EU lawmakers ignore consumers' views on net neutrality claim

Consumer group BEUC says the Commission's current talks with industry forget the consumer

A leading European organization has said that the European Commission is ignoring consumers' views on the future of broadband networks and net neutrality.

The European Consumers Organization (BEUC) is also particularly concerned by proposals from network operators that would require services and content providers to pay for the use of the networks depending on the volume of data they deliver.

"From our point of view, such an unbalanced financing system will lead to unfair competition at the content/services level and will endanger net neutrality and the free choice of the consumer," said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens in a strongly worded letter to the Commission.

The Commission is currently holding discussions on "the future of the Internet" with representatives of telecom companies and content providers. However BEUC says that civil society representatives should also be at the table given the potential consequences for consumers. Prioritization of traffic management on the basis of commercial interests would have an impact on end pricing.

But BEUC also wants to uphold the principle of net neutrality, which it says is threatened "by network operators who aim to maximize their revenues through the prioritization of content and exclusive agreements with content providers."

"We strongly believe that the focus should be on accelerating investments in network capacity and ensuring the effective rolling out of new generation networks as the most effective response to increasing consumer demand for broadband services," continued Goyens.

However, following the last meeting with CEOs on July 13, Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that the discussion had not resulted in a consensus view, although it had helped to build mutual understanding.

"While it is understandable that commercial players try to maximize their own advantages, we also need to recognize that we have common interests. We all want Europe to catch the high-speed broadband train. I can assure you that my future actions will take full account of the views of all the CEOs involved and all other interested parties, and will be preceded by further wide consultation," said Kroes.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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