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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Informal discussion in European Parliament on net neutrality

From the magnificent EDRi [Note: EDRi response to Commission consultation on net neutrality 30Sept10   (Contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)]
"For possibly the first time since the adoption of the "telecoms package", an informal discussion on the issue of "net neutrality" took place at a breakfast meeting hosted by Catherine Trautmann MEP. This happened ahead of upcoming the net neutrality "summit" planned to take place in the European Parliament [11 November].
None of the positions defended by the industry or consumer representatives were particularly surprising, with Telefonica arguing that the "nightmare" of increased demands of their services had to be responded to by increased "management". In the same way as roads are not built to cope with maximum possible demands, it would be wasteful to build networks to have enough capacity to cope with maximum demand. Skype argued that the virtuous circle created by the open Internet, whereby openness fosters innovation which attracts more users, which increases the incentives to innovate, must be protected. Skype and the European Consumers Bureau (BEUC) argued that research shows clearly that transparency is insufficient to protect consumers from non-neutral access providers because of the difficulties involved in changing broadband providers.
"The Commission said that there were over 300 responses to the recently closed net neutrality consultation and that the priority was to ensure a level playing field and to avoid fragmentation. The issue of deep packet inspection, which BEUC said should be banned, was avoided by the Commission, which argued that other technologies "must be possible". During the debate, both Ivailo Kalfin (S+D, Bulgaria) and Edit Herczog (S+D, Hungary) briefly raised the thorny issue of content regulation, presumably because increased interference with citizens' communications for business purposes will make it harder for access providers to avoid caving in to demands to restrict or monitor access to data on the basis of government requests or media pressure. Telefonica (whose subsidiary O2 accidentally blocked the entirely innocent Imgur website because the "technology behind the service is more far reaching than anticipated and on occasion a site which should not be blocked may be") said that it was not interested in censoring online material."

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