Tuesday, 22 December 2009

EU Telecoms package: Commission’s declaration on net neutrality

The Wikipedia article Network neutrality offers an overview of the debated goal to achieve net neutrality.



In a speech on the development of new media markets, Viviane Reding, the member of the European Commission responsible for information society, mentioned network neutrality as one of the issues relevant for the coming Digital Agenda of the European Union (1 October 2009):


A further, fourth priority for Europe's Digital Agenda will be in my view to take a deeper look into network neutrality. When the telecoms package enters into force, it will give the European Commission and national regulators new instruments to ensure that the net will be open and neutral in Europe. This is a very important, and often underestimated achievement of the reform, and many European Parliamentarians, but also many ministers deserve the credit for having strengthened the corresponding wording in the package during the legislative process. I would like Europe to make good use of these new tools for enhancing net neutrality. I would therefore like to have, in 2010, a broad debate about how the Commission could best use these new instruments in the interest of an open internet and of internet users. It is true that Europe's telecoms framework, with its pro-competitive approach, has so far been an effective tool for tackling many problems with regard to net neutrality. I have myself indicated that I would be prepared to act on this basis in case of continued blocking of Voice over IP services by certain mobile operators. The new telecoms package is in many instances a quite robust answer to such new threats to net neutrality. However, I also know that technology and regulation will evolve further in the years to come. And I plan to be Europe's first line of defence whenever it comes to real threats to net neutrality. This should be spelt out in more detail in the European Digital Agenda that is scheduled for adoption in March next year.


As a part of the adoption of the European Union’s telecoms reform package, the EU Commission undertook a political obligation to monitor net neutrality closely:


Commission declaration on net neutrality, published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 18.12.2009 C 308/2.



‘The Commission attaches high importance to preserving the open and neutral character of the Internet, taking full account of the will of the co-legislators now to enshrine net neutrality as a policy objective and regulatory principle to be promoted by national regulatory authorities ( 1 ), alongside the strengthening of related transparency requirements ( 2 ) and the creation of safeguard powers for national regulatory authorities to prevent the degradation of services and the hindering or slowing down of traffic over public networks ( 3 ). The Commission will monitor closely the implementation of these provisions in the Member States, introducing a particular focus on how the “net freedoms” of European citizens are being safeguarded in its annual Progress Report to the European Parliament and the Council. In the meantime, the Commission will monitor the impact of market and technological developments on “net freedoms” reporting to the European Parliament and the Council before the end of 2010 on whether additional guidance is required, and will invoke its existing competition law powers to deal with any anti-competitive practices that may emerge.’



Footnotes:

( 1 ) Article 1(8)(g) of Directive 2009/140/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 337, 18.12.2009, p. 37).
( 2 ) Article 1(14) of Directive 2009/136/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 337, 18.12.2009, p. 11).
( 3 ) See footnote 2.



Ralf Grahn



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