Will The Trans-Pacific Partnership Threaten Net Neutrality?

The Senate is still expected to act on a fast-track bill this week for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before leaving for Memorial Day. Politicos suggest that the only way for the controversial trade agreement to pass is through trade promotion authority, which would give President Obama a yes or no vote on the TPP without lawmakers being able to amend it.

While some lawmakers are leading the fight to stop the TPP — like U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — hundreds of tech companies are also coming out in opposition to the trade pact. The main concern these companies have is what it could mean for a free and open Internet, even after the FCC approved new net neutrality rules.

The Guardian reports:

The TPP would create an environment hostile to journalists and whistleblowers, said policy directors for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, co-authors of the letter. “TPP’s trade secrets provisions could make it a crime for people to reveal corporate wrongdoing ‘through a computer system’,” says the letter. “The language is dangerously vague, and enables signatory countries to enact rules that would ban reporting on timely, critical issues affecting the public.”

 

[…]

 

Of particular concern to the tech community is an “Investment Chapter” of the TPP drafted in 2010 and leaked by Wikileaks. The letter’s signatories argue the provisions would allow corporations to use an international legal system to override national sovereignty: “The TPP Investment Chapter contains text that would enable corporations to sue nations over democratic rules that allegedly harm expected future profits. Companies can use this process to undermine US rules like fair use, net neutrality, and others designed to protect the free, open internet and users’ rights to free expression online.”

 

The section has likely been revised in the last five years, but whether the provisions have changed has not, and cannot, be disclosed.

While more than 250 tech companies signed a letter to Congress expressing their concerns over the matter, there are some major players who were not signatories and whose absence was noticed. International tech giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook we not among the tech companies listed. According to The Guardian, Apple and AT&T are two members of the president’s International Trade Advisory Committee, which gives them access to sections of the TPP bill that would apply to their industry.

Of course, since the public is not given access to the language in the TPP, it is difficult to know what exactly is in the trade pact.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

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