Regulatory headlines out of Europe today are a bit contradictory. The European parliament has passed network neutrality regulation by a vote of 500-163, enshrining the concept in law continent-wide alongside a nice crop of loopholes that have opponents up in arms.
Under the legislation, you can’t pay for prioritization of your packets, unless they’re for a specialized service. Blocking or throttling of traffic under the umbrella of reasonable network management will be allowed to combat not just congestion, but the fascinating category of ‘impending’ congestion. Handling data from various applications differently is fine as long as it is based on technical reasons and not for commercial reasons.
Nevertheless, amendments proposed to bring the rules more in-line with the FCC’s new US regulatory regime were explicitly voted down, handing network operators what appears to be a significant regulatory victory over content providers and consumers. Of course, they also voted to ban data roaming charges, so for the last mile it’s perhaps a bit of a wash.
Will the apparent flexibility in the EU’s rules do a better job of keeping the twin pillars of innovation and investment strong and customers happy than what we now have in the USA? Europe’s telecommunications markets could certainly use a shot in the arm. As for customers, I’d argue that it’s not the EU parliament that holds the balance of power here any more than the FCC does in the US. People care about their data, and it will be popular opposition or apathy that determines whether any particular strategy to leverage traffic flows gets put in the hot seat. The politicians and regulators are followers on this stuff, not leaders.
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