Did Neelie Kroes just kill European net neutrality? (No, she did that in May 2012 already!)

17 Jan, 2013

While the French government is making statements saying how important net neutrality is, Neelie Kroes writes an op-ed in Libération saying she wouldn’t mind “limited internet offers”, meaning: an internet on two speeds.

‘Net neutrality’ is the principle that internet service providers transfer data intact from the content provider to the consumer, and indiscriminately of the usage of consumer or content provider.

Neelie Kroes says in the Op-Ed:

“Public interest is not in opposition with consumers subscribing to limited Internet offers, more differenciated, possibly cheaper.”

While she doesn’t mention the Free debacle, she does refer to it: “Most people would like to be able to choose between receiving advertising or not with their content, but it’s clear that they don’t want to leave the matter in the hands of obscure parameters.”

French tech blog La Quadrature du Net is up in arms saying that Neelie Kroes “yields to operator pressure”: “Ms. Kroes supports the creation of a fragmented internet, banning innovation and opening the door to unacceptable censorship.”

Benjamin Sonntag, cofounder of La Quadrature, says that Kroes ‘is giving up on defending public interest and citizens’.

But actually Kroes is not saying anything new. In May 2012, she already wrote a blog in which she made much the same points that she did in Liberation (emphasis mine):

(…) consumers need clear information on the limits of what they are paying for.

(…) consumers also need to know if they are getting Champagne or lesser sparkling wine. If it is not full Internet, it shouldn’t be marketed as such; perhaps it shouldn’t be marketed as “Internet” at all, at least not without any upfront qualification. Regulators should have that kind of control over how ISPs market the service.

But I do not propose to force each and every operator to provide full Internet: it is for consumers to vote with their feet. If consumers want to obtain discounts because they only plan to use limited online services, why stand in their way?  (…)

(…) And I will continue to monitor the market to ensure that European consumers generally have access to competitive full Internet products, fixed and mobile.

At the same time, products that limit Internet access often require monitoring of online traffic, through so-called “packet inspection”. This raises privacy concerns, and we need clear guidance on responsible behaviour by ISPs; and on how consumers can exercise effective and informed control if they opt for such products.

I am in favour of an open Internet and maximum choice. That must be protected. But you don’t need me or the EU telling you what sort of Internet services you must pay for.

via Liberation via La Quadrature du Net.

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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