Brazilian broadband providers want to limit usage


For the past month, the top three internet providers in Brazil have felt the wrath of their clients. Vivo, Oi and NET added a clause limiting internet access if more than a certain number of Gigabytes (GB) is used. After public outcry and more than 1,65 million signatures on an online petition against it, the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) prohibited companies from imposing limitations on fixed broadband usage until further notice.

The companies studied internet usage by their clients and discovered an overall average which they then used to come up with internet packages and their costs. According to NET, limiting internet usage is beneficial for everyone. “The data package we propose aims to preserve the user experience, both for those who use it sparingly and those who use it intensively”, stated the company in a press release. Vivo and Oi, completing the trio of Brazil’s top cable internet providers, expressed similar arguments.

In other words, these companies want to effectively transform home internet to be similar to that which is used on cellphones. After exceeding a set data limit, internet access would decrease to a minimum, or possibly even be cancelled until the end of the month unless the user buys a new package.

The packages offered by all companies vary between 10 GB and 250 GB, meaning clients could use the internet with a speed between 1 Megabyte per second (Mbps) and 120Mbps until reaching that data level. To put it in perspective, streaming services use the most data. A Netflix video in high definition consumes 3GB per hour. Brazilians spend an average of 104 minutes every day on Spotify listening to music, consuming 125MB daily and 3,75GB at the end of the month.

According to specialists, over a 25Mbps connection, it would only take 11 hours of video streaming, whether Netflix or YouTube, to use all 130 GB of data limit imposed by Vivo for example. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) there is an average of three people per house in the country with tablets, smartphones, television and videogames connected to the same internet router at the same time. If this is taken into account, monthly internet limits could be exceeded without much effort.

Anatel’s director of competition Carlos Baigorri signaled that he was in favor of the measures back in March. “There is not one unique consumer […] which means there are those who use internet more than the average and those who use less. In other words, those who use less have to pay for those who use more internet”, he explained.

As soon as Baigorri made those remarks, people across Brazil showed anger towards proposed internet limits. An online petition gathered more than 1,65 million signatures in less than a month while government branches went in favour of consumer’s rights and against the limit imposed by companies.

A video went viral showing depicting internet companies, which also provide telephone lines and cable television, as waging battle against their customers, explaining that people were no longer turning on their television because of online streaming and no longer calling or messaging one another because of online services such as WhatsApp.

On April 18th Anatel decided to prohibit data limits imposed by the companies for 90 days. The online petition against it became more famous, and the pressure exerted by online users grew stronger, forcing Anatel to forbid these measures until further notice less than a week after.

“The Board of Directors of Anatel decided on Friday, 22 – through deliberative circuit proposed by the President of the Agency, João Rezende – to examine the issue of franchises in fixed broadband, based on complaints received by the agency. […] Anatel constantly monitors the telecommunications market and believes that changes in the form of collection – even under the laws – need to be done without hurting the consumer’s rights, which is why we have prohibited any immediate change in the way providers charge fixed broadband.”

Anatel is in the process of analysing the broadband changes and it is not possible to determine when the agency will make its final remarks deciding whether or not the measures proposed by internet providers are legal. 


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