Key Issues
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"Key Internet Policy Issues" is a series of contributions from people living in countries new or relatively new to the Internet about what they consider to be key policy issues related to the deployment and use of the Internet in their country. Each text is published under the complete responsibility and with the permission of its author. These contributions were solicited by Alan McCluskey, guest editor, in preparation for a special issue of the Internet Society's magazine "OnTheInternet" entitled "Strategies for development: from thought to action" to be published in November 1997. For more information and comments on the preparation of this special edition see "Addressing Key Policy Issues".

Democratising Internet use

Brazil has experienced a boom in Internet services over the last two years. Currently, there are over one million individual users of the net, compared to about 100,000 in early 1995. More than 600 ISP's are operating in the country, and six of them are major backbones offering services nation-wide. Internet is deregulated here, and the business is explored basically by private companies, domestic and foreign.

Further dissemination of Internet in Brazil as a whole faces a major problem, that is, the concentration of ISP's and backbone POPs in large metropolitan areas, with little action in the countryside. The reason is simple: data communications services are so expensive in Brazil that an entrepreneur has to choose and remain in big cities in order to maximise his chances of getting a return on his investments.

The cost of communications service is also prohibitive for schools, libraries, etc. wishing to get connected to the net.

How can the problem be solved?

As in several countries around the world, Brazil is undergoing a gigantic reform of its telecommunications sector. A new law was passed by Congress in July, defining the basic rules for the entire privatisation of telcos. One especially interesting provision in the law is the definition of the so-called Fund for Universalisation of Services, aimed to cross-subsidise socially useful services (e.g., rural telephony, Internet access for libraries and schools, etc.) with a tax on profitable services.

A bill proposing the regulation of the fund is to land in Congress in early October.

Notwithstanding, very little public discussion has prospered about the theme. It may be more or less predictable that telcos and multinational companies are too busy getting prepared for the privatisation rally, scheduled for 98, to dedicate time to this "secondary" issue. However, one would imagine that wild exchanges would be taking place among educators, social activists, government agencies, etc. Not so far.

One can only hope that, in the 70-days or so which are left before the deadline, the situation will change, and an articulated proposal can be generated.

Tadao Takahashi, Project Citizen's Agency, FINEP, Ministry of Science and Technology, Brazil.

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ISSN: 1664-834X Copyright © , Alan McCluskey,
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Created: September 5th, 1997 - Last up-dated: September 5th, 1997