Neelie Kroes, telco CEOs wrestle over net neutrality

Kroes attacks the Dutch net neutrality law

Europe's Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes on Monday took a swipe at her home country of the Netherlands for unilaterally introducing a so-called net neutrality law.

In June, Dutch authorities passed a law banning Internet providers from slowing down traffic except to ease congestion, preserve security or block spam. This effectively guarantees a single-tier Internet, where consumers have access to all the Internet has to offer once they buy access.

But Kroes criticized the move, saying that countries should wait for the facts and figures before acting. "Requiring operators to provide only 'full Internet' could kill innovative new offers. Even worse, it could mean higher prices for those consumers with more limited needs who were ready to accept a cheaper, limited package," she said. Many telco CEOs at the Digital Agenda Summit in Brussels agreed with the commissioner that tiered pricing did not conflict with net neutrality.

However, digital civil liberties activists said there was no difference between setting price A for neutral access and then charging less for limited access, and setting price B for limited access and charging more for neutral access. This could have the result of letting operators charge more for access to a full, neutral Internet.

On the issue of blocking and throttling, the commissioner said she had asked the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) for all the relevant facts and figures.

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