European Commission opens net neutrality consultation

The public consultation seeks to define the rules of net neutrality and ensure a fair deal for internet customers

The European Commission today launched a public consultation into net neutrality.

It will be led by the vice president for the digital agenda at the EC, Neelie Kroes, who is keen to establish the facts around management of internet traffic across Europe and ensure customers buying services are getting a fair deal.

Currently, some internet providers or mobile operators limit the performance of websites and offer better performance to others for a price. Google, for example, pays a number of mobile operators to ensure its website loads faster than other pages on smartphones.

Although some detail this in their contracts, many users do not realise both fixed line and mobile providers have the ability to manage performance and a number of campaign groups have protested whether this process allows for a free and open internet.

"Today there is a lack of effective consumer choice when it comes to internet offers,” said Kroes. “I will use this consultation to help prepare recommendations that will generate more real choices and end the net neutrality waiting game in Europe.”

Kroes proposed new legislation on the topic of net neutrality back in May following findings from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).

The study showed at least 20% of broadband users and up to half of mobile internet customers had contracts allowing their providers to restrict certain services, such as VoIP or file-sharing.

Approximately 20% of fixed operators also put restrictions on what users could access at peak times, affecting up to 95% of customers in a single country.

The consultation will enable any interested parties to put across their views about the rules that should be put in place and Kroes is encouraging companies involved, such as ISPs or equipment manufacturers, to submit their thoughts, as well as interest groups and consumers.

The four areas the consultation will focus on will be internet traffic management, such as congestion management and privacy issues, transparency of adjustments or restrictions to internet performance, the ability for consumers to switch operators and internet interconnection issues between network operators.

Submissions must be made by 15 October 2012, with regulations set to be published in 2013.

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