Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vodafone ends net neutrality with Social Networks data pack

Want to know how the future of the internet would look like if internet neutrality rules got trumped over? Look no further than what Vodafone has been doing in Portugal.

For a long time, phone operators in Portugal have been steadily undermining net neutrality be offering mobile data plans that include unmetered access to certain services. Some offer unlimited access to their own music services, gaining a huge advantage over any competing service; others promise "unlimited" data for (some) messenger apps; while others still offer a few gigabytes of extra traffic, for specific services like YouTube.

We've been fighting it since day one, but it's hard to explain why this is bad in the long run, when people see it as a beneficial "free gift". Well... here's the next phase, and maybe now people will start seeing it for what it really is: Vodafone has introduced a "Social Networks data pack".

This is a add-on that requires you to pay 5 euros per month, on top of your existing data plan, that promises unlimited access to social networks on your smartphone - and by that they mean Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - and should you head into the details, you'll also find that the "unlimited" access really means 10GB of data. With the added notice that even if you're using the above mentioned apps/services, you may end up paying for excess data, as it doesn't include "external traffic" like something like watching a YouTube video someone posted on Facebook or Twitter.

Maybe now things will get clearer about how things are heading. I wouldn't be surprised if, a few months from now, operators will expand this even further, and mobile data plans will become a labyrinth of options where you'll have to select things like: 10€ add-on for 5GB of YouTube; 5€ add-on for 1GB of Spotify; or a 20€ add-on for P2P traffic access, which will surely require you also sign up for the "I-still-remember-when-all-data-was-treated-equally" option.

Let's hope Portuguese (or European) regulators will step in to put a stop to these tactics pushing us ever closer to net neutrality's demise... sooner, rather than... too late.

[my original post in Portuguese]

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