Brussels – Today MEPs Sabine Verheyen, Amelia Andersdotter and Marietje Schaake hosted an event in the European Parliament entitled “The Open Internet, Innovation and Economic Growth – The Role of the Telecoms Single Market Proposal.” The event was jointly supported by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), the international organisation for the Internet industries, and the European Broadcasters Union, which represents Europe’s public sector broadcasters.
The event underlined the critical nature of the open Internet, or ‘net neutrality’, for the entire European economy, not least for companies providing content over the Internet.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should treat equivalent types of Internet data equally, whatever their source, content or destination. The Telecoms Single Market proposal aims to enshrine the principle of net neutrality in EU law, but would also allow the provision by Internet Service Providers of special bandwidth-hungry services running alongside the open Internet.
For the EBU and the CCIA, it is crucial that the open Internet remains the norm. In practice, this means ensuring that sufficient bandwidth is available for the open Internet to run smoothly. “Hindrances to the Open Internet, which are likely if specialised services take up too much bandwidth, will impact European citizens’ and businesses’ ability to access the Internet content and services of their choice, will restrict competition, reduce productivity and limit innovation in the economy at large,” CCIA Vice-President James Waterworth said.
“Arbitrary restrictions to using online apps such as Skype have been a persistent problem. We need to ensure this stops and that new innovative Internet companies don’t face the same problem. These rules will be economically beneficial to all,” said Jean-Jacques Sahel, Director of Policy at Microsoft.
“The social care sector is also innovating in providing new technologies to, for example, elderly people who live alone. We have faced the same problems as the private sector in having our alarm signals blocked. Europe’s elderly need a guarantee of an open Internet, even if they don’t use computers, and so do public budgets. The social care budget in Sweden is twice the defense budget and only technology can reduce that.” said Oskar Jonsson, project leader at the Swedish Institute of Assistive Technology.
BBC Head of International Policy Daniel Wilson spoke on behalf of the EBU, and expressed the shared view of European Public Service Media organizations:
“Public Service Media organizations in Europe are committed to an open, transparent and innovative Internet offering strong public and economic value. Ensuring access to our services via the Open Internet is important for the general interest, media pluralism and cultural diversity.”
Referring to the upcoming vote on the Single Telecoms Package Regulation, Mr Wilson added: “The definition of specialised services must be tight and accurate, and distinct from Internet Access Services. It should refer to their end-to-end nature. Crucially, while we accept the availability of specialised services for those who want to use them, their provision must not be at the material detriment to the quality of the Open Internet. In addition, traffic management measures must be restricted to an exhaustive list of justifications, only to be applied in a transparent, non-discriminatory, proportionate manner.”
Coming a week before the key vote in the Parliament’s Industry committee the discussion at the event focused on how best to secure an open Internet in the Regulation on a Telecoms Single Market. The CCIA urges Members of the European Parliament to adopt strong and clear rules to protect the open Internet. The European Parliament Industry, Research and Energy Committee, which leads discussions on the Single Telecom’s package, will hold a crucial vote on 24 February and has an historic opportunity to give the EU a comparative advantage in the global economy.