EC wades into net neutrality debate

The European Commission will prevent network operators levying unfair charges on content providers for carrying high-bandwidth content, as part of future policy on net neutrality.
Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said protecting freedom of expression and maintaining open networks are essential principles in establishing fair competition for ISPs and content providers, and would help keep the Internet neutral.
In a speech to French regulator Arcep, Kroes said promoting competition among network operators is “the best way to avoid bottlenecks and monopolistic gatekeepers, thereby ensuring net neutrality.”
She added that EC policy would seek to prevent discrimination against content providers like Skype.
“Every player on the value chain should be free to fairly position themselves to offer the best possible service to their customers or end users,” Kroes said. “Any commercial or traffic management practice that does not follow objective and even-handed criteria, applicable to all comparable services, is potentially discriminatory in character.”
The comments are thought to be a direct retort to demands from Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, and Telefonica for Google to share its YouTube advertising revenues, earlier this week.
The trio said they would take the matter to local regulators if Google failed to agree, but Kroes said the EC’s main concern is to ensure users can “access and distribute the content, services and applications they want.”
A public consultation to decide EC policy will be held before the summer, Kroes said.
Deutsche Telekom spokesman Philipp Blank welcomed the call for public consultation, telling Telecoms Europe that increases in “high priority traffic that cannot tolerate a delay in transmission,” like online gaming and IPTV services is putting more pressure on the networks.
“The network, therefore, has to be continually extended and Internet traffic needs to be managed.
 “How this process should be managed and how further network expansion is financed are topics that need to be discussed within the industry.”