EU Commits to an Open Internet

The European Commission has committed to an open internet, alleviating fears raised by some following the net neutrality debates in the US.

Neelie Kroes, EC vice president for the Digital Agenda, set out the view in a speech on Thursday in which she spoke of the need for a "healthy competitive environment".

Kroes said that the EC had hoped to settle fears last year when it announced a Telecoms package that included "specific measures to tackle potential net neutrality problems".

However, this did little to reduce fears about net neutrality, and Kroes has clarified exactly how regulators expect to keep the internet open.

"A healthy competitive environment allows the tackling of many potential problems at their root, avoiding the emergence of monopolistic gatekeepers which could create serious dangers for net neutrality," she said.

"To let competition work, consumers need to be effectively informed about traffic management practices and to be able to easily switch operators if they are not satisfied."

The EC accepts that network operators should be able to explore new business models, and that some sort of traffic management is "essential" to avoid harming innovation and investment in networks.

"It is clear, however, that traffic management should be used properly to increase the quality of internet services, preserve network integrity and open the way to new investments in efficient networks," she said.

Kroes acknowledged that some companies block services such as Skype, for example, but that people have the ability to switch providers.

The situation had improved but is by no means "fully resolved", according to Kroes, who called on internet users to vote with their feet and leave any ISP that refused to be truly open.

"I think consumers should not underestimate their own power in shaping this situation. There were 21 million people using Skype alongside me when I called my family at the weekend. That is a huge market," she said.

"And I say to those people who are currently cut off from Skype: vote with your feet and leave your mobile provider. The message will be most powerful when it comes from the bottom-up and the top-down."

Kroes added that any content or application that is legal and does not harm or congest networks should be fully acceptable, and that this should not require any "must carry obligation" from the EC.

"You all know me well enough to know I am ready to take action to ensure this if it this proves to be necessary at any stage," she said.

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