Net neutrality: why is there no serious debate in the UK/Europe?
In America, the communications authority (Federal Communications Commission) is fighting to uphold the internet rights of the people by adopting three protections for broadband users:
This Report and Order establishes protections for broadband service to preserve and reinforce Internet freedom and openness. The Commission adopts three basic protections that are grounded in broadly accepted Internet norms, as well as our own prior decisions. First, transparency: fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of their broadband services. Second, no blocking: fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful Web sites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services. Third, no unreasonable discrimination: fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic. These rules, applied with the complementary principle of reasonable network management, ensure that the freedom and openness that have enabled the Internet to flourish as an engine for creativity and commerce will continue.
Federal Register Volume 76, Number 185 (Friday, September 23, 2011)
The industry is objecting. Verizon has challenged this. Actually. it’s Verizon’s second challenge: the first was thrown out by the courts because Verizon challenged before the FCC published. Kinda jumped the gun a bit there – but indicative of the US telecoms’ attitude towards net neutrality. They don’t want it.
Here in the UK, it seems to be the industry trying to protect the people’s internet rights, with the authority (ie, Jeremy Hunt, MP; Secretary of State for Culture) doing the attack.
On copyright infringement Mr Hunt said that if voluntary agreements are not made to make it more difficult to access sites that ignore the law then he would consider other options including creating a cross-industry body to identify and take action against infringing sites as well as streamlining the court process…
…Other issues in the speech included broadband competitiveness, mobile spectrum, the e-commerce directive and media plurality and regulation.
ISPA News 30/09/11
It is the industry that casts itself as the defender of the people:
Nicholas Lansman, ISPA Secretary General said, “ISPA believes that there should be a measured and balanced approach to online copyright infringement and there should be less focus on enforcement and more on developing attractive new business models, educating users, and modernising copyright laws.”
But don’t be fooled. What is missing in this debate, and in the UK and Europe in general, is any serious and open discussion between government, the people and the industry about net neutrality. And it’s important to all of us. The industry wants to be able to limit our bandwidth whenever they want in order to provide increased bandwidth on demand to their bigger customers.
Now I don’t believe that anyone can object to paying for what they get. If I pay for only 5Gb per month, then that is all I should get. But if I need unlimited bandwidth and pay for unlimited bandwidth, then I should get unlimited bandwidth. I should not have my bandwidth squeezed so that the ISP can give it to a more important customer cloaked under some obscure misnomer called ‘fair use’.
The question, then, is why is this issue not more openly and more vehemently discussed in the UK and Europe? In America, there is a strong case for using the Constitution to defend net neutrality. We have no such defence in the UK/Europe. Net neutrality is a phrase you won’t hear from many politicians this side of the pond. And that’s simply because it is already a dead duck. There is a tacit agreement between the industry and government that net neutrality will not be enforced. So they don’t talk about it, and we don’t know about it.