EU Net Neutrality Summit: a tale of gifts, monkeys, bullies…all solved by feet?
The European Commission and European Parliament organised a one-day Summit on the ‘Open Internet and Net neutrality in Europe’ on the 11th of November following the recent public consultation on this topic. A summit for which Europe – at least according to AT&T – have to be grateful to the Americans.
A tale of gifts…
But then again, isn’t it the usual line we get from the US anti-net neutrality camp: this is not a European problem, but a US-specific quirk? Could it truly be that an access bottleneck is different from one side of the Atlantic to the other, and if competition was such a success in Europe, why did we adopt a reviewed Telecoms Package in 2009 aimed at ‘ensuring competition’? Moreover, isn’t this gift-giving from the US to be expected, as the Internet (originating from the US military network DARPAnet) was equally ‘America’s gift to the world’. Let’s just hope that this second gift doesn’t annihilate the benefits of the first.
The alleged purpose of the Summit was to ‘give all key stakeholders the opportunity to discuss their views on these issues’. But this raises questions about who these key stakeholders are when the agenda is dominated by the telecoms industry (access and equipment providers mainly, individually or as associations), with only a handful of lone voices (Skype, BBC, the citizens advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, and academic Dr. Chris Marsden) as counterweight.
“There are three wise monkeys on net neutrality that are seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil – and I think you might have heard from many of them today. (…) I used to think that there was no net neutrality problem in Europe until at every meeting I went to on the subject I heard people saying there was no problem, which always makes me suspicious.”
If we follow Dr. Marsden’s line of thought, then maybe we should all need to be suspicious, in light of the sweeping conclusions made by the European Commission in its Net Neutrality Consultation Report (p.2), which states that:
“There appears to be consensus among network operators, internet service providers (ISPs) and infrastructure manufacturers that there are currently no problems with the openness of the internet and net neutrality in the EU. (…) They maintain that there is no evidence that operators are engaging in unfair discrimination in a way that harms consumers or competition.”
Looking at the 318 consultation responses this ‘consensus’ doesn’t hit you in the face, unless it is measured in volume of responses rather than their respresentativity of the different players in the value chain, if you consider that only 6 responses were submitted by Internet application and content providers versus 33 responses from operators and ISPs – without even talking about equipment manufactures and the different associations representing the telcos and manufacturers in one shape or another.