Net neutrality soon to be on EU’s agenda

Lack of regulation has contributed much to the success of the Internet, and made it a hotbed for new ideas. But there are some things that should be regulated and enforced in order for it to remain just that, and net neutrality is one of them, says the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.

“The 2011 study by European regulators showed that, for many Europeans, online services are blocked or degraded – often without their knowledge. For around one in five fixed lines, and over one in three mobile users,” she said on Tuesday while addressing at the European Parliament in Brussels . “It is obvious that this impacts consumers, but start-ups also suffer. Because they lack certainty about whether their new bright ideas will get a fair chance to compete in the market.”

She pointed out that ISPs have legitimate reasons for managing traffic such as data congestion and anti-spam efforts. But the fact is that different users have different network needs, she says, and they should be guaranteed to get the speeds and the quality of Internet services they paid for.

Kroes also shared that she will be putting forward proposals to the College of Commissioners, which will aim to assure that citizens get “the fairest deals, the most choice, the best new services over the fastest networks,” keep the Internet open, and provide ISPs with incentives to improve the infrastructure.

These proposals will address the need for:

  • Transparency – no more complex contracts with hidden fees and unclearly defined obligations for the ISPs
  • Users having a real possibility of choice when it comes to selecting an ISP – no more countless barriers to ISP switching, or the automatic extension of the contract
  • Fair competition as a way to spur innovation – “Services like VoIP or messaging services – like Skype or WhatsApp – offer real innovation for consumers,” says Kroes. “But some ISPs deliberately degrade those services, or block them outright, simply to avoid the competition.”

But she is aware that the telecoms single market is far from complete, and that a failure to take coordinated action on net neutrality would shatter the fragile construction. “If we don’t address net neutrality, wider problems will arise and tomorrow’s innovative services might have to stop at the border,” she concluded.

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