Net Neutrality Is a European Problem Too

Updated: January 07, 2011

For years everyone has thought that the issue of net neutrality was a uniquely American problem affecting the US and to some extent Canada, but not really anyone else.

To some extent this viewpoint was true. Net neutrality is essentially a position that says that any one solution provider across the big network that supplies internet and network services to consumers and businesses should not discriminate against other services or providers by limiting access. There are strong arguments pro and con but what it really all boils down to is preventing monopolistic practices. Typically the issue has arisen because relatively monopolistic service providers (cable and telcos) have blocked or limited services across their networks. They have SAID that the issue was one of ensuring bandwidth availability and quality of service but in practice the blocked services have usually been services that competed with other offerings from these companies. Usually this has affected voip, streamed audio, streamed video and P2P networks.

The issue is undergoing legal scrutiny in the US thanks to the FCC and several lobbying organizations. Canada is starting to look at the issue. But in the rest of the world very little has been done because this is not seen as an issue. Sadly, that turns out not to be the case. The same issues are cropping up in Europe and will crop up elsewhere. It's just that because the blocked services are smaller it is harder to detect the blocking and harder to organize to do anything about it.

 Skype is trying to raise awareness of the issue, but for the EU, waiting until the end of 2010 to issue guidelines that may well not be enforceable in any real way is probably not a good enough answer. Whichever side of the debate you fall on (it's OK to block in order to ensure you make money versus it isn't OK to block to ensure equal access) surely it is better to at least have a clear decision?

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