EU's net neutrality choices favor networks over innovation

25 December 2015 by Steve Blum
, , ,

500 gigabits and nothing to watch.

The European Union will implement network neutrality rules that are significantly friendlier to telecoms companies than the ones adopted earlier this year in the U.S. The European parliament rejected amendments –proposed by pretty much the same high tech companies that successfully pushed for the more stringent U.S. rules – that would have closed gaping loopholes.

According to the BBC

Part of the problem with the rules in their current form, argued Joe McNamee at the European Digital Rights campaign group, is that they are ambiguous.

“As the text currently stands there is no indication as to how much abuse of dominance would be permissible under this arrangement,” he told the BBC.

The sort of scenarios that could impact internet use include the creation of “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” or the creation of “zero ratings” in which some services may be accessed without using up any of the internet user’s data quota.

It’s an interesting contrast between the U.S., where Internet content and services companies are the sexy power brokers, and the E.U., where quasi-public telecoms companies are a collegial fit with the bureaucratic political culture. It’s outfits like Google and Facebook that are getting slapped on a regular basis by E.U. regulators – privacy rules and the so-call right to be forgotten, for example – while in the U.S. it’s telecoms companies that are on the defensive.

Looked at another way, it’s the U.S.-based innovators that are creating the demand that higher capacity European networks are better provisioned to fulfill in many cases. It’s not paradox or irony. It’s the natural result of different regulatory choices made from the same set of options. The next time someone touts the fast fiber sprouting in European cities, ask yourself: would you trade innovation for bandwidth?