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No free internet and blocking email in Russia… yet

The Russian president wants free internet access, i.e. unpaid, for Russians. It supposed to be free access for social significant web-sites and online services, like state services for Russians, but including web-sites of mass media. Telecommunication operators dislike this idea, they ask for compensation of losses linked to free internet access for Russians. They would be obliged to transmit huge amount of traffic without payment requirement. The free internet access should be provided since 1st of March this year, but, as always, it wasn’t provided.

The Russian ministry of communication has developed the draft of governmental decree on free internet access to socially necessary web-sites, but it wasn’t enough time to approve this draft with other relevant authorities. The free internet is down in bureaucracy, so far. The list of internet resources, the access is to be provided to free to, is not ready yet and could be drafted in April.

In June it should be approved the draft of governmental decree providing reimbursement of losses for telecommunication operators. The ministry believes reimbursement is to be about 6 bln Roubles in year, the telecommunication operators believes the sum is much higher – 150 bln Roubles. The ministry of finance (MinFin) and the Russian Federal Antitrust Service (FAS) have slammed the draft decree.

The FAS has underlined that under the effective Russian federal law the telecommunication operators have the right to suspend their services if no payment follows and it is unacceptably to restrict their right to do so, even by the decree. FAS proposes to exclude from draft decree the provision ensuring reimbursement of losses for telecommunication operators linked with free internet because there is no list of socially necessary web-sites or web-resources.

The MinFin believes the proposed regulation would increase financial burdens on state budget and would entail decreasing of taxes paid by the telecom operators because their incomes would also decrease. The business proposes to retain the right to charge monthly fee for internet access and to define the internet speed and volume of free traffic.

If social networks would be included in so called list of free internet the people would consume a lot of traffic (music, movies etc.). The new proposed regulation would require amendments in Russian federal law. But it’s not all. There could be discussions in relation to list of social web-sites. If, for example, the online taxi service, provided by Yandex, would get in to the list that could mean non-competitive advantage.

But it is not all interesting things for today. There also was one great legal proposal to control and blocking users of electronic mail boxes. Two committees in Russian state duma have provided negative reviews. The draft law proposes to identify each user of electronic mail box by mobile phone number and blocking s/he mail box if user disseminates illegal information. The first negative review states that the wording of the draft law is too broad and could cover also any service making communication available for its users, including social networks and chats.

The review also states that blocking mail box of any user does not prevent such user to register another, i.e. new, mail box and continue to communicate with other users. The draft law does not provide liability for failure to comply with law. The second review states that the draft law does not take into account the borderless nature of internet. The user of mail box is able to communicate with other user holding mail box with different email services.

Therefore the committee asked the question – what mechanism to identify the user of foreign mail box is (by mobile phone number, but who would give it or provide to Russian enforcement authorities)? And if the draft law provides identification for mail box’ user by the mobile phone number, does it mean that if the user doesn’t have mobile phone number s/he has no right to use email?

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