European industry bodies call for Open Internet
January 27, 2015
By Colin Mann
A coalition of European communications industry trade bodies has stressed the importance for the sector of promoting real choice and quality for all customers, nurturing innovation and fostering network investment.
In a joint statement, they suggest these “ambitious, yet indispensable” goals can only be achieved in the context of an approach based on future-proof principles, which should be applied consistently across the European Union.
“Overly prescriptive or intrusive rules would risk degrading today’s Internet experience and limiting its development potential. Policymakers should favour a forward-looking approach, recognising that the evolution of the Internet is an ongoing process,” they recommend.
“The Open Internet is critical to the development of society as a whole. The European electronic communications industry is at the forefront of its development and invests heavily in quality networks and services, in the context of highly competitive markets,” they advise.
As work on the ‘Connected Continent Regulation’ evolves, they underline the importance of promoting real choice and quality for all customers, nurturing innovation and fostering network investment:
Choice and quality in Internet access services
The offer of the e-communications industry is driven by the diverse requirements of customers. To meet this diversified demand, operators are required to provide a wide variety of Internet access products and services in the interest of end-users.
In this context, it is not technologically efficient or beneficial for consumers if all traffic is treated equally. Nor has this ever been the case.
Today’s Internet, its quality, its reliability and its safety are underpinned by traffic management and by the network routing technologies embedded in the Internet’s infrastructure.
Rules limiting the ability to provide consumers with a satisfactory user experience would alter and degrade the Internet as we know it today.
Innovation in the digital economy
Innovation is essential, whether related to new products or new business models. Digitisation of formerly analogue industries – from mobility and health to manufacturing – is contributing to a fully connected Digital Single Market. To keep up with global competition and with customer demand, EU operators must be able to launch ground-breaking innovations and provide services to enable internet-content providers and traditional industries alike. The development in areas such as connected cars or entertainment, for example, depends on the possibility of providing specialised services at guaranteed levels of quality.
Limiting the provision of services that benefit from assured quality via detailed legal wording would impede EU operators to deliver today’s innovative services and develop tomorrow’s new services.
Price differentiation and consumer welfare
Any proposed rules should avoid introducing a regulation of retail offers in the highly competitive European telecom markets. In particular, a principle that bans positive price differentiation would deprive consumers of attractive services that they are using today and may act as a deterrent to innovation for new services and business models.
The ability to provide such innovative offers should be guaranteed across the EU as a whole: divergent rules at national level should be avoided, especially in light of the political ambition for a single mobile market for data.
Broadband investment and Open Internet rules
The new European Commission aims at identifying and removing the existing regulatory barriers to investment. It would be paradoxical to create new barriers to network investment and broadband capacity creation via ill-thought-out rules. We should all work to restore the conditions for speeding up broadband deployment and contribute to the achievement of a thriving European digital ecosystem.
The contributors to this joint statement are: Cable Europe, ETNO (the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association, the GSMA and Make The NetWork, an EU initiative developed by leading telecommunications industry players, including cable companies, fixed and mobile operators and equipment manufacturers to contribute to the development of the wider European economy.