The European Commission has sent a strong and unmistakable signal that it is committed to ensuring that the internet remains open and, to this end, recommended that European and national policymakers implement the EU’s latest telecoms package (“Kroes pledges to get tough if internet firms break rules”, 20-27 April”).
The concept of network neutrality, which originates in the US, appears fairly simple – data must be transmitted by internet service providers (ISPs) regardless of their origin or destination. Its central aim is to avoid any discrimination from the ISP side that would have an anti-competitive impact (“The virtues of internet neutrality”, 28 April-4 May).
In the EU, these potential issues are pre-emptively solved in the telecoms package, which sets higher requirements of transparency than in the past and empowers national regulators to set minimum quality of service requirements.
It encourages national policymakers to let the telecoms package demonstrate its ability to handle net neutrality, freeing them up to devote themselves to tackling other pressing challenges, such as the protection of personal data or intellectual property rights in the digital era.
This is a particularly welcome signal from the Commission in the context of the debate in the German Bundestag on the internet and the digital economy, in which I am involved as an external expert.
Often criticised for constantly imposing changes in national legislation, the Commission has shown with this communication that it does not believe in symbolic regulation: it prefers to aim for consistency and efficiency.
University of Rostock
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