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Brazil: Criminalization of Sharing Internet via Wifi

On January 27 , Anatel (Brazil's National Telecommunications Agency), the regulatory agency responsible for regulating, executing and supervising the telecommunications sector, seized equipment and fined an internet user R$ 3,000 (approximately $ 1,810 USD) for sharing his wifi connection with neighbors in the city of Teresina, Piauí state (Northeast of Brazil). [GV note: one of the poorest states in Brazil.]

Anatel headquarters in Brasilia

Anatel headquarters in Brasilia. Photo by Flickr user Pablo H shared under a CC 2.0 license

The first website to run the story was 180º graus (180 degrees) [pt], that stated:

A prática é corriqueira de muitos usuários de Internet via wireless não só em Teresina, mas no Brasil e no mundo inteiro. Ocorre que, de algum modo, o fato chegou ao conhecimento de fiscais da ANATEL, que, em uma “visita” à residência do proprietário da linha telefônica, apreendeu computador, modem e roteador lá instalados, lavrando auto de infração e aplicando multa de R$ 3 mil, sob a acusação de que o mesmo estaria prestando serviços de provedor de acesso à internet sem a devida autorização da Agência.

The practice is commonplace for many Internet wireless users not only in Teresina, but in Brazil and worldwide. It just happens that, somehow, the situation became known to the Anatel inspectors so that, in a “visit” to the residence of the owner of the phone line, they seized the computer, modem and router installed there, assessing and applying a fine of R$ 3 thousand reais. This under the accusation that he was acting as an internet service provider without proper authorization from the Agency.

Henrique Parra, writing for the blog Trezentos (Three hundred), criticizes [pt] how ANATEL interprets the law:

Tal interpretação da lei, se generalizada, destruirá infinitas possibilidades de uso, compartilhamento e acesso à internet. Ora, ao contratar o serviço de acesso à internet eu pago uma franquia de uso (velocidade e volume de tráfego de dados). A maneira como eu a utilizo não é objeto claramente definido: se quero ser solidário e deixo minha internet aberta para que outras pessoas sem acesso à um serviço pago (caro e de baixa qualidade) possam utilizá-la qual o problema?

Such interpretation of the law, if widespread, will destroy the infinite possibilities of use, sharing and access to the internet. However, when hiring the services of internet access I pay a deductible of use (speed and volume of data traffic). The way I use it is not clearly defined: if I want to be supportive [or: act in solidarity] and leave my internet open for people without access to a paid service (an expensive and low quality one) to use it, what's wrong with that?

And concludes, making comparisons:

Aplicado o mesmo entendimento ao mundo físico seria o equivalente a criminalizar o dono do bar que disponibilizou a mesa (comida e bebida) para que bandidos organizassem um assalto. Ou então, multar as empresas de telefonia que permitiram que suas linhas telefônicas fossem utilizadas para ações ilegais.

Applying the same reasoning to the physical world would be tantamount to criminalizing the bar owner who provided the table (food and drink) for bandits to organize a crime. Or, to fining telephone companies that allowed their phone lines to be used for illegal actions.

A Voz do Além (The Voice from Beyond), writing for the blog Nerds Somos Nozes (Nerds ‘R [n]U[t]S), criticizes [pt] the way ANATEL works:

[A ANATEL] É basicamente um canal de defesa da população contra uma possível tirania corporativa. Mas a realidade se mostra bem diferente do que está no papel.

[ANATEL] is basically a line of defense for the people against possible corporate tyranny. But reality proves quite different than what is on paper.

He points out a few reasons why he defends the practice of sharing internet connections:

Analisemos o caso sob dois outros aspectos: 1) a qualidade do serviço prestado no Brasil e 2) a relação dele com outros exemplos possíveis. Vá até o Google e faça uma pesquisa por Brasil banda larga. Notícias como Banda larga no Brasil é cara, lenta e restrita, avalia Idec; Banda larga no Brasil é cara e ruim, entenda; Banda larga no Brasil é uma das piores do mundo; Brasil tem a quinta pior banda larga do mundo, etc; logo aparecem. Então, para início de conversa, o tal serviço que a Anatel defende é de ruim pra péssimo. [...] No ranking dos dez mais do Reclame Aqui, SEIS empresas são de telefonia/internet. NESSE índice do Procon-SP [...], das dez mais, quatro são de telefonia.

Em outras palavras, podemos concluir – um pouco apressadamente, é verdade – que além da qualidade técnica da banda larga do Brasil ser uma das dez piores do mundo, o serviço oferecido ainda é péssimo e leva a milhares de usuários a reclamarem.

Let's analyze the case by two aspects: 1) the quality of service in Brazil and 2) it's relationship with other possible examples. Go to Google and search for Brasil banda larga [Brazil broadband]. News such as Broadband in Brazil is expensive, slow and limited, evaluates Idec; Broadband in Brazil is expensive and bad, understand it; Broadband in Brazil is one of the worst in the world; Brazil has the fifth worst broadband in the world, etc; soon appear. So to begin the conversation, the service that ANATEL defends is bad to awful. [...] In the rankings of the top ten most cited in Reclame Aqui [Complain Here, a website that gathers complaints - GV note], SIX companies are telephone/internet ones. IN THIS Procon-SP [Consumer Protection service - GV note] Index [...], of  the top ten, four are telephone companies.

In other words, we can conclude – somewhat hastily, it's true – that beyond the technical quality of broadband in Brazil to be one of the ten worst in the world, our service still awful, bringing thousands of users to complain about it.

Eduardo Niedarauer regrets [pt] the episode:

É triste ver uma situação destas, que demonstra o absoluto despreparo de alguns fiscais investidos de grandes atribuições, mas sem grande comprometimento com a função.

It is sad to see such a situation, which demonstrates the absolute unpreparedness of some inspectors invested with great powers, but without much commitment to their role.

According to a comment by Vanat on the blog Nerds Somos Nozes (Nerds ‘R [n]U[t]S) [pt], Brazilian legislation [pdf, pt] does not consider sharing of connections to be a crime, given that an internet service provider should charge for its services to be considered as such, which is not the case.

In the same direction, Bruno Maeda asks [pt]:

E por acaso a ANATEL multa ou dá autorizações à cafés, bares, restaurantes e hotéis que fazem uma infraestrutura de rede para seus clientes? Isso não é prover uma conexão, logo, categorizar-se como um provedor?

And does by any chance ANATEL penalize or give authorization to the cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels that make a network infrastructure for their customers? Isn't that to provide a connection, thus, to categorize oneself as a provider?

Alexandre Hannud Abdo adds [pt]:

Mais uma demonstração de que a ANATEL está aí para proteger o lucro abusivo das operadoras e não o bom funcionamento da Internet.

More evidence that ANATEL is there to protect the abusive profits of operators and not the proper functioning of the Internet.

To this news, one could add the fear that the netizens have experienced with ANATEL's attempt [pt] to monitor phone calls of Brazilians without the need for a warrant. Claudio Colnago, on his blog, rebate, considers the measure illegal because “although it is commendable that ANATEL wishes to fulfill its duty to supervise the phone operators, it cannot do so at the expense of fundamental rights of citizens. “

"O Brasil não entendeu a Internet" - Internet offline, não precisa de cadastro (Brasil didn't understand the Internet. Internet offline, no need to register). Photo by Flickr user cinco555 shared under a CC 2.0 license

"O Brasil não entendeu a Internet" – Internet offline, não precisa de cadastro (Brazil didn't understand the Internet. Internet offline, no need to register). Photo by Flickr user cinco555 shared under a CC 2.0 license

On Twitter, reactions [to the wifi sharing fine] were similar: anger, disbelief and the sense of being cheated.

Wilson Cunha Junior and Ulisses Furquim complain * [pt]:

@wilsoncjunior: O estado brasileiro ainda não entendeu pra que é que serve. Tira de alguns pobres o que deveria dar a todos. http://migre.me/3LZ7E
@ulissesf: #anatel #fail total. Não existe mais bom senso nesse país.

@wilsoncjunior: The Brazilian state has not understood yet what it's for. It takes from some poor people what it should be giving to everyone. http://migre.me/3LZ7E

@ulissesf: #anatel Total #fail. There's no longer any common sense in this country.

Leo Dias jokes [pt], while, ironically, Eduardo Macan asks [pt]:

@Leo_Dias: Bem, eu ia convidar vcs pra tomar café cmg mas vai q a agência nacional dos päes de queijo me multa p compartilhar meu café da manhã #anatel

RT @eduardomacan Meu filho e minha namorada não moram comigo e usam meu #wifi. Serei multado? :P http://zapt.in/fi0 #ANATEL

@Leo_Dias:Well, I was going to invite you guys to have breakfast with me but imagine if the national agency of cheese breads fines me for sharing my breakfast #anatel

RT @eduardomacan My son and my girlfriend don't live with me and they use my #wifi. Will I be penalized? :P http://zapt.in/fi0 #ANATEL

Bruno Ayres gives an idea [pt]:

@Bayres: E se todos nós liberássemos o acesso aos nossos routers? http://bit.ly/iimYop #tiraasenha #desobedeça #anatel

@Bayres: And what if we all liberate the access to our routers? http://bit.ly/iimYop #stripthepassword #disobey #anatel

Well Zenji questions [pt] ANATEL:

@wzol: #Anatel multa usuarios que compartilham acesso a internet com equip. radio frequencia, pq ao inves disso eles nao barateiam o valor da banda

@wzol: #Anatel fines users who share Internet access with radio frequency equipment, because instead of that they won't reduce the cost of [broad] band

And Bernardo Cotrim finds it [pt] bizarre:

RT @bernardocotrim Eu pago a banda larga; compro um roteador; ESCOLHO não bloquear a rede. A #Anatel pode me ferrar? BIZARRO…

RT @bernardocotrim I pay for broadband: buy a router; I CHOOSE not to block the network. #ANATEL can screw me? BIZARRE …

Finally, Cecília Tanaka, Douglas Arruda and Gilson Pôrto Jr [all pt] question ANATEL about digital inclusion:

@cecilia_tanaka: Atitude horrível da #Anatel em tempos de inclusão digital. Deveria facilitar o acesso aos usuários c/ valores + acessíveis e – burocracia.

@douglasarruda: Ao invés de a #Anatel ficar multando moradores que compartilham internet, deveriam diminuir burocracia e impostos pra baratear o acesso.

@gilporto: @andrelemos @andredeak Lamentável é pouco. Vergonhoso acho mais apropriado a posição da #Anatel, principalmente quando defende-se a inclusão

@cecilia_tanaka: horrific attitude of #Anatel in times of digital inclusion. It should facilitate access for users providing more accessible prices and less bureaucracy.
@douglasarruda: Instead of #Anatel fining residents who share the Internet, they should reduce bureaucracy and taxes to lower the price of access.
@gilporto: @andrelemos @andredeak To say unfortunate is not enough. I think shameful works  better to describe #Anatel's position, especially when one defends inclusion
This post was proofread by Janet Gunter.

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