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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire UCL - press release: Net neutrality does not preclude political management of services (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Thu, 26 Mar 2020 09:10:26 +0200

Since the beginning of confinement in Europe, the question of a possible overload of internet traffic has arisen. Below, our libertarian communist point of view on the question of the network. ---- As for services, saturation is felt. For example, at Skype and Whatsapp, the central servers apparently do not take the load since the Italian containment. Charge that would have been collected before the purchase of Skype by Microsoft: the software then operated in peer-to-peer (that is to say without central servers). ---- Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said at a press conference on March 18 that audio and video calls, notably on Whatsapp (owned by Facebook), would have doubled and that Facebook engineers are already working to strengthen the infrastructure [1].
On another scale and ideologically closer to us, the librarian association of popular education Framasoft did indeed suffer an overload at the start of confinement, when the ministries of National Education and Higher Education were - shamefully, without consultation, and without requesting their own IT services and considerable financial resources - invited their staff to use the services of Framasoft (which has neither the means nor the vocation to replace ministries) [2].

As for global traffic, contradictory information circulates: on the one hand, the 70% increase experienced by Italy following the closure of schools would be absorbable [3]; on the other hand, on March 19, the European Commissioner responsible for the internal market Thierry Breton publicly expressed concern about the pressure exerted on traffic [4]. Internal sources at Orange also inform us that the Orange board of directors doubts the network's capacity to collect and that we will soon have to choose between 4G and telephony.

While it seems difficult to us to settle the question of the possibility of large-scale traffic overload in the short term, it is however politically essential to anticipate the possibility.

Calls to "regulate" traffic are already heard. Hospitals or National Education have priority over pornography or Netflix streaming and therefore one should be favored at the expense of the other. This regulation would be the responsibility of Internet service providers (ISPs), the only technically capable of knowing who is doing what on the Internet and acting in real time, and therefore of censoring. Thierry Breton notably invited ISPs to "take measures to prevent and mitigate the effects of imminent congestion on the networks".

We obviously do not question the priority of public hospital or educational services. We observe on the other hand that these calls emanate from the mouths which, even out of times of crisis, claim again and always the abolition of the neutrality of the net, this principle which wants that the ISPs are only factors of the Internet, submitted as postal workers in the physical world are prohibited from opening envelopes, and therefore deliver all "mail" indifferently .

The end of net neutrality would be a boon for the capitalists, who would therefore be able to sell as basic offer a simple access to the services of their choice - typically, the GAFAM partners - and to relegate the rest of the Internet - typically the political or media voices that displease the government - to the rank of paid options. We also observe that the logic of scarcity-rationing at work behind these discourses is the same as that which our political leaders reserve to us non-stop, to the point of disgust, for years, within the framework of policies of budgetary austerity.

Whether we talk about the Internet or public money, we libertarian communists affirm that the existing resources must be:

exposed to all with transparency and pedagogy, in order to allow popular appropriation of the stakes of the problem ;
strengthened and developed, and not rationed, if they are really judged insufficient (the money exists, it is enough to go to seek it where it is) ;
shared according to political decisions taken by the people and in their interest, and not by the State in the interest of the capitalists.
It is also up to the people to decide, in a self-managed framework, how to implement this sharing without calling into question the neutrality of the net, the egalitarian principle that founds the Internet. In the current context, it is for example possible:

to set up a national planning of the courses given by videoconference, within the framework of "pedagogical continuity", allowing to better distribute the load and at the same time to improve the living conditions of teachers confined, without ever dispossessing them of their profession and without harboring illusions about the educational virtues of digital technology ;
force YouTube to remove the HD option from its videos ;
or to introduce a very strong tax on the cultural reproduction service of the patriarchy that is pornography, a tax allowing to counterbalance the opportunistic gratuitousness implemented in recent days by the main platforms of the sector.
Libertarian Communist Union, March 21, 2020

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