Neelie Kroes, the Digital Agenda commissioner of the EU made a somewhat unexpected announcement today – she said she will prepare recommendations concerning “net neutrality” in Europe and she suggested she will “try to make it easier for consumers to switch service providers.”
Proponents of “Net neutrality” see it as a policy that “forces service providers to treat all data traffic equally” — in their eyes preventing carriers from speeding up, or from blocking, certain types of content on a discriminatory basis, regardless of how much bandwidth they consume or what liability such content triggers for the carrier.
The carriers, of course, see “Net Neutrality” as a policy that potentially interferes in their ability to manage their networks.
Up until this point while net neutrality has been discussed in the EU, it has not raised the same level of passionate debate that it has raised in the USA.
It remains to be seen how this issue will be addressed by the EU and individual member countries, if at all, but the issue is clearly in play as a result of Commissioner Kroe’s announcement.
Commissioner Kroes’ announcement comes after research from the body of European telecoms regulators, Berec, which found that at as many as 50% of mobile broadband users have contracts allowing their providers to block or throttle peer-to-peer traffic, to block Voice over IP services like Skype or to block specific applications like instant messaging services.
The issue is almost certain to be contentious, as mobile operators continue to feel increasing pressure from European regulators, who have already dramatically brought prices down both for roaming within the EU and for calling mobile numbers.
The challenge of imposing “Net Neutrality” rules on the industry is that it could further reduce their revenues, and particularly in an area (mobile broadband), where they are already struggling with the infrastructure costs of coping with massively increasing demand.