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New Safeguard to Guarantee Open Internet Access without Restrictions

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 (9:21 am) - Score 708

The Vice-President of the European Commission (EC) responsible for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, has proposed a new EU “safeguard” to ensure that broadband ISPs and mobile operators give every citizen a “guarantee of access to the full and open internet, without any blocking or throttling of competing services“.

Kroes speech to the European Parliament (EP) today focuses on the issue of Net Neutrality, which is the principle of treating all internet traffic as equal. In recent years this has become an increasingly thorny issue, especially with some mobile operators and ISPs blocking services like Skype and P2P.

Last year Kroes proposed to tackle this by improving transparency of service speeds and any relevant restrictions on internet access, making it easier to switch operators and toughening up the rules on how services are promoted (here). But she stopped short of calling for regulatory intervention and suggested instead that consumers could ultimately vote with their feet by switching providers.

On the surface today’s speech was little different but the language is tougher and the idea of a new EU Safeguard for a soft approach to protecting Net Neutrality is now firmly on the table.

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the EC, said:

Services like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or messaging services – like Skype or WhatsApp – offer real innovation for consumers. But some ISPs deliberately degrade those services, or block them outright, simply to avoid the competition.

In my view, such ideas are on their way out. Most consumers see the richness and vibrancy of the full, unlimited internet and wouldn’t want anything less. So to be honest, with genuine transparency, I doubt many consumers would care to buy such a limited product; I doubt many ISPs would offer one.

But equally it’s clear to me that many Europeans expect protection against such commercial tactics. And that is exactly the EU safeguard we will be providing. A safeguard for every European, on every device, on every network: a guarantee of access to the full and open internet, without any blocking or throttling of competing services.”

Kroes safeguard, which will now be put forward for consideration to the College of Commissioners, would effectively propose “new rights for every citizen – and new obligations for every internet provider“, albeit without taking away the incentives that ISPs need to upgrade their infrastructure or to offer new content and services (e.g. IPTV). Now we just need to see the detail.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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