What Exactly Does The EU Plan To Do On Net Neutrality?

from the confused?-you-will-be dept

There are few areas in tech policy where the waters are so muddied as those swirling around net neutrality. That's as true for the EU as it is for the US. The latest statement by the person responsible for this area in the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, does little to clarify things.

First, she addresses the issue of blocking and throttling:

Huge innovation can be found online: we must safeguard it for everyone. Currently too many Europeans find that services are blocked and throttled by their internet provider. I believe every European should have access to the full and open internet, absolutely guaranteed, without such discrimination. And so I am coming forward with new rules to bring such practices to an end once and for all.
That's clear enough. But Kroes goes on:
I agree that the Internet is an important platform for freedom of speech; and that is why I intend to guarantee access without restriction -- the first ever time such a guarantee exists across Europe. But permitting premium services does not in any way restrict that freedom. For almost any kind of product you care to name -- from postal services to the petrol in your car -- having premium products hardly diminishes freedom for users: if anything it offers them more choices. If you decide not to pay that extra premium, of course, you still deserve a good product: and under my proposals, the "best-efforts" Internet will get better.
It's not at all obvious how "premium products" will magically boost the "best-efforts" Internet. On the contrary: if companies are allowed to pay for their IP packets to be given priority over "best-efforts" services, this will result in the latter be pushed into the Internet's slow lane. Net neutrality will be dead, and innovation threatened, because deep-pocketed incumbents will be able to promote their services at the expense of underfunded startups, or non-profit projects. Moreover, telecoms companies will have a perverse incentive to make that slow lane as bad as possible, in order to "encourage" people to pay for the "premium products" that offer a decent performance.

Kroes discusses the general issue of regulation:

if you aim to protect an open network, overregulation is exactly the wrong way to go. The fact is, many innovative new services depend on fast connections over IP networks. If you want to invest in (say) new videoconferencing equipment, an IP TV, or a new cloud computing contract, you will also want to know your connection will support it. If EU laws banned such quality guarantees, we would risk effectively outlawing many of those new services too.
Those in favor of net neutrality do not argue for "over-regulation"; instead, they want one very minimal rule: that all IP packets are treated equally for a given connection. If services need fast connections, then just upgrade the speed so that all applications benefit. Maybe that is what she means -- it's really not clear from her post -- but fast connections are not normally described as "premium products", and they are already available as part of most ISPs' standard offerings. So what exactly is the EU proposing to do here?

And for those who are worried about any kind of regulation, here's what someone who knows what he's talking about here -- Tim Berners-Lee -- said on the subject back in 2006, when net neutrality was under threat in the US:

Yes, regulation to keep the Internet open is regulation. And mostly, the Internet thrives on lack of regulation. But some basic values have to be preserved. For example, the market system depends on the rule that you can't photocopy money. Democracy depends on freedom of speech. Freedom of connection, with any application, to any party, is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now, the society based on it.
Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: eu, neelie kroes, net neutrality


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2013 @ 4:03pm

    Re:

    I can't believe someone made the statement "Someone has to pay a premium to fund network upgrades". This is simply false.

    There are other options out there, you can pay for a dark fiber run to the nearest IX. You can pay Level 3, Cogent, Hurricane Electric, etc for port, bandwidth and a cross connect. I have never heard of a Tier 1 ISP ever doing any sort of shaping, unless of course it's a requested service like MPLS. If you really are against all QoS and oversubscribing, then your only option is to become your own provider. Traffic shaping is a tool and a very necessary one at that, even imho on your personal home network.

    When QoS fails is when they differentiate services, or purposely use peering disputes to disrupt internet traffic to specific parties.

    After you come back with a few price quotes, than you can tell me about the price you are paying for that QoS, oversubscribed network.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.