Internet vs. Telecommunication Services: Differences that Matter for Users’ Rights

The internet is a global network that provides communication and information options for users. It is made up of interconnected networks that share a set of standard protocols.

Telecommunication (telecom) involves the exchange of information, such as voice, video and data, using electronic devices. It's a wide term that encompasses many technologies like wireless and wired phones, fiber optics, radio, TV, the internet and other means of transmitted communication.

Should Internet Services and Telecom Services be Regulated the Same Way?

These two types of services are not equivalent and shouldn't be regulated the same way. They are, in reality, competing technologies and could substitute for one another. Users are shifting their preferences in the technology rather than the associated services and products.

One example is SMS compared to internet apps like WhatsApp, Viber or Snapchat. The business models vary (billing vs. data exploitation). The tech is different too. There are unique entry barriers, with internet widely available for free but telecom requiring a subscription on fairly expensive products. Regarding internet messaging platforms, most are open to anyone while telecom services have a fair share of exclusivity. However, not having access to either SMS or basic telecom services leaves uses with no available substitutions in the market.


Internet Services Offer Low Entry Barriers and High Competition

The term internet application has a different connotation than telecom services. The internet has an abundance of options and not a scarcity. Thee are services and protocols that have the same function as telecom (VOIP, IM and video on demand for example). However, the necessity of regulating each is different. Currently, no good case has been presented for licensing intervention that supports competition or diversity.

When it comes to the internet, anyone who can get on a network has the benefit of neutrality and open options. The type of service that becomes popular depends on the choices of the consumer.

There aren't any quantitative limitations for content, so those who aren't able to obtain a media outlet or hold unpopular beliefs can still find a vehicle of expression.

Creating Relevant Rules for Internet Access

The pre-existing rules and obligations have to be adapted for internet access in a way that doesn't take away the freedom of its most vulnerable users. For example, regulation could obligate users to register for sites that serve as an information intermediary.

This concept has already been presented by Argentina’s National Communications Entity along with other restrictions on emergent technologies. Such measure could chill or put a deep freeze on freedom of expression online. In the broadest definition, any site allowing user comments could be made to comply.

In another example, regulations exist that govern data retention for telecommunications services in countries like Peru and these have no place in monitoring online services. Mandatory data retention is already harmful to the privacy rights of telecommunications users. Therefore, expanding these regulations to apply to the internet would further damage the privacy rights of users.

Applying outmoded telecommunication regulations and rules to the internet creates more problems than it resolves. Nuanced regulations that address the risk to users should take precedence over measures that tighten access points to the detriment of many communities and individuals.

It would also necessitate that internet service providers keep even more data about users than they already do. The entry barrier to the internet is currently low enough to serve as a media outlet. This supports the spread of democratic speech because any reader or user can become a content creator.


About the Author: Brittany Peckham

Brittany grew up in Oregon, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Business School with a Bachelor’s degree in Management and Human Resources with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. Brittany has been working with Valicom for many years creating content for the TEM industry to deliver the many benefits users and organizations can experience in utilizing TEM services. With a passion for social media marketing, Brittany enjoys applying creativity throughout various areas of her life while expressing creativity in everything she does and loves being consumed in projects, from start to finish.