The European Internet is not neutral and neither is the Commissioner

Participation of Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the EC, at the seminar "Women on top", organised in Amsterdam

Participation of Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the EC, at the seminar “Women on top”, organised in Amsterdam (EC Audiovisual Library)

How many times were you out with friends and wanted to show them a new cool video on Youtube through your smart phone but buffering was unbelievably slow? What about the time you had a cheap pay-as-you-go subscription and you wanted to save money using Viber to call your friends for free instead of giving more money to Vodafone? How painful was it that the Viber connection was insanely slow even though you had a full 3G signal? Is this due to the fact that 3G and 4G technology is rather poor? Should we be then looking forward to the 5G that will hopefully allow us to experience excellent Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication and free video streaming? Think again!

It was only ten days ago that the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and the European Digital Rights (EDRi) sent a letter to the European Commission demanding immediate action on net neutrality for the European Internet. Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, and Andreas Krisch, President of EDRi, representing more than 80 consumer and citizens organizations in the EU, sign the letter that condemns the inability of the Commissioner Neelie Kroes to defend neutrality in the European Internet. In fact, in this letter those organizations condemn the standard current practice of Telecom Giants to block, filter and throttle deliberately free Internet services like VoIP as they see them as competition.

The Internet like it should be: Neutral

Net neutrality is a fundamental design principle of the Internet. As professor Tim Wu from Columbia Law School puts it: “The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites and platforms equally”. In short, all information a user sends and receives through the Internet should have the same value and not be discriminated by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), the mobile network (e.g. Vodafone) or the government. This is exactly why the Internet came to revolutionize the society of the 21st century. The democratization of the flow of information makes it possible today for modern people to participate more actively in society, education and communication. Having said that, it is well understood that the Internet is inherently neutral. However, often telecom operators or ISPs do not respect the principle of neutrality that the creator of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, embraces.

The EC to treat cancer with aspirins

The stance of the European Commission on this crucial issue for the modern European society has never really tackled the problem. Instead, the issue has been regarded as a problem of the market. Thus, competition and transparency are the two tools that the EC has used to defend a neutral Internet. However, net neutrality is threatened by deliberate traffic management of the information accessible to the user and not by price or speed difference in the services provided to her. Transparency of the services provided to the Internet user or the ability to switch ISP or telecom operator has little to do with Internet neutrality. The primordial principle of net neutrality defines that it is the citizen who decides and controls every bit of information he sends or receives and not the Internet provider.

It is stimulating here to follow some statements by Neelie Kroes, the 72 year old Commissioner for Digital Agenda, in order to understand clearly the distinctly problematic approach of the EC on this issue. The Commissioner has supported that the European citizens should be able to choose their Internet subscription and activity but this “does not preclude consumers from subscribing to more differentiated, limited Internet offers, possibly for a lower price.” Moreover, here are some other past statements of the Commissioner: “Make no mistake: I am in favor of an open Internet and maximum choice. That must be protected. But you don’t need me or the E.U. telling you what sort of Internet services you must pay for.”… “On net neutrality, consumers need effective choice on the type of internet subscription they sign up to. Choice should also drive innovation and investment by internet providers, with benefits for all.” In addition to those statements that prove the misguided “market oriented” approach of Mrs Kroes on the issue, in an interview at the French newspaper Liberation she did not omit even to mention her opinion that the Telecom sector should not be over regulated and that they can have the right to limit and control the flow of the information on the Web.

Everybody against the Commissioner

Mrs Kroes’ wrong policy making on the issue has been undoubtedly the reason why many organizations and media have strongly criticized her work. It is clear that she considers the issue to be of minor importance and that she aims to put out a fire with a glass of water, the glass of water being competition and transparency mechanisms. Moreover, she openly supports the telecom industry’s antidemocratic strategy to throttle or limit the Internet bandwidth as they want.

Apart from the European Consumer Organization and the European Digital Rights, other organizations like the French La Quadrature du Net are explicitly against the Commissioner’s stance. Last January the organization argued that Mrs Kroes is significantly influenced by the lobbyists of the Telecom industry. What is more, the European Parliament, the democratic representator of the European citizen in the EU, has several times expressed its worries over the policies followed on the issue by DG Connect. The EP voted last December for the second time after November 2011 in favour of net neutrality in Europe, drawing the attention of the Commission and the Council on the issue and calling them to urgently change their “wait and see” approach.

The need to have an EU regulation to secure Internet neutrality in the Old Continent is unanimously embraced today. However, Mrs Kroes’ laissez-faire stance is an impediment for a truly democratic European Web. It is shocking to find out that some EU members like the Netherlands and Slovenia that see the clear inability of the Commission to protect the European citizen on this matter, have voted country legislations on their own to protect net neutrality. France also is currently discussing its own legislation too on the issue. What else do you need to see the immediate necessity for an EU legislation on the issue?

The real lack of Neutrality

The crucial question now is: Has the Commissioner always been against net neutrality in Europe? I am afraid not. It seems that Mrs Kroes had very good intentions right before she took over at the DG Connect. We see that back in early 2010 she had supported that ISPs “shouldn’t be allowed to limit the access to service or content out of commercial motivation, but only in cases of security issues and spamming”. We see that it takes only a couple of years time for a Commissioner to cancel all her promises and be unfaithful to the European citizen. Is it the case that at the age of 72 it is possible for a Commissioner not to be able to perfectly control her sayings?

To be perfectly honest, that was the first thing that occurred to me but then I ran into the proposal submitted by the official lobbying mechanism of Telecoms and ISPs (ETNO) during the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) last year in Dubai. I would like to close this story by keeping one single sentence from ETNO’s proposal : “Nothing shall preclude commercial agreements with differentiated quality of service delivery to develop.” It is as if it was coming from Mrs Kroes’ mouth, isn’t it?

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

OECD economic scenarios to 2060 illustrate the long-run benefits of structural reforms

Cybersecurity needs a holistic approach. Here are three ways to build protection

UN forum to bring ‘big space data’ benefits to disaster response in Africa

Schengen is losing ground fast revealing Europe’s clear inability to deal with migration crisis

Reception conditions for asylum-seekers agreed between MEPs and Council

Zuckerberg, a paella, and the mighty EU questionnaires that would stop Whatsapp acquisition by Facebook?

How India will consume in 2030: 10 mega trends

Bankers don’t go to jail because they are more equal than us all

US – Russia bargain on Syria, Ukraine but EU kept out

Mobile 360 Series – Russia & CIS: Empowering the Digital Economy

Action needed to end deadly clashes between African herders and farmers: UN chief

The time for cities to get smart is now

The missiles fired against Damascus, Syria divided Europe deeply

Youth Internationalization: part of everyday life in JADE

Germany to help China in trade disputes with Brussels

Germany is the world’s most innovative economy

4 steps towards wiping out cervical cancer

UN chief ‘following very closely’ reports of chemical weapons use in Syria’s Aleppo

5 ways blockchain can transform the world of impact investing

We could be sleepwalking into a new crisis. How should the business world prepare?

Donald Trump’s victory is a great opening for global EU leadership on the sustainability agenda

UN calls for support to implement Central Africa’s newly minted peace agreement

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

Germany loses leading export place

EU agricultural production no more a self-sufficiency anchor

MEPs back plans to halt spread of drug resistance from animals to humans

Superbugs: MEPs advocate further measures to curb use of antimicrobials

Britain heading to national schism on exit from EU

Vaccine hesitancy: a pregnancy related issue?

EU deal on electricity market rules to benefit both consumers and environment

FROM THE FIELD: South Sudan’s green shoots, highlight environmental recovery from war

ECB: Growth measures even before the German elections

More women than ever before are running for political office in the US

The European Union’s Balkan Double Standard

The “Legend of the Sun” wishes you Happy Chinese New Year 2015 from Brussels

Social entrepreneurs can change the world – but these 6 things are holding us back

Migration crisis update: Greece could probably say goodbye to Schengen really soon

Innovation is the key to the pay-TV industry’s long-term growth

Bureaucracy in the member states again the obstacle for long due strong European Hedge Funds

EU car manufacturers worry about an FTA with Japan

Why Eurozone needs a bit more inflation

Chart of the day: These are the cities where the World Cup threatens productivity the most

Crimea, a wicked game of political chess and a ‘big’ coincidence

Art has the power to change the world, says this renowned Iranian muralist

Infinite Oath

G7 summit: Trump Vs. G6 leaders on trade and climate change

Who really cares about the 26.2 million of EU jobless?

Euro celebrates its 20th birthday

World cannot be transformed without ‘ingenuity of the countries of the South’: UN Chief

Making the most of the Sustainable Development Goal 3: its overlooked role in medical education

ECB reaches the boundaries of its mandate to revive the entirety of Eurozone

South Sudan’s women caught up in ‘futile man’s war’ UN gender equality chief

Japan initiates WTO dispute complaint against Korean duties on steel

Fear casts again a cold, ugly shadow over Europe; Turkey sides with Russia

Is there a drug for every disease?

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate change-the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, yet overlooked in climate negotiations?” IFMSA wonders from COP21 in Paris

Parliament backs a modernised EU electoral law

Bitpay @ TheNextWeb 2014: Innovation’s Best Friend

Basel III rules relaxed: Banks got it all but become more prone to crisis

What will it take for the world’s third-largest economy to empower women?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s