From trade unions to crime

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
12 December, 2017
Editorial: 158
Fecha de publicación original: 9 marzo, 1999

What good people we are …. as long as we have something to eat

As the English often say, in a hundred years’ time we’ll look back at all the things that worry us now and laugh about them. It seems that Telefonica goes along with this philosophy. And, long before a century has passed we will in all probability sit around laughing over a beer about the things we curse now. But, until such time arrives, the telephone companies are putting us to the test, as though it were an obligation to do very hard penance for merely wanting to work in and from the Internet. In barely two years they have managed to create a solid wall of opposition to their policies which would have been the envy of Karl Marx and the organisers of the I International held in the middle of the last century. Neither trade union type pressure, such as the kind practised by different user associations, nor that of access providers, has budged operators a fraction. Now, new battle lines are being drawn up, internauts are organising themselves in order to make market offers. The Internet never ceases to surprise us. And, we never cease to turn its surprises to our advantage.

Two internauts, friend of mine to be precise, have launched an initiative in the hopes of bringing the present impasse to an end. Their brainchild is called “3000ya” (something like “3000 right now”). The idea is a very simple one. To stop demanding in a trade union-like way that the government stop Telefonica in its tracks. It just is not going to happen. Instead, Alfons Cornella and Javier Creus propose that internauts get together and make a market offer. The first to respond to their call will get the goodies. The bait is a flat rate of 3.000 pesetas per month (18 euros/month for unlimited access). Operators will now have to make up their own minds. If there is a juicy enough number of internauts prepared to sign up at this price, they will have to make the next step.

The “3000ya” project makes its appearance just as the Internet Access Providers meeting called by ISOCANDA, the Andalusian capital of the Internet Society, comes to an end in Torremolinos. IAP’s from Asturias, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Castilla-Leon, Madrid, Valencia and Andalucia heeded the call, as did two user associations the Asociación de Internautas –who negotiated a flat rate with the Ministry of Development which palmed them off with vague promises and Utopian ideas of a surprising kind for a right-wing government– and Andalucia en Red.

The first conclusion of the meeting noted the amazement of all those attending at the absence of telecommunications operators when the stated intention of the get-together was improvement of service quality on the Internet in Spain. The conclusions that followed made reference to something that is an all too frequent daily occurrence: Telefonica’s InfoVía is beating even its own records for working really badly (and it is not the only one, Retevision’s service, the Barcelona node, is exactly the same); costs are soaring for users of all kinds – both individuals and companies; the only recourse is to denounce them to the Comisión del Mercado de las Telecommunicaciones and the Tribunal de la Defensa de la Competencia for Telefonica’s abuse of power in favour of affiliated companies. In other words demanding things from an autistic corporation yet again. As far as the others are concerned, as they say in the surveys, “don’t know, no answer”.

Faced with a situation of this kind, the only way forward seems to be to gather together enough internauts, with names and addresses, to back up a proposal for a flat rate and, by sheer numbers, get to negotiate directly with the companies themselves. We will take note of their replies, their flexibility when it comes to arguing and their predisposition to stop treating the Net as though it were their own private hunting ground. If the “3000ya” manages to bring together enough people interested in getting this initiative off the ground, hopefully we won’t have to waste any more time on dropped connections, rates, the tardiness of the Net or just sitting around waiting for better times to arrive.

As “3000ya”‘s page so succinctly puts it, the absence of a flat rate “is noticeably retarding the introduction and use of the Internet in Europe and particularly in our country; people are missing out on vital opportunities; organisations on capacity for learning and operational areas; groups of info-enterprises on a powerful local market. Too many risks without any apparent benefits.” Latin America finds itself in the same boat as well. The initiative, while extolling the position which internauts themselves have already made clear during strikes in different European countries, is of course open to the Latin American continent which also suffers at the hands of the predatory policies of telecommunications operators.

We now have the opportunity to tell them what we think of them in a direct, organised fashion without the intermediaries who dance to their tune. The moment has come for us to have our capacity for decision-making taken into account. Let’s see if, at last, we can spend our time on more interesting things than worrying about obstacles that are keeping us in a state of underdevelopment at the very portals of a new society. There are enough battles to be fought without having to add this one against an inside enemy to them.

Translation: Bridget King.