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Neelie Kroes: So close on Net Neutrality

Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission, has issued her statement on Net Neutrality. In my view, she correctly assesses the importance of Net Neutrality, but wrongly gauges the ability of a free market to deliver it. As a result, her policy is (in my view) seriously misguided. But so close!

Neelie writes:

When it comes to the issue of “net neutrality” I want to ensure that Internet users can always choose full Internet access – that is, access to a robust, best-efforts Internet with all the applications you wish.

I would have preferred a phrase about all apps and data delivered free of discrimination by the carriers. In any case, based on a new study by BEREC (European regulators’ body), she feels that now enough of the market has a choice of carriers that regulation is not needed.

As my friend JC de Martin wrote on a mailing list [slightly edited]:

I am afraid that this is a bad decision on at least four counts:

1. it overestimates the ability of the average consumers not only to obtain the relevant information, but also
to fully understand its implications;

2. it underestimates the very substantial pain of switching ISPs;

3. in rural areas, or smaller cities, the ISP offer is quite limited;

4. ISPs are not all equal: very soon European consumers will have to face a choice between a fast ISP with “limited Internet” and a slower ISP with “full Internet”: which one will they choose?

If access to an open Net is as important as Neelie believes it is, then it ought not be left up to the vagaries of the market to deliver it, and we ought not be complacent about a situation in which some people cannot afford access to it.

So close :(

4 Responses to “Neelie Kroes: So close on Net Neutrality”

  1. The vagaries of the market? Are you under some illusion that the govt does a better job? 2 months ago I scrapped an old car, and took the tags back to the local MVA. I’m still waiting for their acknowledgement that I did that, and – under penalty of stiff fine – I can’t cancel my car insurance until I get that acknowledgement.

    As bad as Comcast and Verizon are, I would much, much rather deal with them than with any level of government. It’s possible to get companies to pay attention – it’s a near impossibility to get government to do so.

  2. David – not sure she’s even close. My reading is that she’s actually going to mandate non-neutral business models with transparency as a palliative. To the extent these new models get launched (and I’m uncertain on that) it’s a case of users are going to get screwed but at least the ISP buys them a drink first

  3. Ian, I think she’s close in that she understands the importance of Net Neutrality (pretty much). But when you say she’s going to mandate non-neutral models, do you mean that she’s going to require non-neutrality and not even permit neutral networks? I certainly don’t read her that way.

  4. […] the importance of Net Neutrality, but wrongly gauges the ability of a free market to deliver it. Neelie Kroes: So close on Net Neutrality. Meanwhile, Internet Society: There’s Room for Compromise on Net […]

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