Neelie Kroes’ up-and-down evolution in the Net Neutrality issue

By EDRi · June 5, 2013

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Deutsch: [Netzneutralität: Neelie Kroes im Wechselbad der Gefühle |]

On 30 May 2013, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital
Agenda Neelie Kroes gave a speech in front of the European Parliament
calling for the need to guarantee network neutrality in Europe. During
the speech she announced she would deliver a legislative package by
Easter 2014. “We can’t afford in Europe all the countless, needless,
artificial obstacles placed in the way of a telecoms single market” said
Kroes who asked for the European Parliament’s support.

The request was curious, given that the Parliament has already issued
two resolutions in December 2012 calling on the Commission to propose
legislation to ensure net neutrality and urging Commissioner Kroes to
end her “wait and see” approach.

Kroes enthusiastically stated her intention to make a reform and get a
strong single market: “I want you to be able to say that you saved
their right to access the open internet, by guaranteeing net neutrality.
I want to channel your knowledge and passion into the legislation needed
to deliver a real single market.”

However, only a week after Commissioner requested the European
Parliament for support to guarantee net neutrality, she confirmed the
civil society’s concerns that her position on the issue remained
problematic by her keynote address at the European Parliament organised
by Access on 4 June 2013.

Kroes identified “transparency,” “consumer choice” and the “ability for
consumers to switch providers “without countless obstacles” instead of
net neutrality as the main paths to an open internet. “For me, an open
platform is built on competition, innovation transparency, and choice,”
she said.

The event of 4 June, entitled “Guaranteeing competition and the open
internet in Europe,” was co-hosted by ALDE European Parliament member
Marietje Schaake and EPP Parliament member Sabine Verheyen. Following
Kroes’ key note speech, representatives and experts from European
Institutions, civil society and industry sector groups offered expert
testimony on network neutrality.

While Kroes said that the internet is a “a great place to exercise and
enjoy liberty”, she seemed to agree with the idea that operators should
offer different types of internet since “different users have different
network needs.”

But she did cite the 2011 study by European regulators which found that
that 20% of European citizens are subject to arbitrary restrictions on
fixed access, with 36% on mobile connections. “It’s clear to me that
many Europeans expect protection against some commercial tactics,” she said.

However, Kroes did not propose any concrete solutions to this growing
problem, emphasizing that transparency over net neutrality is the key
gateway to an open internet. “With genuine transparency, I doubt many
consumers would care to buy such a limited product. I doubt many ISPs
would dare to offer one,” she said.

Following her keynote, the Commissioner was presented with an open
letter on net neutrality signed by 20 European CEOs and entrepreneurs
representing a variety of online businesses. This coalition, including
companies like Viber, The Next Web, Storify and WeePee, expressed
support in fighting the tendencies of access operators to act as
gatekeepers of the internet.

Civil society continues to advocate for a proposal that would
enshrine net neutrality into law. While the possibility for action
in this legislative period will end this fall, as Markus Beckedahl from
the German blog Netzpolitik wrote, “it is doable. if there is a will.”

Neelie Kroes’ Speech: The politics of the completing the telecoms single
market (30.05.2013)

Open Letter by European CEOs to the European Commission (04.06.2013)

Livestream: Guaranteeing Competition and the Open Internet in Europe

Net Neutrality Event: Guaranteeing Competition and the Open Internet in
Europe (programme) (04.06.2013)

Commissioner Kroes calls for net neutrality and wants support (only in
German, 30.05.2013)

Net Neutrality in Europe!date=2009-12-23_01:45:52!

EDRi-gram: The European Parliament supports net neutrality (19.12.2012)

(Thanks to EDRi observer Raegan MacDonald, Access)