Over the recent months, EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes has been talking about net neutralitiy a lot. Sadly, that’s the most positive thing that can be said about her involvement in the matter, as this analysis of proposed regulation from La Quadrature du Net shows:
While there are some nice but vague sentences in her proposal that say users should be “free to access and distribute information and content, run applications and use services of their choice”, this is negated by allowing providers to charge extra for preferential treatment of certain data. Allowing better transmission for some kinds of data is effectively the same as permitting throttling everything else, is just doesn’t sound as bad.
Breaking net neutrality like this allows telcos to benefit from network congestion, because only if congestion occurs frequently, people and (more importantly) companies will be willing to pay for preferential treatment. Who would pay for “premium” service, if “normal” works just fine? Thus, allowing telcos to offer “priority services” means giving them an incentive not to invest in adequate network infrastructure. It’s like allowing the post office to transport mail in open horse-drawn carriages and offer closed lorries (“Protected against wind and rain!”) as a premium service. The frequent “But we need the money to pay for network upgrades!” screams from telcos are at best stupid, though I suspect they are intentionally trying to mislead both politicians and the public.
What we really need is regulation that enforces strict net neutrality, without any loopholes. Sweet-talking and doing the opposite is not going to cut it, Ms. Kroes.
I know there are legitimate uses for quality of service, but none of them apply to the public internet. Also, none of them are needed if there is simply enough network capacity for everyone. But that’s a different topic, if you’re interested in what I think about it, leave a comment and I’ll write something when I have time.