Kroes ignoring the problems on net neutrality?

By EDRi · January 30, 2013

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Deutsch: [Netzneutralität: Ignoriert Kommissarin Kroes alle Gefahren? |]

Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Internet-related policies,
recently published an article in the French newspaper Liberation stating
that while she was in favour of an open Internet and maximum choice that
must be protected, and she believed that “consumers should be free to
make their own choices about their Internet subscriptions”, this “does
not preclude consumers from subscribing to more differentiated, limited
Internet offers, possibly for a lower price.”

The entire discussion occurred after Free, one of the largest ISPs in
France, decided to block Web ads by default on its FreeBox router thus
placing several ISPs which depend on advertising in a very bad position.
This kind of practice can be avoided by making net neutrality mandatory
through EU legislation which will ensure a fair competition on the
market and will promote innovation.

In her opinion, Kroes drew the attention that consumers “should not
forget that choice has consequences. Opting for blocking ads or
requesting privacy (‘do not track’) may mean you don’t get access to
content for free. The internet does not run on its own. The network,
content and internet access all have to be paid for by someone. Many
smaller web operators exist on the basis of innovative advertising
models. There are various ways consumers pay for content, including by
viewing advertisements before or during their access to content.
Businesses should accept that different consumers will have different
preferences, and design services accordingly.”

However, less than one year ago, in May 2012 Kroes stated: “We have
recently seen how many thousands of people are willing to protest
against rules which they see as constraining the openness and innovation
of the Internet. This is a strong new political voice. And as a force
for openness, I welcome it, even if I do not always agree with
everything it says on every subject. We are now likely to be in a world
without SOPA and without ACTA. Now we need to find solutions to make the
Internet a place of freedom, openness, and innovation fit for all
citizens, not just for the techno avant-garde.”

But now, the commissioner brings in the “free market” argument in favour of differentiated offers which will actually restrict the open market for online services.

“On net neutrality, consumers need effective choice on the type of
internet subscription they sign up to. That means real clarity, in
non-technical language. About effective speeds in normal conditions, and
about any restrictions imposed on traffic – and a realistic option to
switch to a “full” service, without such restrictions, offered by their
own provider or another. Ensuring consumer choice can mean constraints
on others – in this case, an obligation for all internet service
providers to offer an accessible “full” option to their customers. But
such choice should also drive innovation and investment by internet
providers, with benefits for all. I am preparing a Commission initiative
to secure this effective consumer choice in Europe.”

La Quatrature du Net has been quick in reacting and qualified Kroes’
opinion as a “shameless defence of operators”. “Net neutrality is not a
question of market but, before anything else, a question of fundamental
freedoms”, stated Benjamin Sonntag, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.

Net Neutrality: Neelie Kroes Yields to Operator Pressure (17.01.2013)

Internet and filtering applications: a question of choice and recipes
(in French, 16.01.2013)

Internet and filtering applications: a tale of choice and revenues

Will Neelie Kroes Defend or Destroy EU Net Neutrality? (21.01.2013)

EU Commissioner Kroes won’t be bullied on net neutrality, says spokesman

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