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.