The End of Net Neutrality in Mexico?

Members of social networks in Mexico have begun a campaign against the Telecom Law proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto. Under the argument that the proposal constitutes an affront to Net Neutrality and the right to Freedom of Speech, they are asking the Senate, where the law is currently being debated, to change the language or to reject the initiative altogether. Using the hashtag #EPNvsInternet a young and vocal group of citizens have organized protests in front of the Mexican Senate, the Presidential Residence and the headquarters of Televisa, the leading media company in the country. A video explaining the situation in English was uploaded two days ago to YouTube and already has more than 300,000 views.

The Telecom Law is a complex initiative with many components that regulate a wide range of aspects related to the telecommunications industry in Mexico. Many of these regulations are completely new and are focused on preventing the expansion of the already dominant media companies in Mexico. It also proposes the creation of a new institute, the Federal Telecommunications Institute, to monitor and control the industry. The Presidency has highlighted the motivations behind its proposal on its website (in Spanish). In all fairness, a law regulating telecommunications in Mexico is long overdue. Previous administrations have also wanted to pass legislation to rein in the currently unregulated industry, where a small group of companies control very high percentages of the market making it hard for newcomers to compete.

However, activists argue that the devil is in the details and two points in particular have been cited as causes for concern within the citizenship: a fragment of the law gives the government the ability to "temporarily block, inhibit or cancel telecommunication signals in events and places of critical importance to public and national safety", another article states that "Internet distributors and other authorized parties can make offers according to the needs of different segments of the market and clients with differing levels of capacity, speed or quality". The first point, which gives the authority the power to silence services on the Internet with the objective of combating "insecurity" is suspiciously similar to actions taken by other repressive governments such as those in Venezuela and Turkey. The second fragment echoes the issues that the US is facing with the FCC and the regulation of ISPs.

There is no guarantee the law will pass both chambers of Congress as the President sent it. There have already been several changes to the language in the Senate alone, and the initiative has yet to be debated in the House of Deputies. However, the mere fact that the Executive was willing to send a proposal whose language could give it the power to block dissenting views has put the already unpopular president Peña Nieto at odds with the nascent digital communities of his country.

The full text of the law initiative sent by President Peña Nieto's administration can be read in Spanish here.