EU Digital Commissioner: Net Neutrality Is A 'Taliban-Like' Issue

from the won't-someone-think-of-the-cars? dept

Until recently, most people probably assumed that real net neutrality was more likely to come to Europe than to the US. But in one of those ironic little twists, not only has the FCC voted in favor of net neutrality, but attacks on the idea in Europe have suddenly multiplied, leaving the final outcome there in doubt. Worryingly, one of the strongest verbal assaults on net neutrality comes from the very EU Commissioner who is in charge of the relevant legislation, Günther Oettinger. Techdirt has reported a couple of times on the Digital Commissioner’s rather clueless comments, but this time he has surpassed himself. Speaking at an event held by the German Ministry of Finance last week, here’s what the he had to say on net neutrality, as reported by the Pirate Party’s MEP, Julia Reda — her post includes a video of Oettinger speaking (in German) and a transcript of his remarks (in English):

Net neutrality: Here we’ve got, particularly in Germany, Taliban-like developments. We have the Internet community, the Pirates on the move, it’s all about enforcing perfect uniformity. They talk about “the evil industry”. It?s not about the industry, it?s not about the CEO and his salary.

Oettinger then goes on to explain what he thinks net neutrality is about: telemedicine and car safety, apparently.

If you want to have real time road safety, our lives are at stake, this has to have absolute priority with regards to quality and capacity.

I think downloading YouTube can wait a few seconds. I think we can let the game at some times be less than perfect on the screen. But road safety (a commercial service!), health (a commercial service!) and a few others come to my mind: They should be able to deviate from net neutrality, this Taliban-like issue.

What’s interesting here is that alongside the very old idea of telemedicine, Oettinger uses exactly the same new argument against net neutrality as Nokia’s CEO last week. Since no one was talking about this kind of application before — unsurprisingly, since it’s a really stupid approach — a cynic might almost think that they have both been fed the same talking point by someone.

Fortunately, Reda’s position as Member of the European Parliament gives her the right to quiz the European Commission formally, and she is availing herself of this power to put the following rather pointed questions, which pick up on Oettinger’s comments:

Can the Commission name specifically every single hospital in the European Union and their specific telemedicine products and applications which rely on real time broadband internet connections whose technical specifications rely on the absence of enforced net neutrality rules in the EU? Please list each and every hospital, product and application, please do not cluster products and applications.

Can the Commission name specifically every single intelligent transportation system such as a car-mounted impact warning system, car or transportation security device whose performance relies on real time internet access and whose technical specification relies on the absence of enforced net neutrality rules in the EU? Please list every manufacturer, product and application, please do not cluster products and applications.

I can’t wait for the replies.

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Comments on “EU Digital Commissioner: Net Neutrality Is A 'Taliban-Like' Issue”

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sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Re:

We’re used to the “let’s just make shit up” anti-net neutrality arguments, but this… “Taliban-like issue”??? What???

The only reasonable conclusion is that Günther Oettinger was high when he made this speech.

(Either that, or the translation was hugely inaccurate. I assume that would be easier to check than Commissioner Oettinger’s sobriety.)

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Was die Netzneutralität betrifft, da haben wir gerade in Deutschland Talbian-artige Entwicklungen. Da ist die Netzgemeinde, da sind die Piraten unterwegs, da gehts um perfekte Gleichmacherei.”

I translate:

“Regarding net-neutrality, we have taliban-like developments, especially in germany. There’s the net-community, there are the pirates on the move, this is about a perfect levelling down.”

Yes, this is a total incompetent idiot.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Enlighten me here

Just a guess, but I think he might be referring to the Taliban’s strict fundamentalist interpretation of Islam and how it should be applied in a very strict manner to every aspect of life.

Just as the Taliban espouse how people dress, where they go to school (if at all), what books to read, how to pray, so the thinking goes that net neutrality proponents want to dictate how every one (from ISP to company to end user) gets to use their internet connection.

The idea basically being that if companies aren’t allowed to have maximum flexibility to maximize the profit potential of their activities, then using the internet will become just like living in a Taliban controlled country.

Not that I agree mind you.

Just in case that wasn’t enough to sway you to support his financial backers world view, cars will crash and people will die due to their inability to access medical stuff.

All that’s missing is an appeal to protect the children.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Enlighten me here

So, by “taliban-like”, he’s trying to argue that rules that are intended to prevent corporations from dictating how we get to use our internet connections are in fact dictating how we get to use our internet connections?

I’ve heard that argument before. I think Orwell put it the most succinctly: freedom is slavery!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It depends on the area of policy and the specific brand of politician.

Oettinger was considered a disaster before he was appointed and he has barely been living up to that so far. Oettinger is a german conservative and ideologically a man of the industry. Kroes, his predecessor, was a dutch liberal and very open to public opinions.
The difference is night and day.

So much for the commissioners being uninfluenced by lobbyists and only technocrats… The horror-cabinet of Jean-Claude “taxevasion” Juncker is starting a real decay in Europe…

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

However, the idea that what “liberal” and “conservative” mean in Europe is different from what they mean in the United States is absolutely fact.

Yes. Here “liberal” usually refers to “corporatist”, and “conservative” refers to “corporatist”.

Whereas the usual (but of course also totally wrong) meaning of the US “liberal” would be called “socialist” here; whereas the usual US meaning of “conservative” would probably be called “reactionary”. At least if you ask the others.

And “libertarian” refers to “anarchist”, “green” to “green”, and “pirate” to “liberal” (in the original sense).

Anonymous Coward says:


Is what a corrupt political bastard looks like ladies and gents.

Seriously? Terrorism linked to wanting my damn videos to play without choppy or shitty quality?

This is why governments are overthrown… because people eventually get sick of just exactly this kind of shit and want to start taking lives of their rulers!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: THIS!!!!

Two points we should all remember:

1) Only a couple of years before the Nazis seized power, Germany was pretty much the center of the modern, civilized world, and it was as close to the opposite of fascist as nations get. What happened in Germany with regards to the Nazis can happen in literally any other nation so quickly that it would make your head spin.

2) The Nazis weren’t unique, or the first, to behave that way. They were just the first to do it in the age of mass communications.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

If self-driving cars and telemedicine are a net neutrality issue, then they’re yet more reasons for net neutrality. Not every automobile manufacturer or hospital is going to have a bandwidth agreements with local ISPs. Without net neutrality, some of them will get throttled or filtered out.

While it’s not a net neutrality issue, I’m waiting to see what happens when a self-driving car crosses a border.

In 2009 for example Mythbusters’ Adam Savage received $11,000 bill for a few hours of web browsing on his iPhone in Canada. Canadians roaming the US get similar bills. If self-driving cars are dependent on a cellular connection to a back-end database, they’re probably using bandwidth at a horrendous rate. A cross-border vacation could be EXPENSIVE.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The word “free”.
It will be subscription based and if you can’t pay your subscription, your car won’t move, and your medical equipment requiring a dedicated connection will stop working as well. I mean someone has to pay for the dedicated bandwidth and that’s expensive, just ask those supplying them.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“It will be subscription based and if you can’t pay your subscription, your car won’t move”

Which can be considered a safety effort. I would never want to ride in a car that requires a network connection in order to operate safely. The very notion is not only unnecessary, but dangerously insane regardless of whether that traffic is prioritized or not.

Also, the concept of net neutrality does not preclude prioritizing such traffic in the first place, so even though the concept of self-driving cars that need to talk over the net to work is inherently crazy, NN wouldn’t stop it.

Almost Anonymous says:


So, if tele-medicine and road safety are so important, maybe they shouldn’t ride on the same network as cat videos and Call of Duty. Feel free to bid on some spectrum and build out an exclusive network for those important “commercial services”.

But seriously, if the ISPs weren’t doing freaky shaping to begin with, videos and games and “important” stuff would co-exist quite nicely anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Importance

No they shouldn’t be dependent upon the internet at all. In an upcoming car crash, 50 miliseconds would be a long time to get a response, not to mention that 50 ms is probably a best case scenario. The car shouldn’t be dependent on internet at all.
But even if it were, we have something called Quality of Service (QoS). This prioritizes traffic so for instance, your tv has priority over your kid downloading or gaming on the same line.
These morons are trying to convince people that QoS is affected by net neutrality even though it is an integral part of how the internet works which is a full and total lie.
Net neutrality is to insure that one service doesn’t have an advantage over a similar service. Netflix wouldn’t have an advantage over Hulu because they have made a special deal with the broadband providers, but traffic from both would have to yield for more important traffic like Voice over IP or any future medical uses on the internet, like connections to pacemakers.

In fact net neutrality protects us all by insuring that one broadband provider can’t decide to strangle traffic from someone they are having a beef with or a company that have been excluded by contract with a competitor.
So if cars would stupidly rely on the internet in the future, it at least wouldn’t be because of strangled traffic that they would crash, because Ford didn’t pay the protection money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Techdirt made a liar by the EU

“Taliban like”? Show me where he said that! Here is Oettingers “official” speech:

via who has an old vs new speech.

Brought to you by the Ministry of Truth I guess.

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