Two months have passed since the European Parliament adopted amendments to enshrine net neutrality in EU law at the beginning of April 2014. The Telecoms Single Market proposal is now being reviewed by the Council (Member States) of the EU.
Rather than sitting back and waiting for the Council to carry out its work, Vice President of the Commission Neelie Kroes has been working hard to dissuade Council members from supporting net neutrality, something she was not able to stop in the European Parliament despite her (sometimes highly dubious) tactics.
1. “I am in favour of net neutrality but…”
At the June 6 Telecoms Council, Commissioner Kroes first acknowledged the importance of ensuring net neutrality on the EU level, “as expected by citizens”. Immediately after, she asked the Council to “ensure the proper balance between protecting the open internet and allowing and encouraging innovation on online services”. The open internet that facilitated the avalanche of innovation, creation and social and economic benefits around the globe is now, inexplicably, portrayed by Kroes as a barrier to innovation.
The Commission keeps on using the false dichotomy between net neutrality and investment in order to defend its unuseable definition of specialised services. The Commission’s approach — which confuses Internet Access Service with Online Services — would enable access providers to enter into anti-competitive commercial agreements with online service providers, severely hindering consumer choice, innovation and competition in the market.
2. “I was in favour of net neutrality, until I met Kroes”
This could be the summary of the French position on the Telecoms Single Market. When she took office two month ago, Axelle Lemaire, the French Secretary of State on Digital Affairs, announced that she was going to support legislation guaranteeing net neutrality. However, since the French Secretary met with Commissioner Kroes two week ago, her commitment to net neutrality seems to have weakened. Lemaire is now asking for “telcos to have a regulatory framework favourable to investment and competitiveness”; a statement, somehow similar, to Neelie Kroes’ speech in the Telecoms Council.
3. “I don’t know about ETICS”
In 2010, Commissioner Kroes’ services financed the launch of a research project called “ETICS” (Economics and Technologies for Inter-Carrier Services). The study, conducted by European telecoms providers, software vendors and academics advocates for the use of Assured Quality of Services, concludes that the impact of traffic management on net neutrality is “elusive” and recommends operators to secure future investments via Sending Party Network Pays (an idea supported by ETNO, the European association of former monopoly telecoms providers).
While Kroes’ spokesperson is trying to convince everyone that the Commissioner wasn’t involved with ETICS, as the project was launched before she took office, it appears that most of the findings made their way to her proposal for a Telecoms Single Market. We are expected to believe that, not alone is this a coincidence, but it is also a coincidence that the Commission waited until two days before the recent Council meeting before publishing the “independent” “research”.
Commissioner Kroes’ letter to MEPs on net neutrality – now with subtitles (02.04.2014)
How the Commission is out-manoeuvring the European Parliament to undermine net neutrality (26.02.2014)
European Telecoms Single Market: A false promise for net neutrality? (27.03.2014)
Child pornography and the net neutrality vote – what happened? (05.04.2014)
Axelle Lemaire for “clearly stated” net neutrality and “multi-stakeholder” governance (only in French, 23.04.2014)
TTIP and Icann: Lemaire calls for the EU to coordinate its digital strategy (03.06.2014)
ETNO paper on Contribution to WCIT ITRs Proposal to Address New Internet Ecosystem
(Contribution by Estelle Massé, EDRi member Access, International)