E.U. Launches Net Neutrality Inquiry

Jul 5, 2010 6:00 AM PST
LONDON — Following in the footsteps of the U.S., U.K. and Canada, the European Union has launched a new consultation in net neutrality.

The European Commission notes that Europe has long relied on "competition" and "transparency" to address concerns about discrimination (Europe has long patted itself on the back over its line-sharing rules that have created the competition it loves so much).

But the new consultation wants to know if competition has really done enough, and if telling customers that you plan to throttle certain protocols within an inch of their lives really does relieve all concerns about traffic management practices.

And what about "managed services," where ISPs simply run a "separate," bandwidth-protected service like IPTV over the same pipe?

E.U. Commissioner Neelie Kroes, the woman who went after Microsoft on antitrust grounds, said, "I am committed to keeping the Internet open and neutral. Consumers should be able to access the content they want.

“Content providers and operators should have the right incentives to keep innovating. But traffic management and net neutrality are highly complex issues. I do not assume that one approach or another should prevail. We need input from all sides so we can examine all the issues carefully, in a very objective way, strike the right balance between all the interests involved and work out what new measures, if any, may be needed."

The Commission, committed to the "open and neutral character of the Internet," is taking comments through the end of September on a host of questions about the end-to-end principle, traffic management, and just why it is that wireless operators are blocking VOIP services.

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