Kroes favours consumer choice over ‘net neutrality’ law

Neelie Kroes May 2011_Picnik.jpg

The European Commission wants to ensure that consumers can have full access to high-speed Internet at any time but refrained from regulating on so-called "net neutrality" for now, saying the remedy may be worse than the disease.

Consumers' ability to have full Internet access at all times must be protected, said Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes.

Responding to a long-awaited report on 'net neutrality' by the body of European telecoms regulators (BEREC), Kroes said there were enough problems to justify increased consumer safeguards.

But she refrained from proposing legislation on so-called "net neutrality", saying: "I don't like to intervene in competitive markets unless I am sure this is the only way to help either consumers or companies."

The report showed that at least 20%, and potentially up to half of EU mobile broadband users have contracts that allow their Internet service provider (ISP) to restrict services like VOIP (e.g. Skype) or peer-to-peer file sharing. 20% of fixed operators also enforce service restrictions that limit Internet speed.

"Consumers need to know if they are getting Champagne or a lesser sparkling wine," Kroes said in a statement. "If it is not full Internet, it shouldn't be marketed as such. Perhaps it shouldn't be marketed as 'Internet' at all."

The Commission Vice-President in particular wants consumers to be given clearer information on actual, real-life broadband internet speeds. "Not just the speed at 3 am, but the speed at peak times. The upload as well as the download speed. The minimum speed, if applicable. And the speed you'll get when you're also watching IPTV as part of your triple-play bundle, or downloading a video on demand."

Consumers should also receive clear information about the limits of what they are paying for, including "clear, quantified data ceilings" when those are applied.

Kroes said her services will now prepare a Commission recommendation with targeted actions aimed at increasing choice for users and certainty for internet service providers (ISPs).

"Our guidance will make it easier to 'switch' service providers, and service offers, so that you can choose the market offer that suits you best."

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