Comms groups: ‘Beware anti-innovation legislation’
April 2, 2014
By Colin Mann
A grouping of electronic communications industry trade bodies has added its voice to the debate on the proposed European Connected Continent Regulation. The coalition, comprising Cable Europe (the European Cable Communications Association); ECTA (the European Competitive Telecommunications Association); ETNO (the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association) and the GSMA (representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide), says the sector is “highly concerned” about the recent developments of the open Internet debate at European level.
In a joint Statement, it says that whilst it supports an open Internet, it warns that a set of misconceptions about the industry, together with a rushed legislative process and a lack of technical analysis, risk transforming the Connected Continent Regulation into an anti-innovation and anti-consumer choice legislation.
It says that the current draft legislative compromise in the European Parliament reflects very restrictive views on how the internet should work and on how specialised services with enhanced quality could be offered. If these views prevail, a wide range of players in the EU digital value chain will be negatively affected and, as a result, there will be a lower quality of service for consumers and businesses in Europe. The Internet as a platform for creativity and entrepreneurship, with access offered to the widest range of consumers via a variety of different offers, will be severely constrained, it warns.
The specific points it makes are:
The proposals will result in a lower quality Internet for all. The European Parliament position, as it stands, would put in jeopardy services currently provided to broadband users, such as VPNs for businesses, IPTV and telepresence. They would also prevent operators from efficiently managing their networks and from providing innovative services that require enhanced levels of quality, such as telemedicine or e-education. This would threaten innovation and new growth opportunities for those who invest in Europe’s digital spine. A good example is video traffic, which is predicted to rise to 70 per cent of the internet traffic during 2014. Given this impressive figure, the debate around how such traffic is managed and optimised is going to be essential to the effective operation of the Internet.
These provisions will reduce European users’ choice. Consumers, businesses and healthcare providers are all demanding innovative services, and consider them as essential to the development of their organisations. Why threaten the choice they have today by imposing restrictive rules? The European market for Internet access is a vibrant one, where users’ choice and product differentiation play a key role.
These provisions will distort competition. The Internet is a complex ecosystem. Backbone and CDN providers have a business model based on obtaining revenues from improving the quality of experience for end-users. They compete with network operators who can offer content providers access to the end customer at a lower cost. Restrictive Open Internet provisions will benefit some players to the detriment of others and will distort competition.
These provisions will create legal uncertainty. The 2009 Framework already empowers National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) to intervene and set quality of service levels for internet access. NRAs and their pivotal role in harmonising regulation has been somewhat overlooked in the current debate, which focuses on blurry technical translations of generic principles. As recently underlined by BEREC in public events, Open Internet rules should be kept light and simple. Hyper-prescriptive and complex provisions will create a very uncertain regulatory environment, no longer allowing regulators at EU and national level to react to technology and market developments.
The group says the companies it represents are all about giving people access to the services they want and this is why it has embraced the principle of an Open Internet since the beginning of the debate. “However establishing and defending such a principle has nothing to do with stifling innovation and blocking growth,” it states. “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,” it concludes.