Italian presidency abandons its net neutrality draft
The Italian Presidency of the European Council has decisively distanced itself from the leaked proposals on net neutrality. In a post on its website, it explained that previously proposed texts (including the leaks) were “significantly different” from the position of individual Member States, “including Italy” and that it proposed them “to act as a neutral mediator under the Presidency rather than imposing its own point of view.”
After numerous rounds of technical discussions on how to resolve the outstanding issues on net neutrality (and roaming), it is the clear wish of the Italian presidency to move towards making a political decision on what is needed. Contrary to the position in the leaked draft, the Italian Presidency states clearly that “adequate regulation is needed” and unequivocally recognises the “financial barrier to new entrants” that “would stop innovation” in the absence of effective net neutrality rules.
While recognising the problems non-neutrality would cause for businesses, the Italian Presidency’s website post does not, however, even acknowledge the damage that would be done to the fundamental rights of European citizens if access providers were able to arbitrarily undermine the fundamental rights to send or receive information.
While the Italian statement is a step in the right direction, it is clear that the full scope of the issue has not yet been grasped. References to broadband as a universal service right are interesting but tangential to the discussion. The question is – broadband access to what? If the online environment is impoverished by internet access providers successfully creating a new monopoly right – granting or restricting access to their customers – then we move from an information superhighway to a road to nowhere.
In the meantime, the European Commission continues to promote “Swiss cheese” regulation on net neutrality – saying the right things in public while feverishly (despite its new mantra of “better regulation”) acting to build in loopholes – offering wording and arguments that would allow the creation of a new internet-based customer access monopoly, whether through price discrimination or manipulation of weak definitions.