By Joe McNamee

On 12 February, the European Commission produced a broadly solid Communication (pdf) on global internet governance. Some of the policies promoted on a global level by the European Commission are really excellent – defend and promote fundamental rights and democratic values, multi-stakeholder governance structures, clear rules that respect rights and values and a single unfragmented network, etc.

The Commission is right to promote this approach, it is right to promote these values. But who will listen, when the European Commission itself fails to respect these principles?

The Commission talks of defending and promoting fundamental rights – yet its own internal analysis of Commissioner Kroes’ proposed Regulation on a Single Market for Telecommunications showed that it did not respect the EU’s own rules on fundamental rights. Commissioner Kroes ignored this advice and pushed blindly ahead with the proposal anyway.

The Commission talks of supporting a multistakeholder approach – yet the Commission ignored civil society’s views on net neutrality and repeatedly misrepresented the views civil society, for example by claiming that we want to ban specialised services (Futurezone.at – German language). What is multistakeholder involvement worth when stakeholders are willfully ignored and misrepresented?

The Commission talks about respecting rules and values, yet it proposed allowing Internet access companies to block and filter private communications to implement privatised (Article 23.5.a and Recital 46 of the proposal), lawless censorship, even though the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is very clear that restrictions on our rights to freedom of communication and privacy must be foreseen by law (Article 52). Respecting rules and values, indeed.

The Commission talks about the value of an “unfragmented network”, yet proposed legislation with regard to “net neutrality” (the Regulation on a Single Market for Telecommunications) that would explicitly create rules permitting internet companies to discriminate between services, building barriers to freedom of communication and business.

The Commission’s fine words are wise, insightful and thorough. Sadly, its actions fail to achieve the same standards.