Net Neutrality: Responses to EC Consultation

The European Commission has published an overview report of the responses to its recent consultation on network neutrality.

It seems that respondents agreed that “traffic management is a necessary and essential part of the operation of an efficient internet” and that its use to address security and congestion issues is entirely legitimate. However there appears to be more concern about the use of traffic management to discriminate between services, for example allowing content providers to pay for priority access to customers, where concerns are expressed both about competition and the potential loss of the Internet’s power to support novel applications. Although respondents seem divided on whether transparency about these practices and the resulting customer choice will be sufficient to ensure that they do not become a problem, there is agreement that new legislation is not required at present, particularly as the new European Telecoms Directives are still being implemented by member states. There is an irony that blocking of peer-to-peer protocols is viewed as harming the development of content services when that blocking may well be prompted by action by Governments on copyright enforcement intended to protect the same content industry!

As this example shows, it may not even be clear what operational and regulatory practices will be in the interests of a single industry so the problem of working out the best approach to the Internet as a whole is even more complex. According to its press release the Commission expects to present a formal report, based on this consultation and other discussions, to the European Parliament.

By Andrew Cormack

I'm Chief Regulatory Advisor at Jisc, responsible for keeping an eye out for places where our ideas, services and products might raise regulatory issues. My aim is to fix either the product or service, or the regulation, before there's a painful bump!

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