Originally published: May 30, 2012
Last updated: May 30, 2012 - 3:27pm
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. But I don’t like to intervene in competitive markets unless I am sure this is the only way to help either consumers or companies. Preferably both. In particular because a badly designed remedy may be worse than the disease – producing unforeseen harmful effects long into the future. So I wanted better data before acting on net neutrality. I will prepare recommendations to generate more real choices and end the net neutrality waiting game in Europe.
- First, consumers need clear information on actual, real-life broadband 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 via a premium “managed” service. Plus, you should know what those advertised speeds typically allow you to do online
- Second, consumers also need clear information on the limits of what they are paying for. Clear, quantified data ceilings are much better than vague “fair use” policies that leave too much discretion to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). They allow low-volume users to look for deals that suit them. And they incentivize ISPs to price data volumes in ways that reflect costs, and so support investment in modernizing networks as traditional voice revenues decline.
- Third, consumers also need to know if they are getting Champagne or lesser sparkling wine. If it is not full Internet, it shouldn’t be marketed as such; perhaps it shouldn’t be marketed as “Internet” at all, at least not without any upfront qualification. Regulators should have that kind of control over how ISPs market the service.
But I do not propose to force each and every operator to provide full Internet: it is for consumers to vote with their feet. If consumers want to obtain discounts because they only plan to use limited online services, why stand in their way? And we don’t want to create obstacles to entrepreneurs who want to provide tailored connected services or service bundles, whether it’s for social networking, music, smart grids, eHealth or whatever. But I want to be sure that these consumers are aware of what they are getting, and what they are missing.
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