The Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) has been working for more than twenty years in Internet governance in Brazil. It was created in 1995 under Fernando Henrique Cardoso government, by a joint administrative rule of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Communications, the Committee is a shared governance entity widely recognized in national and international groups.
CGI.br is a multi-stakeholder institution, in other words, it is open to the sectors involved and interested in the definition of Internet policies in Brazil, bringing together experts, technicians, private companies and representatives of government and civil society to deal with internet governance at the national level. The Committee has the multi-stakeholder involvement of the various sectors since its beginning. In 2003, a presidential Decree prepared during President Lula’s administration established to CGI that a majority of its directors must be unrelated to the government. They are elected every 3 year in an election process open to the community Therefore twelve of the twenty-one members of the Committee (CGI) are not part of the government:
Fonte: Comitê Gestor da Internet no Brasil
Vital functions for the Internet to operate with quality in the country go through CGI.br, such as administration of the <.br> domain, allocation of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and the establishment of recommendations on network security – it is worth noting that It is from the Committee a remarkable effort to combat spam in Brazil. In addition, a recent and important highlight was given to CGI.br in the the Brazil’s Internet Bill of Rights (Law 12.965, of April 23, 2014) and its regulatory decree. According to legislation, the Committee should be heard in relation to net neutrality and should establish technical guidelines for the adequate provision of services and applications. It is expected that future legislation on the protection of personal data in Brazil – currently under discussion in the National Congress – will further empower CGI.br as a space for decision-making and guidelines for the progress of the internet at the national level.
With these kind of powers there a lot of interests involving the Committee, especially by actors interested to reduce the strength of civil society. At the beginning of August 2017, the Temer government announced a public consultation aimed at modifying the governance model of CGI.br, influenced by demands coming especially from telecommunications companies, which are interested in weakening the Committee’s current multi-stakeholder model. That is because telecoms have only one chair in the council, and also by the fact that internet is not classified as a telecommunications service so it is not under the National Telecommunications Agency (ANATEL) competence, a regulatory agency which is under big influence of telecoms.
So is is worrisome the way in which the public consultation was initiated: there was no previous dialogue with CGI.br itself, nor was the internet community consulted. The initiative came from a hasty and authoritarian decision of the government, in the figure of the Secretary of Informatics Policies of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications and coordinator of CGI.br, Maximiliano Martinhão. The Temer administration had already shown some disregard for the Committee’s model for delaying the approval of the new elected representatives in May 2017. This led to delay of CGI first meeting with the new council that will only occur on August 18, after the opening of public consultation itself.
The public consultation is available on the platform participa.br and was divided into four axes:
- Update of the competencies of the Committee;
- Modification of the composition of CGI.br;
- Improvement of transparency and accountability mechanisms;
- Improvement of the current electoral process.
Critics and suggestions for improvements of the CGI.br are recurrent since its creation, coming from all sectors represented in the internet community. In this sense, it is not exactly the content of public consultation that is being disputed now – but rather the political moment that it has been proposed and how it was published. The risk is that the public consultation will serve only as a smokescreen of apparent legitimacy, covering a process of unilateral and undemocratic change of CGI made by the government and telecommunications companies, undermining the space of civil society on internet governance in Brazil.
The Coalizão de Direito na Rede (Coalition on Network Rights), an independent network of civil society organizations, activists and academics in defense of a free and open Internet in Brazil, has already expressed opposition to the governmental maneuver. Internationally, activists and groups involved with internet governance also began to move in defense of CGI.br. The next steps seem uncertain as the current Committee coordinator, Martinhão, is leaving MCTIC to take over the presidency of Telebras – a Brazilian state-owned company responsible for managing the Broadband National Plan and the fiber optic infrastructures of Petrobras and Eletrobras – soon after announcing the public consultation process – and some actors demand the suspension of the consultation as a whole. The consultation is open until August 31, with a possibility of extending this period.