By Maryant Fernández Pérez

On 7 July 2016, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther H. Oettinger welcomed an attack on net neutrality and the independence of the European Telecom Regulators (BEREC).

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Seventeen operators have made an anti-net neutrality statement called the “5G Manifesto” that one can even find on the European Commission’s website. Among other things, the manifesto criticises BEREC’s draft guidelines for creating (unspecified) uncertainties for investment. The rather hysterical statement even threatens the regulators with a delay in investment unless they “take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it.” This demand is mirrored in some of the almost comically biased questions in the 5G networks “consultation” launched by the European Commission.

Even more worrying than the content of the manifesto is the endorsement it has received from the European Commission and, in particular, from the European Commissioner for Digital economy and Society Günther H. Oettinger. In fact, the Commission has promoted the anti-net neutrality declaration not only once, but at least three times on the European Commission’s website (see here, here and here). In addition, the Commissioner applauded these companies in social media. Does this mean that the Commission is “very much” welcoming an attack against net neutrality, the law and the regulators’ independence?

Contrary to what the 5G Manifesto suggests, BEREC’s draft guidelines interpret the EU Regulation in places where the law is unclear or silent. The purpose of this work is to enable the implementation of the law in a consistent way in all Member States. BEREC cannot rewrite or contradict the law — the Regulation is the law that the European Commission had previously supported (and, officially, still does). By asking BEREC to depart from the principles and rules established in the law, the European Commission is actively undermining BEREC’s independence. As the EU’s Framework Directive on electronic communications correctly establishes, “[t]he independence of the national regulatory authorities should be strengthened in order to ensure a more effective application of the regulatory framework and to increase their authority and the predictability of their decisions”.

Citizens around the world can help preventing industry lobbying takes over the European Commission and the telecoms regulators’ independence by resorting to https://savetheinternet.eu.

EDRi press release: Net neutrality – last call for responses to Europe’s biggest ever telecoms consultation (11.07.2016)
https://edri.org/net-neutrality-last-call/

EDRi’s response to the 5G networks consultation (11.07.2016)
https://edri.org/files/netneutrality/consultation_5gopportunities_edriresponse.pdf

Vital support from industry for the EU 5G action plan (07.07.2016)
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014-2019/oettinger/blog/vital-support-industry-eu-5g-action-plan_en

Commissioner Oettinger welcomes 5G Manifesto (07.07.2016)
https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/commissioner-oettinger-welcomes-5g-manifesto

Commissioner Oettinger discusses industry recommendations on 5G (07.07.2016)
http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEX-16-2447_en.htm

Bringing down barriers in the Digital Single Market: No roaming charges as of June 2017 (27.10.2015)
http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5927_en.htm

Framework Directive on electronic communications (25.11.2009)
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32009L0140

(Contribution by Maryant Fernández Pérez, EDRi)

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