In a speech on Tuesday, Ed Richards, the chairman of British telecom regulator Ofcom, called for a flexible approach to net neutrality that is based on principle rather than regulation, as he warned that a net neutrality mandate contained in a sweeping telecom reform package approved by the European Parliament (EP) last month would result in “not more certainty, but less.” The package, which also terminates wireless roaming fees throughout the European Union (EU), is expected to be ratified this fall by EU member states, which have the option of revising the provisions. Although the net neutrality rule prohibits carriers and other Internet service providers from degrading or blocking access to competitive services and applications, it permits traffic management practices that slow or block web traffic only in certain limited circumstances that include enforcement of court orders, the preservation of network security, and the prevention of temporary network congestion. The law further requires that such traffic management be “transparent, non- discriminatory and proportionate” and “not be maintained longer than necessary.” Cautioning that “well-intentioned but over-prescriptive and detailed legislation may deliver the opposite of the intended effect,” Richards offered an alternate regulatory approach that allows carriers to engage in traffic management for the purpose of achieving “a return for investment they have made on their networks.” While admitting that any kind of service blocking by ISPs is “highly undesirable,” Richards argued that carriers should be able to apply traffic management practices that are geared toward optimizing the consumer experience.   Richards stressed, however, that such practices “should not extend to outright blocking, throttling or practices such as the anti-competitive prioritization of a network’s own content and services.” Characterizing the Internet as “an enormously complex and dynamic ecosystem where the law of unintended consequences looms very large indeed,” Richards urged EU governments to “recognize that an open Internet need not be the enemy of investment and differentiation” and to “cleave to clear principles rather than to seek to legislate in ever greater detail.”