As part of the 2009 EU telecoms reform package, the Commission committed itself to scrutinise closely the open and neutral nature of the internet and to report on the state of play to the European Parliament and the EU’s Council of Ministers. To this end the Commission on 30 June 2010 launched a public consultation on the open internet and net neutrality.
The Commission wanted to look more deeply into issues such as internet traffic management, transparency, quality of service considerations and whether the EU’s new telecom rules are adequate.
Participating in the consultation was BEREC, the body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications, as well as operators, internet service providers, Member States’ authorities, consumer and civil society organisations as well as individuals.
The results of the consultation which ended on 30 September show a near consensus on the importance of preserving the openness of the internet. All parties participating agreed that traffic management is a necessary and essential part of operating a secure and efficient network and BEREC warned of possible problems of discrimination leading to anti-competitive effects, the potential longer-term consequences for the internet economy in terms of innovation and freedom of expression, and uncertainties for consumers due to lack of transparency. Many respondents expressed concerns in connection with the blocking of phone services over the internet and bandwidth throttling of sites.
The consultation did not reveal a widespread call for further EU legislation, but there is an expectation that additional guidance may be needed in the future.