EDRi Responds to BEREC's Consultation on Net Neutrality and Transparency
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Deutsch: EDRi's Stellungnahme zur Konsultation über Netzneutralität und Trans...
Net Neutrality is at the centre of the debate in almost every European institution. The European Commission has been looking at this topic for more than a year now and is moving more and more away from its initial position to uphold net neutrality in Europe. In contrast to her own statements in January 2010, Vice-President Neelie Kroes is now advocating a wait-and-see-approach stressing the importance of transparency and the ability to switch operators. In a speech during the EUHackathon on 9 November 2011, Kroes said she heard "allegations that some internet providers throttle, degrade the quality of services". Earlier this year she therefore asked the EU Telecom's regulator BEREC to go on a fact-finding mission in order to prove these "allegations".
Net neutrality was also recently discussed in the European Parliament. The Industry Committee just adopted a resolution which called on the BEREC to swiftly publish the evidence emerging from its investigations. The resolution emphasised that net neutrality is crucial for fundamental freedoms, innovation and competition. Indeed, there is a growing number of threats to it, such as blocking of applications and degradation of services. These experiments with the essence of the Internet have sometimes been transparently declared by operators themselves and reported by end users and content providers, while at other times consumers' services have simply been restricted, without notification or explanation. Not only do operators have incentives to seize more control over internet traffic, they are also increasingly under pressure from vested interests to take measures which run counter to their role as a mere conduit.
On 2 November 2011, EDRi responded to the consultation on BEREC's "transparency and net neutrality" which will be followed by a paper on Quality of Service and a report on competition and discrimination issues next year. BEREC's draft guidelines on transparency however, are in line with the Commission's wait-and-see approach and argue that transparency is an effective tool to achieve the regulatory objective of maintaining an open and competitive Internet.
In its response, EDRi explains that transparency on service restrictions will lead neither to sufficient protection nor to empowerment of end users. In the light of numerous transparent and non-transparent violations of the principle of net neutrality, EDRi expresses its deep concerns about the Guidelines' apparent acceptance of restricted offers that provide limited access to the Internet. EDRi fears that relying solely on transparency requirements and on market forces will lead to the development of a multiple-tier Internet, to the detriment of citizens' rights and the competitive online marketplace. Few would be able to access premium managed services and many would be left in the slow lane with a low quality and restricted access to the Internet.
EDRi asks the BEREC to design regulatory tools for national regulatory bodies to ensure that traffic management practices do not unsettle the Internet ecosystem. The BEREC should promote narrowly-tailored measures to protect net neutrality and the open Internet's core characteristic as a unique platform for innovation and freedom of expression defined by end user control.
EDRi's response to the net neutrality consultation (2.11.2011)
BEREC guidelines on transparency and net neutrality (10.2011)
Speech given by Neelie Kroes on 9 November 2011during the EUHackathon
Net Neutrality Resolution as adopted by ITRE (7.11.2011)
EDRi-gram: Neelie Kroes on Net Neutrality (27.01.2010)
(Contribution by Kirsten Fiedler - EDRi)