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Mexico: The Internet as a Necessity, not a Luxury

An increase in taxes was approved by the Chamber of Deputies of Mexico to be enforced in 2010, which will include the Special Tax on Products and Services (or IESPS for its initials in Spanish) that will add a 3% tax to Internet and cable services.

A month earlier, as part of the discussions of the IESPS taxes, the Public Tax Administration Secretary, Agustín Cartens, recognized that half of the money spent on telecommunications belonged to 20% of the richest households in the country, according to a story by Mexican magazine Proceso [es]. He stated that since rural and public telephony services are exempt from the IESPS, citizens in difficult economic situations would not be affected by the tax. However, those low-income families that do use these services at home will be hit harder because of the assumption that the Internet is a luxury only used by those able to afford the service. With these words, the Mexican electronic community condemned the idea of Internet as luxury and began their protest on Twitter with the hashtag #internetNecesario (“Internet is a Necessity”) with great urgency because the final debate and vote started on October 20. The law was passed in the early morning on October 21.

Photo by Mark Schoneveld and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Mark Schoneveld and used under a Creative Commons license.

The protest movement displayed the importance of Internet to Mexicans, and received coverage from national television and newspapers, as well as from high-audience blogs, such as Boing Boing. The Twitter service WhatTheHashtag estimates that the protest has gathered around 35,000 tweets from more than 7,000 participants.

These are some of their comments on Twitter.

MexiComunicado @mexicomunicado [es]:

Me voy a ir a finlandia a twittear haya [sic: allá] es un derecho y me cuesta 3% menos hacerlo #internetnecesario

I’m going to Finland to tweet, [because] over there it is a right and it costs 3% less

Luis Macedo @Luismacedo [es]:

Lujo es el suel[d]o que se imponen como los bonos de fin de año y aguinaldo, nola comunicación #internet necesario

Luxury is the salary they enforce to themselves, like annual bonuses and benefits, not communication

Citlali Avilés @missblissdior [es]:

Por que debo de pagar por algo que es necesario para mi profesión? No nos dejaremos!!!! #InternetNecesario!!!

Why should I pay for something that I need for my work? Let's not allow them!!!!

@Neodevelop [es], quoting another user [whose account is now closed]:

Internet es nuestra única opción para llegar a tener un gobierno transparente #internetnecesario

Internet is our only way to be able to have a transparent government

The Mexican Internet Association (AMIPCI for its initials in Spanish) also showed their disagreement through Twitter [es] joining the protest:

Aprobación del IEPS a Internet alejará aún más a los gobiernos y a los legisladores de los ciudadanos. #InternetNecesario

Approval of IEPS on Internet will create more distance between governments and legislators to the citizens.

Moreover, Mexican bloggers also rose against the tax before its approval. In Pixelaris [es], blogger Jitten considers tax increase as an error, especially in comparison with the actions of other countries:

Las propuestas de qué tipo de productos y servicios gravar suponen medidas inteligentes y planeadas en las cuáles los ciudadanos paguen lo que consumen pero recibiendo servicios de calidad.

El gran problema de los impuestos en un país como México es que las políticas fiscales van en contra de la lógica de otros países e incluso expertos en los temas económicos, en las que, por una causa u otra, se grava lo que en otros países se le considera un derecho humano e incluso un servicio básico garantizado.

Proposals on what products and services to tax assume intelligent and well-planned measures in which citizens pay what they consume, but receive quality services.

The big problem of taxes in a country like Mexico is that tax policies go against logic of other countries and even experts on economic subjects, in which, for one reason or another, they tax what in other countries is considered a human right and even a basic guaranteed service.

Blogger Darinka publishes in her blog a manifesto [es] about the importance of Internet during difficult economic situations:

Somos nosotros, los blogueros y twitteros, los que nos despedimos para siempre del papel, no por convicción ecologista o afán ambientalista, sino porque leemos el periódico on-line a falta de diez pesos para el diario impreso y nos hacemos de libros en pdf ante el encarecimiento ruin de la industria editorial.

We, bloggers and twitterers, are those who say our permanent goodbyes to paper, not because of ecological ideals or environmental motives, but because we read on-line newspapers when we don’t have ten pesos to buy printed newspaper and we make our own PDF books as we face the menacing rise of the costs of editorial industries.

A recent study from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society of Harvard University (available online) about broadband Internet compared Mexico to other 30 countries, showing that it is the country with the least amount of broadband and 3G penetration from the whole group. In addition to this, Mexico appears at the top of the list of countries with higher prices for lower speeds-tier, as Internet users pay approximately twice of what it costs in the United States.

This affects approximately 30 million Mexicans who have access to Internet nowadays, an equivalent to one fourth of the total population of the country, following numbers from the Mexican Internet Association [es], as quoted by El Universal. Although there has not been a detailed study of Mexican Internet users, reports have given several key facts that cannot be ignored about their distribution in the different socioeconomic levels: in one, National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in 2001 [es] reported that half of all computers in the country belonged to families that earned less than 800 pesos per month (approximately 62 USD). In AMIPCI's report of 2006, it was recognized that at least 10% of the Internet users live in rural areas and that more than 40% of the Internet users come from the two lower socioeconomic levels in Mexico.

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