Strict take on ‘net neutrality’ by EU telecom regulators
Principle that all web traffic is equal designed to keep internet an open platform
Lise Fuhr: Important that the implementation of net neutrality rules does not hamper new applications and services
EU regulators have adopted a strict interpretation of rules limiting how telecoms firms can prioritise some types of internet traffic. The aim is to protect the principle that all web traffic be treated equally.
The guidelines on net neutrality were welcomed by internet activists as ensuring the web remains an open platform and not a two-speed highway benefiting only companies with deep pockets that can pay for prioritised delivery.
The European Union adopted its first-ever net neutrality law last year. The latest guidelines, adopted on Tuesday,will help determine how regulators enforce those rules.
Companies had pushed for leeway that allowed them to prioritise some types of data over others.
Under the latest guidelines, however, they will only be able to offer so-called specialised services – such as connectivity for driverless cars and internet-connected devices – over dedicated network capacity if it is “objectively necessary” and only if it does not negatively affect the Internet.
Services such as high-quality voice calling on mobile networks, live television delivered over the internet, and remote surgery, or telesurgery, are likely to be allowed as specialised services, according to the guidelines.
The telecoms industry said it was essential to avoid “restrictive interpretations” of the net neutrality law.
“Let’s make sure the implementation of net neutrality rules does not hamper new applications and services,” said Lise Fuhr, director general of Brussels-based Etno, a telecoms lobbying group representing operators, including Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Telecom Italia.
Regulators have also limited the extent to which telecoms operators may exempt some applications, such as Facebook, from a customer’s data usage, a practice known as zero-rating.
Customers cannot continue using Facebook or, say, Spotify, for free once they have used up all the data in their subscription.