Telcos are lobbying hard for discriminatory practices in network management to be permited, which threaten the neutrality of the Internet. They are opposed by citizens groups who are calling on MEPs to close the loopholes in the Telecoms Package Second Reading.
Liberty Global is the latest telco to throw its hat in the anti-net neutrality ring, with a statement in support of its colleagues at AT&T and Verizon. In a statement to run with its European Parliament seminar today, Liberty Global calls for limitations on regulatory intervention in respect of ‘network management practices'. The AT&T amendments are about trying to stop European regulators taking the kind of action that the FCC was able to take in the Comcast case, where a netwwork operator was restricting lawful services on the Internet and the FCC told it to stop.
La Quadrature du Net has issued a dossier which debunks the telco arguments. The campaigning group has also done a full analysis of the Telecoms Package Second Reading amendments, and issued a statement in which it says "there is still a blatant lack for clarification and no concrete guarantee that Telecom operators won't be allowed full control over the Internet". It calls on MEPS in the IMCO and ITRE committees responsible for the Second Reading to be vigilant and to "patch" the final loopholes left open in the Package.
Liberty Global also expresses concerns about the cooperation amendment (Universal Services directive, Article 33.3 in the common position). In its statement, it says:
"... the Council Common Position still refers to a cooperation procedure requiring networkoperators and the sectors interested in the promotion of lawful content. It remains unclear to which extent this cooperation obligation could influence the responsibility of operators for content and copyright liability infringements." Such responsibility would leave it vulnerable, and appears slightly contradictory vis a vis its support for the industry coalition which is promoting the AT&T amendments and which will increase that vulnerability. Liberty Global lobbied against the copyright amendments in the first reading of the Telecoms Package, and sponsored the Booz and Co study which highlighted many of the flaws in the approach taken by the Telecoms Package.
Nevertheless, it is all fuel to the net neutrality fire, which is beginning to burn more ferociously in Brussels. In addition to tomorrow's seminar, there is a Microsoft event on Thursday on ‘innovation' which by coincidence addresses two of the services which the industry wants to prioritise and charge extra for, under the new non-neutral regime - namely online gaming, and healthcare monitoring.
Microsoft's economic clout has attracted two European Commissioners, Viviane Reding (Information Society) and Meglena Kuneva (Consumer Protection). Other speakers include Richard Clayton, of Cambridge University, who is an expert in Internet communications and traceability of data and a representative of the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (the industry body for the computer games industry) who will talk about how to keep our children safe online - an oxymoron surely!
Also on Thursday, there is a European Parliament seminar called "Strengthening fundamental freedoms and security on the internet" organised by MEP Stavros Lambrinidis . The seminar deals with issues addressed in the Lambrinidis own-initiative report, and has a number of privacy experts speaking including the European Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustinx, Gus Hosein of Privacy International, and Jim Killock of the UK's Open Rights Group. The seminar is open to the public although there is a requirement to register with Mr Lambrinidis office. (Thursday, 5 March 2009, 9h00 - 12h30, Brussels - Building József Antall, Room 4 Q 1)
This all comes on top of what I'm told is very heavy lobbying by the telco groups and certain member state governments.