Saving Brazil’s ‘Marco Civil da Internet’ could set the standard for web users worldwide

In 2009, the National Congress of Brazil introduced the draft bill Marco Civil da Internet to guarantee civil rights and freedom of expression in the use of the internet. The Marco Civil aims to protect privacy rights, net neutrality, safe harbours for internet service providers (ISP) and online service providers, and to impose privacy standards against surveillance. Although has been percolating since 2009, the legislation process of Marco Civil has been stagnant. One of the main challenges in getting the bill passed by the congress has been lobbying by commercial parties to amend the critical articles pertaining the net neutrality and intermediary liabilities. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.

The alarming move from Brazilian telco companies

The mandate of net neutrality in Marco Civil is aligned with that principle, and seeks to prohibit businesses from charging for different types of services depending on the content of the data packet. Countering that principle, the Brazilian telecommunication companies that profit from restricting connection speeds for different types of content are fighting hard to eliminate the net neutrality provision in Marco Civil. They are arguing strongly for a mechanism that allows data discrimination and greater control over what is published on the Internet. Another issue within the net neutrality provision is an exemption to permit discrimination or degradation of internet traffic in special cases. The original Marco Civil allows such an exemption to be regulated under a decree issued by the consultancy with the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee or CGI. The CGI itself comprises of multi-stakeholder from civil society, business sectors, government and academia.

However, on 23 May 2013, Brazil’s federal communications commission or ANATEL passed a resolution to extend ANATEL’s regulatory area from telecommunications systems to the internet services. By this resolution, ANATEL asserts it powers to regulate network neutrality, including regulating the exemption from net neutrality without the consultation from CGI. Under this circumstance, the large and dominant telecom companies would be able to enter and extend their market dominance into consumer internet services. This resolution opens the door for a takeover of the Marco Civil policy agenda by the telecom companies.

How to support Marco Civil

Recently, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil has issued an order to Brazilian congress to vote within 45 days on the Marco Civil by emphasising the respect for net neutrality and human rights online. Marco Civil da Internet represents one of the most progressive frameworks to secure the right to high-speed access and network neutrality in the world. If approved, Brazil will be one of the first countries in Latin America to guarantee network neutrality. Marco Civil is vital, not only for the Brazilian citizen but also for the global community. It will set a global precedence for best practice in internet regulation that guarantees civil rights in the use of the internet, freedom of expression online and privacy standards. ACCESS is running a campaign to support the integrity of Marco Civil da Internet by calling the National Congress of Brazil to prevent the dangerous amendment to its critical articles. To support their campaign, join their online petition: