Telefónica CEO attacks former EU information commissioner over net neutrality

Telefónica CEO Cesar Alierta slammed the record of former European Union information society commissioner Viviane Reding, while calling on the body to rebalance the books by imposing the same restrictions on web companies as it does on telecoms operators.

In a presentation at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP) in Santander, Spain, Alierta said Reding had been a disaster for Europe and knew nothing of the telecoms industry. Alierta launched the attack on Reding while calling on the European Commission to overhaul its telecoms regulations to ensure web companies including Facebook and Google play by the same rules as network operators, Spanish daily El Pais reported.

The Telefónica chief also called for the EC to take action on what he calls 'closed' operating systems, which El Pais said was an indirect reference to platforms including Google's Android and Apple's iOS. Alierta said the operating systems are monopolistic, and noted that the U.S. had overhauled its legislation covering web and telecoms companies more than a decade ago.

Changes to European regulations would take two days at most, Alierta said.

The Telefónica CEO's calls for changes to EU telecoms rules was backed by Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao. Speaking at the same event, Colao said the EU must simplify telecoms regulations and apply the same rules to web companies as it does to operators.

At heart, both CEOs are arguing against proposed EC net neutrality rules that they say will hurt their business if implemented, Bloomberg reported. Bandwidth-intensive developments including connected cars and remote healthcare are at risk if operators are not granted a level playing field, they warned.

The European Parliament in April voted through plans to abolish roaming charges within the European Union by the end of 2015, and impose neutrality rules to ensure operators treat all web traffic equally. At the time Neelie Kroes, the EC's Digital Agenda commissioner, said the decision removed barriers to "open, seamless communications" within the region.

Industry bodies, however, were not convinced. The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) said the plan could derail EC connectivity goals. The GSM Association believed the plan would fail to stimulate growth and investment.

For more:
- see this El Pais article
- view this Bloomberg report

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