The European Parliament has a new rapporteur for Net Neutrality and he has hit the ground running. He is the German MEP Herbert Reul, and the the first thing he wants to do, is to ask the Council of Ministers how it will ensure an Open Internet and net neutrality across the EU. And he has drafted a resolution on Net Neutrality which the Parliament may eventually vote on. Both items are currently on the agenda for the Industry committee (ITRE). However, there is concern that the matter will simply end up as a sop to industry, and act as a further ballast to its non-neutral behaviour in blocking Internet services.
Essentially, what is happening is that the Parliament has to respond to the Commission’s Communication on Net Neutrality issued in the Spring. Mr Reul will be co-ordinating that response.
The choice of Mr Reul is an interesting one. He is the chair of the Industry committee and a ‘senior’ MEP. He is German, with an interest in the telecoms industry. He was on the Conciliation committee for the Telecoms Package 3rd Reading.
The Commission’s Communication on Net Neutrality was widely perceived to be a rather timid positioning, giving in to industry rather than taking a strong stand for citizens.
Mr Reul has tabled a question for the Council, asking its view of the impact of the Telecoms Package in ensuring an open Internet and net neutrality in Europe. Bearing in mind that it was the Council which inserted ‘conditions limiting access to and or use of content, services and applications” into the Telecoms Package, it is not clear what lies behind this question or what answer he might expect to get. The Council’s text in the Package was supportive of operators who wanted to do discriminatory traffic management and block services . Deutsche telekom and the French ISPs blocking Skype, is a good example. See my coverage at the time the Package was going through: Users rights and how they may be limited
Mr Reul’s Resolution is somewhat equivocal. It does have all the usual euphemisms - no need for regulatory intervention ( well, the operators don’t want intervention); transparency, quality of service and switching as a necessary conditions for net neutrality – well, switching is not possible in many member states, and if telling you how you are being stuffed is a good idea, then may that is the case.
But it also does call for tougher regulatory tools to deal with bad operator behaviour, and reminds the Parliament that discriminatory behaviour by operators can risk infringing freedom of expression.
The Resolution can be amended, and may well be if the political groups in the Parliament take different positions.
The Citizens advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, together with Bits of Freedom, is launching an autumn campaign urging people to contact their MEPs and ask them to adopt legislation which would ban discriminatory traffic management. La Quadrature is also asking citizens to report blocking and other unreasonable operator behaviour: go to RespectMyNet
Herbert Reul’s oral question to the Council of Ministers on the Open Internet and Net Neutrality in Europe:
What is the Council's opinion on the impact of the 2009 EU telecoms reform package in ensuring an open internet and net neutrality in Europe?
Furthermore how does the Council want to ensure a common approach to open internet and net neutrality across the EU?
The proposed European Parliament Motion for a Resolution on Net Neutrality, tabled in the ITRE committee:
Welcomes the communication of the Commission and agrees with the analysis, in
particular on the need of preserving the open and neutral character of the internet;
2. Notes that based on the present analysis there is no clear need for additional regulatory
intervention on net neutrality;
3. Welcomes the work of the BEREC in this area and calls the Member States and in particular NRAs to work closely with BEREC;
4. Calls on the Member States to ensure consistency in the approach on net neutrality and the
common European approach;
6. Underlines the importance of cooperation and coordination among the Member States and in particular among the NRAs, together with the Commission, in order for the EU to benefit from the full potential of the internet;
7. Recognises that reasonable traffic management is required to ensure that the end user's
connectivity is not disrupted by network congestion but calls for transparency in traffic
8. Draws the attention to potential challenges when departing from network neutrality
including anticompetitive behaviour, blockage of innovation, restriction on freedom of
expression lack of consumer awareness and infringement of privacy and that the lack of
net neutrality hurts both businesses, consumers and society as whole;
9. Reminds that the EU regulatory framework aims at promoting effective competition and
therefore any measure in the area of net neutrality should in addition to existing
competition law provide tools to deal with any anti-competitive practices that may emerge
as well as lead to investments and facilitate new innovative business models;
10. Considers transparency, quality of service and ease of switching as necessary conditions
of net neutrality in assuring the end-users of freedom of choice and requests;
11. Asks the Commission to assess the need for additional guidance on net neutrality to
achieve competition and freedom of choice for consumers;
12. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the
governments and parliaments of the Member States.
To find out more about the EU Telecoms Package, please see my book
Please attribute this article: Monica Horten (2011) Net Neutrality blows in to EU autumn agenda http://www.iptegrity.com 26 September 2011 .