Thursday, 29 December 2011

EESC on open internet and net neutrality in EU

On 26 October 2011 the advisory body, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), adopted an opinion on the communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – The open internet and net neutrality in Europe COM(2011) 222 final.

Differing from the EU institutions (Commission, later Parliament and Council), the EESC was prepared to advance more decisively and rapidly, recommending that the principles of an open internet and net neutrality should be formally enshrined in EU law as soon as possible.

According to the EESC, the definition of the principles should contain at least the following elements:

i. Freedom and quality of Internet access

The European Commission should agree a common EU standard on "minimum quality of service" according to the principles of general interest, and should ensure that there is effective monitoring of its application.

ii. Non-discrimination between Internet traffic streams

As a general rule, no differentiation be made between the way in which each individual data stream is treated, whether according to the type of content, the service, application, device or the address of the streams origin or destination. This applies to all points along the network, including interconnection points.

There may be exceptions to this principle, provided they comply with the guidelines set out in proposed recommendation no. iii.

iii. Supervising Internet traffic management mechanisms

Marking exceptions to the principles stated in proposals nos. i and ii, and to limit any possible deviations from these, when ISPs do employ traffic management mechanisms for ensuring the quality of access to the Internet, that they comply with the general principles of relevance, proportionality, efficiency, non discrimination between parties and transparency.

iv. Managed services

To maintain the capacity of all players' to innovate, electronic communications operators must be able to market "managed services" alongside Internet access, , provided that the managed service does not degrade the quality of Internet access below a certain satisfactory level, and that vendors act in accordance with existing competition laws and sector-specific regulation.

v. Increased transparency with respect to end users and a defined set of standardised information

There should be clear, precise and relevant information on the services and applications that can be accessed through ISPs: their quality of service, their possible limitations, and any traffic management practices. The EC should guarantee transparency for consumers, including clear information on terms and conditions, the right to use any lawful application and the means of switching providers. The EC should promote more dialogue and effective co-regulatory mechanisms between industry and the national regulators, under the auspices of the EC, in order to agree on EU-wide transparency principles and a set of standardised information.



Ralf Grahn