Telecom industry associations said the European Union will restrict innovation and consumer choice if it approves net neutrality in a vote on Thursday.
Neelie Kroes - EC vice president
In a joint statement, the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO), GSM Association, European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA), and Cable Europe, said they are "highly concerned" about the prospect of draft legislation on net neutrality being passed by the European Parliament during the vote.
Speculation is rife that European politicians may approve the neutrality proposals in a bid to curry favour among consumers ahead of elections in May, Reuters reported. However, the industry groups argue the proposed legislation has "very restrictive views on how the internet should work, and how specialized services with enhanced quality could be offered," meaning consumers will actually endure lower quality of service if the proposals are passed.
Painting a bleak picture, the quartet of industry associations states that approving the legislation will end web creativity and entrepreneurship, and "result in a lower quality internet for all." Operators would be prevented from "efficiently managing their networks", which would endanger services including virtual private networks for business, IPTV, telepresence, telemedicine, and electronic education, the groups state.
The groups also believe the EU legislation will distort competition by favouring some players more than others, and create legal uncertainty with a set of overly prescriptive rules that muddy the clear waters national telecoms regulators are providing in terms of net neutrality regulations.
"The companies we represent are all about giving people access to the services they want and this is why we have embraced the principle of an Open Internet since the beginning of the debate," the statement explains, adding: "However, establishing and defending such a principle has nothing to do with stifling innovation and blocking growth.
"For this reason, we call on EU decision makers to adopt future proof measures and to carefully consider any decisions that might affect innovation in the Digital Economy and the functioning of the internet as we know it today."
Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice president responsible for the Digital Agenda, last week said consumers face a "geographic lottery" regarding broadband access speeds and pricing, and called for a single web market to be created.
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