The European Commission threatens to undermine the core values of the free and open internet

On 8 June, 34 civil society organisations from 17 countries published a joint statement to raise their concerns with Commissioner Magreth Vestager’s and Commissioner Thierry Breton’s public statement to alter the regulatory framework underpinning the free and open internet.

By (guest author) · June 9, 2022

The Commissioners showed an intention to start charging Content and Application Providers for the use of internet infrastructure. This goes against the fundamental net neutrality principles and core protections in the European Union. Over the past ten years, these proposals have been discussed extensively and always rejected by governments, legislators, and regulators in Europe and around the world. Today, nothing has changed to legitimise the sacrifice of the free and open internet to satisfy the interests of the telecom industry.

European internet users maintain a widespread desire to use the applications, content, and services offered by large content providers. In fact, due to advances in networking technology, the cost of deploying and operating network infrastructure has dropped dramatically, allowing ISPs to deploy more and faster broadband infrastructure at significantly lower costs. Thus, the economic and technical conditions at present weigh even more strongly against the introduction of such fees than during prior debates.

The ‘Sending Party Pays’ model that the European Commission is considering for the internet is the exact same model that resulted in 4 to 5 euros per minute for international phone calls. These calls were expensive because phone companies had a monopoly over access to their customers. This allowed them to charge monopoly prices for completing international calls, and international carriers had no choice but to pay or be denied access. Broadband providers have the same monopoly over their customers, and the proposals the European Commission is considering would allow them to exploit that monopoly when charging content providers for access.

The proposal will harm freedom of expression, freedom to access knowledge, and freedom to conduct business and innovation in the EU. It will hurt Europe’s internet economy and create unprecedented bureaucratic barriers that will slow growth in a recovering economy. That’s why 34 civil society organisations urge Commissioner Vestager and Commissioner Breton to challenge the short-sighted and self-interested demands of the telecom industry and to ensure a free and open internet.

The article was first published by EDRi member here.

(Contribution: EDRi member