Neelie Kroes, the digital agenda commissioner for the European Union (EU), confirmed on Tuesday that the European Commission (EC) will initiate a public consultation on net neutrality that will form the basis of a report to be delivered to the European Parliament and EU Council at the end of this year. The plan was disclosed in a speech given by Kroes at a Paris conference hosted by the French Postal and Electronic Communications Regulatory Authority (ARCEP). Last Friday, ARCEP commissioned its own report on net neutrality and the extent to which French telecom providers delay or block high-bandwidth transmissions or impose fees for carrying such traffic on networks that advertise “unlimited” Internet access. While admitting the debate on net neutrality is “still at an early stage in Europe,” Kroes voiced support for the FCC’s 2005 policy statement on net neutrality that outlined the rights of subscribers to access lawful content of their choice, to run applications and services of their choice on data networks, to connect non-harmful devices of their choice to such networks, and to select from competitive services and providers. (As reported last week, the D.C. Circuit court held that the FCC lacked the authority to enforce the 2005 policy statement through a 2008 FCC order that held Comcast liable for the throttling of high-bandwidth traffic emanating from the BitTorrent site.) Kroes emphasized that the EC’s consultation would focus on five core areas: (1) “fundamental” freedom of expression, (2) transparency, (3) the need for investment in “efficient and open networks,” (4) fair competition, and (5) support for innovation. With respect to principles of non-discrimination that are currently under review at the FCC and that, potentially, could be considered by the EC as well, Kroes noted that some define non-discrimination “as essentially preventing telecom operators from seeking commercial payments or agreements with content providers which deliver their [high] capacity-consuming services through broadband networks and require a certain level of service for their transmission to be effective.” Acknowledging “that prospect raises a number of delicate and important issues,” Kroes declared: “these issues must be very carefully addressed before the EU gives any possible regulatory response.”