“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

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

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

Guterres underlines climate action urgency, as UN weather agency confirms record global warming

Eurozone: Bank resolution proposal gains wider interest

In Tokyo, UN chief expresses full support for US-Japan dialogue with North Korea

How Cameron unwillingly helped Eurozone reunite; the long-term repercussions of two European Council decisions

Is a deal over EU budget possible today?

Global hunger is on the rise. These simple steps could help eradicate it

MWC 2016 LIVE: T-Mobile US reveals 5G trial plans

Energy: new ambitious targets on renewables and energy efficiency

IQ scores have been falling for decades, new study finds

High-technology manufacturing saves the EU industry

Data capture, not disclosure, is the way to meet our climate goals

G20 LIVE: G20 Antalya Summit in Numbers, 15-16 November 2015

This graphene battery can recharge itself to provide unlimited clean energy

Presidents of pan-European youth organisations call upon the European Council to preserve the Schengen principles

Refugee crisis update: EU lacks solidarity as migration figures drop

Human Rights Council election: 5 things you need to know about it

Gender minority and health sector: promoting mental health with better medical education

Three-quarters of South Sudanese children have known nothing but war, says UNICEF

‘Catastrophic’ healthcare costs put mothers and newborns at risk

Young people are Europe’s biggest value and hope

Security Council gravely concerned by Ebola outbreak in DR Congo, demands immediate end to violence hampering response

Germany not famous for easy way outs from political stalemates

End ‘cycle of violence’ in Gaza, UN deputy chief tells forum on Palestine

Germany and Europe prepare for Trump’s America

Public Policies for LGBT in Brazil

We need to change the fast fashion model. Here’s how

Innovating together: connectivity that matters at ITU Telecom World 2019 – in association with The European Sting

Bangladesh elections: Hold those responsible accountable for ‘violent attacks and intimidation’

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

Here’s how we can make innovation more inclusive

4 crazy things that are happening in the Arctic right now

After the Italian ‘no’ and the Brexit, Germans must decide which Europe they want

If this is Globalization 4.0, what were the other three?

New Zealand can improve well-being through better policymaking and reforms to housing and migration policy

A Sting Exclusive: “EU’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan – Laying down the foundations for a Greener Financial System”, by European Commission’s Vice-President Dombrovskis

UN emergency relief fund has ‘never been more critical’: Guterres

Does hosting a World Cup make economic sense?

UNICEF warns of ‘lost generation’ of Rohingya youth, one year after Myanmar exodus

Why medicine is relevant to the battle against climate change

This is our chance to completely redefine the meaning of work

European Commission recommends to the European Council (Article 50) to find that decisive progress has been made in Brexit negotiations

Global aid needed for healthcare

Electronic cigarette: a still controversial qualitative imbalance

The Cold War had an unintended side effect: It created a European wildlife paradise

From ‘dead on the inside’ to ‘truly alive’: Survivor of genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda recounts her story as UN marks 25th anniversary

New UN-supported farming app is cream of crop in tackling Sahel pest

Armed groups threaten every child in Central African Republic, UNICEF warns

Drone regulation is necessary to democratize the sky for humanity

Why education and accountability are important for developing countries?

We know ethics should inform AI. But which ethics?

Joint UN-Red Cross appeal to end rising sexual violence as a weapon of war

UK keeps its Brexit plan secret or there is no strategy at all whatsoever?

We finally have a life-saving vaccine for Ebola

Achieving targets on energy helps meet other Global Goals, UN forum told

UN aid teams scramble to reach ‘most remote places’ cut off by Cyclone Kenneth in Mozambique

10 things Europe does better than the rest of the world

EU budget 2020: Commission focuses its proposal on jobs, growth and security

Eating less beef and more beans would cut deaths by 5-7%

Why is the EU launching a doomed policy in stopping immigrant waves? What are the real targets?

Agreement reached on new EU Solidarity Corps

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