European Telcos Threaten To Withhold Next Gen Wireless Upgrades If Net Neutrality Rules Passed

from the chicken-little's-manifesto dept

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: broadband carriers are once again claiming that if regulators pass net neutrality rules, their ability to invest in next-generation networks will somehow be severely hindered, causing no limit of damage to consumers, puppies, and the time-space continuum. That’s basically the line U.S. broadband providers tried to feed the FCC in the States. But no matter how many industry-tried, cherry picking think tank studies have tried to claim that net neutrality hurts broadband investment, real world data and ongoing deployment show that just isn’t true.

As we noted last October, Europe passed net neutrality rules that not only don’t really protect net neutrality, but actually give ISPs across the EU’s 28 member countries the green light to violate net neutrality consistently — just as long as ISPs provide a few flimsy, faux-technical justifications. The rules are so filled with loopholes as to be useless, and while they technically took effect on April 30, the European Union’s Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) has been cooking up new guidelines to help European countries interpret and adopt the new rules.

With BEREC’s public comment period set to end on July 18, European net neutrality advocates are giving it one last shot to toughen up the shoddy rules. Fearing they might succeed, a coalition of twenty European telcos (and the hardware vendors that feed at their collective trough) have taped together something they’re calling their “5G Manifesto,” (pdf) which trots out some pretty familiar fear mongering for those who’ve remotely followed the last fifteen years of net neutrality debate.

Among them is the continued, not so veiled threat that technological progress will stop dead in its tracks if these companies don’t get the kind of consumer net neutrality protections they want (namely, none):

“The EU and Member States must reconcile the need for Open Internet with pragmatic rules that foster innovation. The telecom Industry warns that the current Net Neutrality guidelines, as put forward by BEREC, create significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment. Investments are therefore likely to be delayed unless regulators take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it.”

And the threat doesn’t just involve next-gen wireless. The carriers also proceed to effectively argue that unless they’re allowed to include huge gaping loopholes (like the existing exemption of “specialized services“), other technologies like VR, smart cars and smart cities will all be hurt (much like ISPs here in the States tried to argue that net neutrality rules would somehow hurt medical technology unless ISPs were allowed to discriminate):

“In this context we must highlight the danger of restrictive Net Neutrality rules, in the context of 5G technologies, business applications and beyond. 5G introduces the concept of ?Network Slicing? to accommodate a wide-variety of industry verticals? business models on a common platform, at scale and with services guarantees. Automated driving, smart grid control, virtual reality and public safety services are examples of usecases with distinguished characteristics which call for a flexible and elastic configuration of resources in networks and platforms, on a continuous basis, depending on demand, context and the nature of the service.”

This is all, for lack of a more scientific term, unequivocal and total crap. The argument that “net neutrality rules will stop us from keeping your pace maker from working” is fear-based prattle with no foundation in reality. If anything, the EU’s rules go well out of their way to ensure traffic can be treated differently (to an extreme fault). As for 5G, these upgrades are a necessary part of doing business, and carriers will invest in networks whether or not there’s some flimsy net neutrality rules governing their behavior. Realize too that the “manifesto” is talking about rules as currently written that effectively say it’s ok to violate net neutrality provided you support your anti-competitive behavior in veiled, faux technical justifications (see comments made by Sir Tim Berners-Lee).

In short, people should understand these European companies’ lawyers and lobbyists directly wrote net neutrality rules pretty much ensuring they can do whatever they like — about as “certain” as things are going to get — yet they’re still god-damned complaining.

When it isn’t busy making empty threats, the manifesto trots out some similarly-meaningless promises, such as claims that the “right” net neutrality rules will result in scheduled large-scale 5G demonstrations by 2018, and the launch of 5G commercially in at least one city in every EU country by 2020. Again though, this was already happening with or without net neutrality rules. Tying the success or failure of network investment to net neutrality is a hollow bogeyman, one we’ve seen used repeatedly in countries where carrier executives twitch at the faintest specter of a regulator actually doing its job and protecting consumers from the aggressive abuse of uncompetitive telecom markets.

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Comments on “European Telcos Threaten To Withhold Next Gen Wireless Upgrades If Net Neutrality Rules Passed”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Unfortunately, the government doesn’t have a leg to stand on. I found myself rolling my eyes at the ceiling over Karl Bode’s article above.

The problem? The government loves to swing the big axe by imposing new rules and regulations that impact our enjoyment of life, such as the internet. But, it’s the tech companies who have the resources to decide on what they will invest in.

The United States loves to swing the big axe on encryption and net neutrality but they have nothing to back it up. This is why anti-encryption has continued to fail in congress and why net neutrality keeps failing.

The European Union is going to find out that they also do not have any influence or power over tech companies. If they pass net neutrality rules in the E.U., they’re going to find out just how difficult it is to pass their own silly rules.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think you misunderstand the problem here. If I understand it correctly, you are talking about bad regulation that truly impacts the ability of the market to develop. In those cases you may be somewhat right but even then you are ignoring the fact that this leads to the real issue: monopoly.

Infra-structure services inherently lead to monopolies or at most a few very powerful players dominating the market. What the regulators tried to do was to limit how these providers can (and do) abuse their natural monopolies by setting up net neutrality rules. Sure the bigger players will be able to deal with the garbage that was produced and called net neutrality rules but what about the small player? And this will inevitably lead to more monopoly, this time by the services favored by their own deep pockets (read Facebooks of the life) further locking us in our ‘enjoyment’.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The government can make a counter threat. The government can threaten to do two things, both of which would be good for everyone, except monopolistic, lazy gatekeepers:

1. Make net neutrality the law
2. Open the markets to competition, no more monopolies, so that everyone will get fast internet at the best prices where the providers can still make a profit

The real problem is that monopoly providers simply do not know how to operate as a real business and compete. They couldn’t compete their way out of a paper bag. Witness what happened in the early ’80’s when long distance was opened to other players: lower prices, more choices, and better quality. It was good for everyone, except AT&T’s over priced monopoly.

(oh wait, I forgot to write something cynical or sarcastic here.)

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The thing is, Net Neutrality does nothing except codify into law the voluntary agreements that already exist on the internet and ALWAYS HAVE. Go look up what RFC means in the context of the internet, it will be an eye-opener for you.

They’re ALREADY being paid to provide services, but now they’re threatening to cut people off from the services they are already paying (often exorbitantly) for if they aren’t paid twice. IF they get it enshrined in law that they must be paid twice, what’s to stop them from wanting to be paid three times? Four? Fifty? Greed is endless.

If they were using new technology to provide a faster channel for premium content, that would be one thing — I’d pay more for that myself. But that’s not what they’re doing. What the companies was to do is slow down everybody’s connection unless they get paid extra for the NORMAL SPEEDS they are already providing. Net Neutrality is simply saying that people should get what they have already paid for, without having to pay multiple times for a single product.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Net neutrality is not so much about thecost, as it is about the wireless providers becoming gate keepers to the sites you can access, at least without having to pay extra.. Imagine using Reddit if you do not know how much you will be charged, and what speed bumps will be put in the way of linked to content.

Anonymous Coward says:

The only problem is that the government, the lawmakers and policymakers, don’t have any bargaining chips. If they expect the tech industry to invest their money in new technologies, then they need to give up the insane ability on imposing new rules on tech companies.

It’s easy to sit behind a computer screen and go off on your silly little rants.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Please do not call dinosaur monopolists “the tech industry”.

If there were competition, then wireless providers would find it in their highest interests to invest in tech in order to either beat the competition to market, or to not fall too far behind the competition. The government would not have to do anything.

Threats to withhold 5G simply show how they are willing to misuse monopoly power to harm consumers. Yes harm. Being able to violate net neutrality hurts everyone. The fact that they want to do so says a lot. It’s not only that they want to overcharge for service, its that they want to interfere, manipulate, and spy on your traffic. And advantage and disadvantage various internet sites who all pay their own bandwidth bills on their end of the connection.

If this is about Netflix, then here is a free clue. If Netflix is using too much bandwidth from my home, then CHARGE ME FOR THAT. It’s not Netflix using that much bandwidth. It’s ME. It’s not my neighbor who doesn’t use Netflix. And it’s not Netflix either. Netflix doesn’t just force a large bandwidth stream into my house unbidden. And Netflix pays handsomely for their own end of the connection, just as I should pay for my end of the connection. Somebody has to pay for my end of the connection. Being able to violate net neutrality is just a way to distort these costs so that some providers have to subsidize my end of the connection, while others don’t, so that the mobile provider’s service falsely appears to be cheaper than it would be.

It’s easy to sit behind a computer screen and defend monopolists and suggest they should be able to get away what whatever outrageous behavior they want to.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

SWAT teams enforcing laws and court orders is a pretty sizable bargaining chip. Especially in the EU where the government has more of a monopoly on force than in the USA.

The government does not need to bargain with people to get them to obey the law.

Tech companies don’t need to be sovereign states to make a profit, nor do they need to be sovereign to innovate. If they don’t want to innovate or make new profits, someone else will and then the old dinosaur telecom companies will be just a footnote in history.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The government has two ways to force the introduction of 5G and net neutrality. They can say “build it or we will build our own network and we won’t flog it off to you either”, or, if the spectrum licenses expire they can refuse to issue then again without requiring them to be used for 5G (or better), so the networks would have to choose between upgrading and dying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow, what a threwat. Am I supposed to care?

Here a few facts about cellular networks in europe.

1: Many places still only get GSM coverage 3G does still not have the coverage promised years ago.

2: 4G (LTE) is available almost exclusively in bigger cities and a few smaller outliers with no rhyme or reason.

3: with the current contracts you get here it is effectively irrelevant if you get 3G, 4G or eventually 5G since it is impossible to get contracts that exceed about 10GB volume per month.

So, Instead of making empty threads how about you finish building up the networks you have promised already? And how about offering contracts with actually usable data Volumes or, god forbid, actual flatrates? That would be great.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

I still want to know why autonomous vehicles should be depending on anything over a fucking network.

And seriously, screw smart cars, and smart TVs, and the whole IoT. No security at all. And there has been ample opportunity and time, and so far there is nothing good going over the network, just another way to commoditize consumers (and sometimes not even a clear plan to do that, just store the data on servers with tissue-paper thin security).

So… what is that threat all about?

And the dumbest thing is that QoS provisions are perfectly normal. They just want to conflate that with monopoly prioritization that has no technical basis whatsoever.

Anonymous Coward says:

EU MEP for Informatics

Our dearest and beloved MEP for Digital Agenda in the EU parliament, the guy in charge for anything internet related, Guenther H. Oettinger had this to say on the topic:

Glad to see @Siemens, @deutschetelekom & other industr players contributing to #5G Manifesto

And before you assume anything, I am sure that no suitcases changed hand before this happened! Well, to be fair, even if they did it wouldn’t be a bribe because it happened before the vote(real rules!). Anyway… guesstimate the chance for the “manifesto” to fail? My guess: 0.00%

You got to admire the determination in the EU to keep innovation down. You’re welcome USA! Keep going as #1 in innovative internet services. The EU people who got their job without a single vote by the public do their damnedest to keep you at #1

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