Saturday, November 13, 2010
Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, says about the current net neutrality regime:
[W]e have to avoid regulation which might deter investment and an efficient use of the available resources.
That would be cutting off our nose to spite our face.
We need investment to avoid bottlenecks and to allow the development of new bandwidth-hungry services and applications.
We should allow network operators and services and content providers to explore innovative business models, leading to a more efficient use of the networks and creating new business opportunities at different levels of the Internet value chain.
...[I]n general, providers have upheld the principle of open access – end users may access most of the applications and services of their choice.
However, blocking and "throttling" of sites and applications or applying differentiated end-user data charges for certain applications continues to a certain extent.
This clearly creates a problem if consumers are not duly informed and do not have the possibility to easily switch to alternative providers which do not undertake such practices.
Blocking of Internet telephone services i.e. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – in particular Skype - over mobile networks is the obvious example today.
The situation has improved somewhat but the problem has by no means been fully resolved.
VoIP is merely today's example. There will surely be other examples with future innovations and that is why we cannot be complacent.
But I think consumers should not underestimate their own power in shaping this situation.
There were 21 million people using Skype alongside me when I called my family at the weekend.
That is a huge market. And I say to those people who are currently cut off from Skype: vote with your feet and leave your mobile provider.
The message will be most powerful when it comes from both the bottom-up and the top-down.
The telecoms framework, agreed by the European Parliament and Council, gives us important tools.
Firstly, national regulatory authorities have a clear mandate to “promote the ability of end-users to access and distribute information or run applications and services of their choice”.
Making this work requires a spirit of collaboration between industry and regulators.
Secondly, regulators are also empowered to impose, in close cooperation with the Commission, minimum quality of service requirements to prevent service degradation.
Thirdly, operators are required to inform customers of any traffic management measures they are deploying.
Given the potential of those tools, it is only fair that we test their effectiveness.
That means allowing a reasonable period of time after these provisions are implemented and applied to see if the new rules are working.
We will make sure these provisions are applied in all Member States in a coordinated and coherent way.