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Neelie Kroes, commissioner designate for the Digital Agenda (formerly Information Society) has said that it is clear the net neutrality will be central to her policy agenda. But a closer analysis of her answers to the European Parliament reveal quite a number of contradications. Not least of which was her position on ACTA.

Neelie Kroes was speaking at her 'job interview' with the European Parliament, where she was quizzed by members of the Internal Market and Industry committees.

Asked specifically about her policy on net neutrality by MEP Lena Ek, she said in reply: "I believe that net neutrality is

absolutely main", but she also stressed the need to be vigilant for threats to net neutrality, one of which is discrimination against Voice over IP services. On that basis, one would expect her to take a strong stand, however, she then said that it would be taken care of because "the new telecom rules will strengthen competitive markets" . Therein lies one of her contradictions, because the Telecoms Package will not necessarily deal with these issues, and she will need to have a clear policy on it.

She was asked a technical question how she would deal with network filtering by Philippe Lamberts (Green group) which I have to say, by her answer, she did not appear to understand.

Marita Ulvskog, pushed again and asked about a reflection paper, which has apparently been produced by the Commission on Net Neutrality (I have not previously heard about this, so it is news). Mrs Ulvskog suggested that the report is rather confusing. Mrs Kroes looked a bit baffled and said it was an interim report.... "I don't know the final result... it should be market forces, an open net otherwise we are losing opportunities..."

Mrs Ulvskog asked: "Could you give us a definition of how you understand net neutrality?"

Kroes replied: " I get your point now... at the core issue is whether network operators should be able to excerise control or limit users access to content. When it is done for commercially motivated reasons, it is a no-go. Only for security reasons, or spam,... there is a list, but commercially motivated reasons is not no-go" .

MEP Tsoukalas, pursued the topic: he asked about her actions to guarantee net neutrality? And Voip?

Kroes repeated that commercially-driven blocking would not be acceptable.

That is the good news. However, I felt that her introductory speech was lack-lustre, and could have been written 10 years ago - 6 building blocks including R and D, infrastructure build-out, trust and security, open standards, skills, and online single market. For inspiration, and innovation, she would get a minus mark.

On industrial policy - building up Europe's high-tech businesses for economic growth and employment, I felt she was very weak. Catherine Trautmann asked a very clear question about how she would create jobs in ICT, and all she responded was "investment in infrastructure". Not much cheer there for people working in the IT sector, who are, like others in the overall economy, feeling insecure in their jobs in the current crisis.

Catherine Trautmann, who was rapporteur on the Telecoms Package, followed with a question about Fundamental rights, freedom of expression, and privacy: "How can you guarantee that the compromsie (negotiated in the Telecoms Package on 4 November 2009 - ed) won't be betrayed in transposition, and by the ACTA now being negotiated by DG Trade and which could jeopardise the Community aquis.?"

Kroes: "If you are talking about the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement" ... "ACTA is a global framework by agreeing international rules around organised infringement... often conducted by criminals... negotiations address the growing importance of the Internet... There is no text agreed yet. For the Commission the objective is that our international partners guarantee the same level of protection as the EU provides. I am sure Karel was saying the same. "

My first comment is that it appears that she has had a full briefing on ACTA. However, she is presenting a different understansing of ACTA from her colleague-to-be Michel Barnier. And secondly, that as she rightly points out, ACTA is a threat to net neutrality and the Community aquis, and as Commissioner, she must defend the Community Acquis.

MEP Cancian asked about copyright: "How would you adjust community legislation to deal with technological change and deal with certan exceptions eg research?"

Kroes: "Copyright is one of the very sensitive parts of the Commission policy... piracy for example, as long as there are different national copyright rules, difficult to have a pan-European piracy initiative " and she wants to work with Barnier to find a solution.

Here is another contradiction. Barnier spoke of stronger enforcement - and enforcement measures threaten net neutrality, as well as the single European digital market which she wants to promote.

***Neelie Kroes interview will be re-run here .***

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2010) Kroes: can she protect Net Neutrality? , http://www.iptegrity.com 14 January 2010 .

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

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