The European Commission has published a report on the key issues surrounding the open internet and net neutrality in Europe following a public consultation on the issue, which ran from 30 June to 30 September 2010.
The consultation attracted 318 responses from a wide range of stakeholders, including operators, internet content providers, Member States, consumer and civil society organisations as well as a number of individuals.
The report revealed that:
- there appears to be consensus amongst the respondents that there are currently no problems with the openness of the internet and net neutrality in the EU;
- the majority of respondents believe that the revised EU Communications Framework provides the basic tools necessary for dealing with net neutrality issues. However, the effectiveness of these rules will need to be assessed further once they have been implemented into national law by all the Member States, and further guidance may be required in the future;
- there is consensus amongst the respondents that traffic management is a necessary and essential part of operating a secure and efficient network but some respondents raised concerns that this tool could be used to grant preferential treatment to some services over others;
- respondents consider that the same traffic management principles should apply to both fixed and mobile networks;
- there is general agreement that the commercial arrangements that currently govern the provision of internet access have worked well until now but opinion is divided on future approaches. For example, content providers noted that, if operators are able to charge them to have their traffic prioritised over that of rivals, this might amount to a 'tax on innovation';
- many respondents consider that regulatory intervention to set minimum quality of service standards for internet access would be counterproductive and stifle innovation; and
- there was clear support for EU-wide standards on transparency in relation to traffic management to enable consumers to make informed choices about their internet provision.
The consultation was launched as part of the European Commission's follow-up to its commitment to scrutinise the open and neutral nature of the internet and will provide an evidence base for the European Commission's forthcoming report to the European Parliament and Council on these issues.
The report can be read in full here.