. Currently, operators of the mobile service suspend access to the Internet not only due to default, but due to the volume of data trafficked.