“Decisions taken in the coming weeks will shape Europe’s experience of the internet”, Joe Mcnamee from EDRi says live from European Business Summit 2015

Written by Joe Mcnamee, Executive Director of EDRi

Joe Mcnamee is Executive Director of EDRi

Joe Mcnamee is Executive Director of EDRi

The European Union has a strong record in regulating the telecommunications market in a way which supports competition and innovation, increasing choice while bringing down prices. Virtually every European citizen and business reaps the benefits every day.

Now, we are faced with a new choice, do we legislate to ensure that the internet remains the open, competitive and innovative space that brings business and society such benefits? Or do we believe the well-worn threats from telecoms operators about innovation and certainty – risking the benefits of the many, in order to protect the short-term interests of the few? If this risk wasn’t big enough, are we prepared to take it, knowing that the USA has equipped itself with the tools to ensure that its online companies and its innovators will be able to be protected from anti-competitive behaviour of telecoms operators?

Net neutrality – time to learn from our successes

It is an unfortunate fact of politics that politicians’ achievements are rarely remembered and their failures often never forgotten.

Virtually every European business and citizen benefits every day from the greater choice and lower costs that Europe’s telecommunications liberalisation has delivered. It is a policy that has been pursued consistently by every European Commission since the 1980s and the success has become so normal that we have forgotten the prohibitively expensive international calls, we no longer remember having to rent a phone from the operator because using your own equipment was not permitted and having no choice except the monopoly.

In much the same way, we underestimate the huge and increasing benefits that the internet has given citizens and business in Europe and globally. It is such a natural thing to be able to communicate globally, without permission, to innovate and put oneself at the world’s fingertips that we don’t stop and think what if this openness is put at risk? What if the core functionality of the internet is put at risk by short-term policies of telecoms operators?

What if? What if, instead of being able to speak, to educate, to campaign, to innovate, compete and win, there were gatekeepers in the way? What if the telecoms operators were able to wind the clock so far backwards, that they were able to introduce the same anti-competitive billing systems that took Europe decades to dismantle? What if, instead of having a business model where you pay to access the internet, you still have to pay to access the internet, but the internet also has to pay to gain access to you?

The Digital Fuel Monitor consultancy found 75 examples of price discrimination in Europe. Under this discriminatory model, internet users (usually, but not always, mobile) are able to access a few online services without download fees, but have to pay for access to everything else. Maybe a European innovator could successfully throw himself or herself to the mercy of the operator and plead for an equal opportunity to reach the operators’ customers (assuming the operator isn’t planning to launch a similar service). Maybe half of the big operators would even be this generous. Maybe the innovator could go into debt to buy equal access to the operator’s customers. Maybe the risk of these rights being rescinded would not be too great for a bank to underwrite. Maybe.

Remarkably, instead of recognising and building on its success in telecommunications liberalisation, the European Commission seems intent on going backwards and undoing its own good work. A German business newspaper even quoted current EU Digital Commissioner Guenther Oettinger as saying “So far, we have ensured that consumers benefit from the liberalisation of telecoms markets. From now on our actions must be more geared more toward allowing companies to make fair profits”. Or, to put it another way, every European citizen, every European micro, small, medium-sized or large corporation has benefited from the choice, innovation and prices of a liberalised market. From now on the EU must be geared at allowing a few ex monopolies to make profits.

More remarkably still, the European Commission appears either unaware of, or indifferent to, basic facts related to net neutrality. It explains that telemedicine would be banned by net neutrality – but fails to explain what services would be banned by the having a neutral and non-discriminatory network. It explains that emergency services will be damaged by net neutrality, even though this is simply not true. It explains that new smart car safety information systems would be banned by net neutrality – even though BMW has publicly stated that this is simply not true.

Is the European Commission unaware of the facts or is it simply seeking to achieve what the Commissioner has already stated – profits for the few telecoms businesses, to the cost of European business, European citizens and European competitiveness?

We are now very slowly progressing towards the “end-game” in the adoption of the European Telecoms Single Market Regulation. From the Commission’s initial proposal, made in September 2013, the broadly unrelated topics of net neutrality and roaming remain. While the US has moved forward and has now given itself the tools to protect free speech, competition and innovation for its online industry, European discussions remain mired in half-truths and the risk of a potential deal on finally eliminating telecoms industry abuses in the roaming market being used as a way of railroading the European Parliament into accepting the end of net neutrality in Europe.

European leaders need to reflect on what is at stake. They need to learn from past successes and continue to legislate for competition and innovation. Decisions taken in the coming weeks will shape Europe’s experience of the internet for years to come. These decisions will have a major influence globally on the internet as a platform for innovation and free speech. Let’s get it right!

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

Deutsche Bank again in the middle of the US-EU economic skirmishes

Bugged Europe accepts US demands and blocks Morales plane

Failing to see reality or deceiving the masses? The EU about poverty and social exclusion

How will Brexit affect higher education in the EU?

The EU can afford to invest trillions in support of employment

EU-US trade talks go ahead despite Prism and civil rights breach

Why the euro may rise with the dollar even at lower interest rates

New skills needed for medical students in Industry 4.0

Why the Greeks forgave Tsipras’ pirouettes around austerity and voted again for SYRIZA

A Sting Exclusive: “Our ambition is by 2020 Indonesia to become an emerging power of World’s Maritime Access”, reveals the Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of Indonesia in Brussels, treating WEF, ASEAN and EU-Indonesia relations on the eve of the World Economic Forum East Asia 2015 in Jakarta

European Youth Forum @ European Business Summit 2014: European Youth Unemployment

UK’s Cameron takes the field to speed up TTIP talks. Will “rocket boosters” work?

Where is Egypt leading the Middle East and the Mediterranean economy?

ECB doesn’t dare touch Eurozone’s big banks

Pro-EU forces won a 70% triumph in the European elections

Love Affair with Some(one)/(thing)

Irish Presidency: Not a euro more for EU budgets

Greece did it again

New skills agenda for Europe needs real investment

A Young entrepreneur cries out: “start in Europe, stay in Europe”

The European Sting @ Mobile World Congress 2014, Creating What’s Next for the World. Can EU Policy follow?

Who is to lose from the 6-month extension of the EU economic sanctions against Russia?

Germany loses leading export place

Eurozone: Bankers-politicians rig keeps robbing taxpayers

Eurozone: Negative statistics bring deflation and recession closer

South Eurozone countries threatened by rising borrowing cost and expensive euro

South Eurozone urgently needs fairer distribution of taxation burden

ITU Telecom World 2017: exploring smart digital transformation

The EU slowly exits from “Excessive Deficit Procedure” and hopefully from ‘Excessive Austerity Procedure’ too

Human rights in Brussels and in Beijing: a more balanced approach needed

France asks help from Germany but it will not be for free

Draghi’s ‘quasi’ announcement of a new era of more and cheaper money

Ministers for Youth miss the opportunity to improve social inclusion of young people

Germany hides its own banks’ problems

After Brexit and Grexit, Brussels to deal with Poloust

European Council: Choosing new leaders for the EU betrays efforts for a wider arrangement

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union will impact young people’s future the most

Greece’s future solely in the hands of Tsipras; he can direct the poor country any way he likes

Forget about growth without a level playing field for all SMEs

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

Cancer research put at risk by General Data Protection Regulation? The possible dangers of a data privacy EU mania

French election: Will France vote for a reformed or no EU?

IMF – World Bank meetings: US – Germany clash instituted, anti-globalization prospects visualized

The West and Russia impose a new order on the world

European Youth Forum celebrates 20 years of fighting for youth rights

Poverty and social exclusion skyrocket with austerity

The EU threatens to occupy Libya militarily; is another colonial war brewing?

Impacting society with digital ingenuity – World Summit Award proclaiming the top 8 worldwide

IMF’s Lagarde indirectly cautioned Eurozone on deflation

CHINA UNLIMITED. PEOPLE UNLIMITED. RESTRICTIONS LIMITED

230 Junior Entrepreneurs and over 70 guests attended the International Congress on “Entrepreneurial Skills for Youth”

COP21 Breaking News_04 December: Launch of CREWS, climate risk & early warning systems

MWC 2016 LIVE: Under Armour learns from “robust community of data”

Deutsche Bank: the next financial crisis is here and the lenders need €150 billion from taxpayers

MWC 2016 Live: Roshan CEO opens up on Afghanistan challenges

Cameron’s “No Brexit” campaign wins top business support as Tory front breaks

Greece returns to markets at a high cost to taxpayers, after four years out in the cold

EU Parliament semi worried over democratic deficit

Berlin and Paris pursue the financial fragmentation of Eurozone

Eurozone: Economic sentiment-business climate to collapse without support from exports

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s