Operators refuse to provide internet for poor students – 05/24/2023 – Education
The decision of operators Claro, Tim and Vivo to disobey Anatel (National Telecommunications Agency) determinations and refuse to sell data lines to attend connectivity programs for poor students and teachers came into the crosshairs of Cade (Administrative Council for Economic Defense) and the Federal Public Ministry.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Federal District introduced factual news based on a report by the Sheet, in the beginning of the month. Ignoring repeated determinations by Anatel, the three companies have denied the sale of the so-called electrical profiles (which carry data on the chips) to public school programs in Amazonas and Alagoas.
This is an expected connection for 650,000 students.
Alagoas and Amazonas made bids won by the company Base Mobile. Contracts provide access with filters, which only allow the use of the internet for educational purposes, and so-called neutral chips. In this model, it is possible to switch operators remotely — the objective, in this case, is to adapt to the existence and quality of coverage in students’ residences.
The companies are against these terms and refuse to sell connection lines at market price. One of the main arguments is that Base Mobile would be reselling the connection and would not be authorized by law for this type of service.
But this understanding has already been rejected by Anatel, which regulates the sector. The agency itself has fought in court against operators and provoked Cade.
Based on a letter from the regulatory agency, the council has already opened a preparatory investigation procedure to investigate irregularities in the combined activities of the companies, which together account for 98% of the mobile telephony market. Cade investigates whether there is abuse of economic power by operators.
The companies’ stance even provoked political reactions. The Mixed Parliamentary Education Front sent a letter to the body this week asking for an investigation of alleged “abuse of a dominant position”.
The projects in Amazonas and Alagoas take place within the scope of a federal law that determined the transfer of R$ 3.5 billion to the states to guarantee internet access to 22 million poor students registered in CadÚnico (used in Bolsa Família) and public school teachers. The learning losses caused by the closure of schools in the pandemic motivated the creation of the law.
“The struggle to approve the Connectivity Law was a long one, and this delay in its application is unacceptable. There are more than 600,000 students who may be left without access to the internet,” said, in a note, congresswoman Tabata Amaral (PDT-SP).
“Students and teachers from Alagoas and Amazonas remain without access to the internet due to the refusal of telecommunications companies to offer the service, despite being tendered”, said congresswoman Ana Pimentel (PT-MG), also in a note.
The operators questioned the bids, and Tim and Vivo took the case to court. The AGU (Attorney General of the Union) has acted in the two lawsuits that question Anatel’s determinations.
The first process is a writ of mandamus filed by Tim that was processed in the 6th Federal Court of the Judiciary Section of the DF. Judgment of the judgment denied the company’s request, recognizing the “inexistence of clear and certain right to support the operator’s claim”.
Tim, however, appealed to the TRF-1 (Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region). According to information from AGU, the rapporteur of the appeal, judge Marcelo Albernaz, granted the request and suspended the effectiveness of Anatel’s precautionary decision until judgment of the appeal by TRF-1.
The AGU will appeal this decision, it said.
The second lawsuit, by Telefônica-Vivo, is also in progress in the 6th Federal Court of the DF. There is still no sentence, but the request for advance relief requested by the operator was denied.
The report questioned the three operators. All informed that they would not respond to the report and would follow a unique positioning of the sector, through Conexis, an entity that brings together telecommunications and connectivity companies.
In a note, Conexis questioned the models of public notices won by the Base, which would have “serious technical and regulatory irregularities”. “This model created led to reduced competition and prices higher than those practiced by the telecommunication market for the sale of chips to provide connectivity, with obvious damage not only to public coffers, but also to students and teachers”, says the note.
The president of Anatel, Carlos Baigorri, told Sheet that the imbroglio does not involve commercial and price issues.
The column Panel SA showed, on the 14th, that the operators are preparing a judicial offensive against the model that involves the so-called neutral chips.
In addition to Amazonas and Alagoas, the Base won public notices in Bahia, Goiás and a consortium of teaching networks in Santa Catarina. In the last three cases, the projects are still being implemented.
These bids, added together, provide internet access for 1.2 million elementary and high school students. Public notices talk about contracting software or platforms requiring access control only for educational content, which requires filters. The Civil Rights Framework for the Internet prohibits operators from filtering content.
The Amazonas and Alagoas contracts are worth R$109 million and R$60 million, respectively. In addition to content filters and neutral chips, they require data usage control and management.
The law that allocated BRL 3.5 billion for student connectivity was approved by Congress in 2021 and vetoed by then-president Jair Bolsonaro (PL). The parliamentarians, however, overturned the veto and, at the end of last year, the resources were transferred to the states.