Monday

20th Aug 2018

Net neutrality debate hots up in Brussels

A Brussels summit and a three-month consultation of internet service providers, telecoms firms, consumer groups and civil liberties activists on the topic of ‘net neutrality' carried out by the European Commission, whose results were published this week, reveal wide divisions amongst stakeholders in the sector over how to maintain an open internet.

The packets of information that currently wend their way across the information superhighway are delivered without favour. No data is accorded 'fast lane' privileges, with no discrimination depending on either the type of information or where it comes from.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Is a 'managed' internet the future of the online world? (Photo: Flickr)

A number of internet activists and providers of certain services online are frightened that this status quo may come to an end if internet service providers begin to offer 'quality of service' guarantees to certain content providers in return for a premium fee. This would guarantee that information from premium-paying content providers reach users ahead of others.

Internet Service Providers, (ISPs) argue that such managed provision of the internet is necessary to avoid heavy bandwidth services such as YouTube or its French rival, Daily Motion, from, in effect, 'hogging the tubes' and that enforced net neutrality would hinder innovation.

Open internet activists however fear that this could lead to wealthy content providers loading quickly while those of an individual blogger might load more slowly, or in some cases, blocking the delivery of certain forms of content altogether. Some providers have already started blocking access to voice over internet protocol services such as Skype to prevent it from cannibalising telecoms services.

Thus activists want legislators to intervene with regulation ensuring the maintenance of neutrality in the delivery of information - or 'net neutrality'.

The topic is highly controversial, as was revealed by the result of the commission's consultation. A number of respondents said that 'traffic management' is inevitable and desirable in order to support efficient networks.

Most however backed the maintenance of open networks in order to prevent some services being prioritised over others.

At a minimum, the commission was told by stakeholders that firms should be 'labelled', as either neutral providers or those that offer ‘managed services'.

"Several respondents are concerned about new internet business models causing net neutrality problems in the future, and have asked the commission to provide clarity," the commission said in a statement upon the release of the consultation results.

The debate over the issue continued at a summit in the European Parliament. Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes said that the commission supports an open internet but that the EU executive is reluctant to move in the direction of legislation.

Appearing to take the side of those who favour the development of managed services, she said: "We need investment to avoid bottlenecks and to allow the development of new bandwidth-hungry services and applications."

"We should allow network operators and services and content providers to explore innovative business models, leading to a more efficient use of the networks and creating new business opportunities," she continued, giving the examples of e-health and e-learning services as products whose development may require traffic management.

She said that while the decision of some providers to block certain services, such as Skype, that the best way to maintain an open internet was for customers to just purchase internet service from providers that are committed to neutrality.

"I say to those people who are currently cut off from Skype: vote with your feet and leave your mobile provider," she said.

Railing against such thinking, Jeremie Zimmerman of La Quadrature du Net, an online civil liberties outfit, told the summit: "Net neutrality must be made into law. Provisions aiming at competition and transparency have proven ineffective to protect it. This fundamental principle must by guaranteed through EU-wide regulation."

"Failing this, freedom of communication as well as innovation in the EU will be undermined," he said.

The commission is now to use results of the consultation and the summit as the basis of a report on the subject, which will be issued by the end of December.

EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation

The EU Commission has received several million responses from citizens, businesses, and organisations on whether to end the daylight summertime savings. Any tangible change would take ... time.

Opinion

'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Swedes head to the polls in September in a national parliamentary election, while Bavarians vote in October in a state election. In both elections, voters' nativist sentiments may well help determine the outcome.

Exclusive

Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs

Wegate.eu, which received €1.2m in EU money since its launch almost two years ago, has less than a thousand registered users - from a possible target audience of at least 10 million.

Opinion

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Exclusive

Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs

Wegate.eu, which received €1.2m in EU money since its launch almost two years ago, has less than a thousand registered users - from a possible target audience of at least 10 million.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us