Today the European Parliament adopted new rules to end mobile roaming charges and safeguard open Internet access. This marks the final step in a two-years process that started under the previous Commission. Throughout that process OFE has been advocating for the adoption of a framework that would guarantee the respect of the net neutrality principle, whereby all Internet traffic should be treated equally. As the Internet economy develops and new, broadband-intensive services continue to grow, there are incentives for Internet Service Providers to enter into commercial partnerships with service providers to provide them with preferential access to their network. This must not be done at the expense of the “open” part of the network, which is nothing other than the Internet as we know it today. We must not forget what has made the creation of these new, innovative services possible in the first place, and what has made Internet equally accessible to all.
The legislative framework that was agreed by the European co-legislators is a small step in the right direction, but leaves many questions unanswered. The new rules will make blocking and throttling of content by Internet Service Providers explicitly unlawful, other than for clearly delimited, “reasonable” traffic management measures. Furthermore, services requiring a different quality of service will not be allowed to be sold as a substitute for open Internet access, nor affect the general quality of access to the rest of the network. These are important principles to ensure the continued openness of the Internet. However, answers to some key questions remain unclear : how will the exception for “specialised services” be implemented in practice? To what extent will the commercial practice of “zero rating” be limited, considering the challenges it poses to open and fair competition on the Internet? Much will depend on the implementation of the rules by the National Regulatory Authorities.
“Europe is caught between two stools”, said Graham Taylor, CEO of OpenForum Europe, adding that “whereas the U.S. has adopted a strong commitment to net neutrality earlier this year, the EU position is much less clear.” Noting some concerns on the effective implementation of the new rules, Taylor said “we now turn to BEREC to provide guidelines to the National Regulatory Authorities on how to implement the new rules in a consistent, predictable manner and ensure the continued openness of the Internet ecosystem.”
For more information, please contact OFE’s CEO Graham Taylor at email@example.com or OFE’s Director in charge of European Policy & Government Relations Maël Brunet at +32 2 210 02 80 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About OpenForum Europe
(OFE) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation, supported by major IT suppliers including Google, IBM, Oracle and Red Hat, as well as SMEs, user and consumer organisations, and national partners across Europe. It focuses on delivering an open, competitive ICT market. Views expressed by OFE do not necessarily reflect those held by all its supporters.