The Internet has created a profound impact on the way in which human beings communicate, maintain interpersonal relationships, express ourselves culturally and socially, and even discuss politics. In accordance with a study on the global digital population, carried out by Statista, in January 2021 there were 4.460 million people with access to the Internet, which translates into 59,5% of the world's population.

Due to the importance of the Internet and its inevitable growth, in the early years of the XNUMXst century, net neutrality began to be discussed as one of the challenges for the development and innovation of communications networks. It is now understood that net neutrality is a concept oriented towards guarantee principles that give Internet providers the possibility of offering competitive and transparent services so that the end user can choose the option that best suits your needs.

On this subject, the Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC) presented its study 'State of Net Neutrality in Colombia' to explain how the country is doing in terms of Internet connection and net neutrality. There it is described that since 2011 the country established regulatory conditions for net neutrality which –among other things– seek to guarantee that lawful content, applications or services remain open and available to all users.

With article 56 of the Law 1450 of 2011 the rules were established for all the actors involved in net neutrality, as well as the terms and conditions that telecommunications network and service providers had to comply with that offer Internet in Colombia. This standard also established 4 fundamental principles for net neutrality:

  • Free choice: This principle seeks that users can freely use any content or application through the Internet regardless of its operator.
  • Nondiscrimination: Operators must provide equal treatment to content, applications and services without any discrimination.
  • Transparency: Internet providers must disclose their traffic management policies to users and other providers who have access to their network.
  • Information: Providers must provide the user with all the information associated with the conditions for providing the service, including speed, quality, traffic management practices.

In addition to the fundamental principles for net neutrality, in 2011 it was also made clear that some practices of Internet providers in the world could all be a challenge to maintain the principles of net neutrality. Among these practices, the throttling, tethering and Zero Rating, the latter being one of those used today.

The speed of the fixed Internet connection is increasing, but the mobile connection is lagging behind

The CRC showed that by the end of the second quarter of 2021, download and upload speeds in fixed Internet services nationwide were, on average, 55,1 megabits per second (Mbps) and 16 Mbps, respectively. It is worth noting that the fixed Internet speed in Colombia with fiber optic technology exceeded 70 Mbps, while with the satellite connection it barely reached 20 Mbps.

Image: Communications Regulation Commission.

Regarding the wired connection, Colombia is above the world average for broadband connection with more than 60 Mbps. According to Ookla's global Internet speed index, the world average with this type of technology is around 60,76 Mbps in download speeds. According to this index, Colombia ranks 50th among 180 countries in the world with 65,41 Mbps on average.

These figures show that the country has made significant progress, at least in regard to the fixed cable connection, as it went from 30,90 Mbps in February 2021 to more than double in February 2022.

The increase in fixed Internet connection speeds is very positive for the country, since over time the Internet is gaining greater relevance in people's daily lives and in the nation's economic activity. It must be taken into account that the pandemic accelerated the Digital Transformation of many organizations (educational institutions, government entities, companies, among others) and that is why it is essential that great advances be made in terms of connectivity.

Despite the good news regarding the fixed connection, the mobile connection is lagging far behind in the speed it offers, especially considering that it is one of the technologies most used by Colombians to obtain an Internet connection. According to the CRC, the number of base stations with 4G technology in Colombia increased by 128,8% between 2015 and 2020. However, ookla's data show that the average download speed of mobile networks only increased by 2,31 Mbps between February 2021 and February 2022.

How are Colombians consuming and what are operators offering?

The study by the Communications Regulatory Commission not only evaluated the state of net neutrality in the country and the Internet connection, but also showed the access that, for example, Colombians have to platforms of streaming and instant messaging.

In 2019, 32% of users in Colombia had access to audiovisual content services through the Internet, that is, to platforms streaming such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or HBO MAX. In 2021 that proportion grew to 36% and the percentage of users without access to any of these platforms fell to 64%.

Net neutrality-access-platforms-streaming
Image: Communications Regulation Commission.

In the case of instant messaging platforms, the level of user consumption went from 77% in 2019 to 82% in 2021, so these communication services are increasingly important for users and, of course, this is reflected in the operators' offers.

As already mentioned, net neutrality seeks, among other things, that users be able to choose the Internet services that best suit their needs and that is why, over time, operators have been establishing practices that precisely meet the needs of the people.

One of those practices is known as Zero Rating or zero rate. It is a service in which the operators provide free of charge, without data consumption, a series of services that are essential for the user, such as unlimited social networks. The CRC indicated that by 2021 there were 174 prepaid and postpaid mobile connection plans in Colombia and 108 offered Zero Rating.

The messaging platforms and social networks that are offered with Zero Rating in the country vary a lot, but the most offered are Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram. According to the CRC study, Zero Rating on social networks and even platforms like Waze is practically essential when purchasing a mobile Internet plan, which is why operators are creating a wide range of plans that include Zero Rating for prepaid and postpaid options.

Now, with the launch of a new tool that allows users to compare the rates of fixed and mobile Internet package plans and services, users in Colombia have more possibilities to make informed decisions about operator offers. We recommend this note to learn more about the plan comparison tool launched by the Communications Regulatory Commission.

Main Image: Tony stoddard (Unsplash)