BEREC’s findings on net neutrality

By EDRi · June 6, 2012

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Deutsch: [Netzneutralität: BEREC präsentiert neuste Erkenntnisse |]

On 29 May 2012, The Body of European Regulators for Electronic
Communications (BEREC) published its findings in its joint investigation
with the European Commission regarding traffic management and other
practices that lead to restrictions to an open Internet in Europe.

This investigation was based on over 400 responses to a questionnaire
addressed to European operators in fixed and mobile markets and includes
three publications in the context of Net Neutrality (the quality of
service guidelines, a report on differentiation practices and related
competition issues and a report on IP Interconnection).

While stating that traffic management and differentiation practices are
not harmful in themselves, BEREC draws the attention over the fact that
they are “capable of being used for questionable purposes or in an
inappropriate manner.”

BEREC’s conclusions are that in order to provide net neutrality,
competition between operators should rely on effective transparency and
the possibility for end-users to easily switch between service
providers. National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) as well as end-users
should also be able to monitor the performance of the Internet access
service and of the applications used via that Internet access service.

As the situation is different in the Member States, BEREC is proposing
general criteria to allow NRAs to assess practices on a case-by-case
basis in their respective markets.

However, the data from the investigation is actually revealing an
increased trend of the operators to restrict access to their users. “At
least 20% of mobile Internet users in Europe have some form of
restriction on their ability to access VoIP services, although there are
differences by country (depending for example on the number of operators
providing unrestricted access)” says the report. The same is valid for
20% of the fixed telecommunications operators especially for
peer-to-peer volumes at peak times. According to Neelies Kroes, who
initiated the investigation, this can affect up to 95% of users in a
country. Kroes emphases the fact that the findings show the need for
more regulatory certainty and the existence of “enough problems to
warrant strong and targeted action to safeguard consumers.”

The Commissioner believes consumers should know exactly what they get
for their money and that regulators should have control over how ISPs
market their services.

Yet, digital civil society groups consider this is not enough and that
the Commission should legislate on the matter and provide strong legal
protections for the free Internet, taking the good example of Netherlands.

“Commissioner Nellie Kroes’ proposals refer soundly to the long standing
principle of Net Neutrality, but they will have no effect if they fall
short of decisive action. Net neutrality must be made into EU law, and
provide a stricter framework paving the way for fine-tuned but effective
regulation. As Mrs. Kroes timidly suggests, it is indeed of the utmost
importance to ban operators from using the word “Internet” if they
block, throttle or charge differently for specific Internet services and
applications. Privacy invasive traffic monitoring practices must also be
prohibited. All the data is on the table, now we need action,” stated
Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of La Quadrature du Net.

The public consultation on the three BEREC documents is open until 31
July 2012.

A view of traffic management and other practices resulting in
restrictions to the open Internet in Europe – Findings from BEREC’s and
the European Commission’s joint investigation (29.05.2012)

PRESS RELEASE – BEREC publishes net neutrality findings and new guidance
for consultation (29.05.2012)

BEREC documents on Net Neutrality consultation

Next steps on Net Neutrality – making sure you get champagne service if
that’s what you’re paying for (29.05.2012)

EU Telecom Regulators’ Wake Up Call on Net Neutrality (30.05.2012)