EU Commissioner Kroes won't be bullied on net neutrality, says spokesman

A digital rights group had accused the EU Commissioner of bowing to telco lobbying

Europe's digital agenda commissioner will not succumb to pressure on the issue of net neutrality, her spokesman said via Twitter on Friday.

In response to allegations by digital rights organization La Quadrature du Net that Commissioner Neelie Kroes had caved in to telecoms operators and was giving up on net neutrality, her spokesman Ryan Heath tweeted, "anyone thinking @NeelieKroesEU would let herself be bullied into diff opinions by any company/NGO, well, that just isn't her #NetNeutrality".

In her blog on Thursday, Kroes said consumers should be free to make their own choices about their Internet subscriptions, but that this "does not preclude consumers from subscribing to more differentiated, limited Internet offers, possibly for a lower price."

La Quadrature du Net interpreted this to mean that "Kroes supports the creation of a fragmented Internet, banning innovation and opening the door to unacceptable censorship."

"By deliberately ignoring that such offers would change almost nothing for operators in terms of cost, but would allow them to avoid investing in the development of network capacity while restraining possibilities for citizen participation, Neelie Kroes takes into account only short-term private interests that run contrary to public interest," the organization said in a press statement.

Kroes responded in an emailed statement, saying: "Make no mistake: I am in favor of an open Internet and maximum choice. That must be protected. But you don't need me or the E.U. telling you what sort of Internet services you must pay for."

The Commissioner had pointed out that opting for blocking ads or requesting privacy via do-not-track mechanisms "may mean you don't get access to content for free."

"The Internet does not run on its own. The network, content and Internet access all have to be paid for by someone. Many smaller web operators exist on the basis of innovative advertising models. There are various ways consumers pay for content, including by viewing advertisements before or during their access to content. Businesses should accept that different consumers will have different preferences, and design services accordingly," Kroes said.

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

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