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E.U. won't adopt net neutrality law

By Cecilia Kang

Europe’s top Internet policy maker said Thursday the region will not introduce net neutrality rules to prevent Internet network companies from blocking or prioritizing certain content because of healthy competition.

Neelie Kroes, the commissioner for the E.U.’s digital agenda, said in a speech in Brussels that European nations would instead rely on guidelines that would stop anticompetitive behavior by telecom and cable firms and protect consumers. International governments have been weighing net neutrality proposals as more people around globe use the Web as their main mode of communication.

The effort by Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski has been hobbled by slow movement on the issue and a court decision that put the agency’s authority to implement broadband rules in doubt.

“If we encounter significant and persistent problems, I will not be afraid to change the law in the future to achieve competition and choice consumers deserve,” Kroes said in the speech.

But she said a telecom regulatory framework adopted by the European Commission in 2009 provides clear guidelines for what is and isn’t permissible behavior. National regulatory authorities overseeing the practices of their local network operators are “our best insurance policy” and “competition is the open Internet’s best friend,” Kroes said.

She also said consumers will guide industry behavior. If a carrier were to block Skype, a service Kroes said she uses to call family back home, consumers would protest.

“I hope this monitoring and the upcoming implementation of the telecoms framework by Member States will pave the way for truly open networks,” Kroes said.

Related stories of interest:

FCC Chairman struggles with role of regulator

Google, Verizon announce pact for no wireless net neutrality rules

By Cecilia Kang  | November 11, 2010; 1:56 PM ET
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"If a carrier were to block Skype, a service Kroes said she uses to call family back home, consumers would protest." - the problem with this statement is what happens if traffic is blocked for a more marginal service that competes with Skype? Customers won't complain and the network operator gets away with it. Take that a step further, where you have a company like Skype, Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft who cut deals with providers or network carriers to "favor" their traffic over others. In a competitive broadband market, with several choices, competition may prevent such behavior. But most markets don't have competitive broadband. It's in these markets, where without net neutrality, people have to take what they get and get hosed in the process.

Posted by: scottburgan | November 12, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

It is good to see that Ms. Kroes can distinguish actual threats (the monopolies of Google, Microsoft, and Intel) from bogus threats that have been ginned up by lobbyists (i.e. the “dangers” of not regulating ISPs). She is obviously a smart lady.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | November 14, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Strictly speaking, your report is correct to say that Neelie Kroes will monitor the situation regarding net neutrality and will see whether the EU telecoms package has the desired effect. But that is only part of the story and does not capture the full flavour of her well-calibrated message to the conference.

In fact, she came out much more strongly behind the need for openness, transparency and competition than your article suggests. She specifically said that any initiatives on net neutrality “should not be at the expense of choice and quality, putting at risk the open Internet which everyone wants to preserve”.

We at the Internet Society were particularly encouraged by the commissioner’s unequivocal call for future efforts to be aimed at delivering effective competition, transparency and ease of switching. This is a very bold statement on her part and one that we heartily endorse.

Naturally, the devil will be in the detail and in the implementation, but so far so good...

Frederic Donck, director of European bureau, Internet Society

Posted by: FredericDonck | November 17, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

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