Net neutrality has to be guaranteed, says EU Commissioner Viviane Reding. It's a 180 degree turn from her graduated-response-supporting position a year ago. And it gives her a new challenge to deal with the AT&T amendments to the Telecoms Package which attack net neutrality.
"I believe that we are at the start of a new phase of internet driven innovation and growth...We will only reap the full benefits if we safeguard the openness of the Intenet...take advantage of the win-win of open interfaces...net neutrality has to be guaranteed ..."
Not the words of a technology entrepreneur, as you might expect, but Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, speaking last week at a conference on the future of the Internet . She called for investment in the Internet infrastructure and commitment to openness, in order tobuild the economic recovery for Europe. An open infrastructure, she said, is the best way to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and grow the economy. And she implied that an Internet economy should work across Europe's borders, at the same time as the concept of territorial distribution is becoming blurred.
Mrs Reding's words will be welcome news to the Internet community, who have been battling against the onslaught from graduated response and industrial interests from the content and branded goods industries who only want to lock it up, and to preserve the territorial nature of European trade via anachronistic distribution structures.
It will be less welcome to her old friends in the content industries, who cling to the territorial nature of copyright.
The re-positioning of Mrs Reding is interesting. It's a 180 degree turn from her graduated-response-supporting position a year ago. A very subtle message in her speech suggested that she has put graduated response and the whole content online issue on the back-burner.
There is just one fly in the ointment. She refers to measures taken by the Commission in the Telecoms Package to prevent unfair abuse of network filtering tools. Although she didn't name it, she means Article 22(3) of the Universal Services directive (Harbour report). I think she means that the Commission's amended version will provide some protection against anti-competitive practices.
In light of her new role as champion of the open Internet, would she therefore oppose the AT&T-lobby's compromise amendments to Article 22(3) and set in place a regulatory framework for network management and filtering tools which protects the citizen's interests?
More extracts from Viviane Reding's speech:
"we will only be able to reap the full social and economic benefits of a fast
moving technological landscape if we manage to safeguard the openness of the
Internet. Openness is one of the key ingredients that made the Internet so
successful as an innovation place, and we have to make sure that it is not
"Another important issue relates to open standards. We need to take advantage of
the win-win of open interfaces and standards such that the market can grow for all.
Dominant players may try to use proprietary standards to lock consumers into their
products or to extract very high royalties, ultimately stifling innovation and
foreclosing market entry by new players."
"High speed fixed and mobile broadband networks are the arteries of the emerging
web-based economy. All the capabilities I have spoken about today depend on
having access to a seamless network infrastructure. Investments are huge. These
investments need to be optimised and maximise their return capability. Today our
network provision stops at borders, which is preventing a true single market for
telecommunications to emerge."
"we in Europe need to make full use of the economic potential of
the single market that is still locked up in our fragmented national markets. This
should apply primarily to services based on the internet, which has by nature a