Stand up for freedom on the web (Round 2: the UK and EU)
Back in April, I encouraged everyone to respond to the French authorities’ consultations on net neutrality. Thank you very, very much to all of you Internet users, software developers, and other good people who spoke out in favour of the open Internet.
Late July, French Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet sent her report to the French Parliament (not public yet… suspense). Just before her, as summer approached, the French telecoms regulator ARCEP had produced ‘initial policy directions on Internet and network neutrality’ which included some really good proposals such as the following:
- “[a provider of] Internet access … must be obligated, in accordance with the legal provisions in effect, to furnish end users with the ability to:
- send and receive the content of their choice;
- use the services and run the applications of their choice;
- connect the hardware and use the programmes of their choice, provided they do not harm the network.”
- “the traffic management practices that ISPs employ to ensure Internet access [must] remain exceptional and comply with the general principles of relevance, proportionality, efficiency, transparency and non discrimination.”
- “A connection to the Internet must be provided with a sufficient and transparent quality of service. To guarantee this, the Authority is launching sector-specific efforts to qualify the minimum quality of service parameters for Internet access, and is working to implement specific indicators.”
- and among other good positions, ARCEP specifically remarked on Skype use that “In particular, even in data offers that are not qualified as “Internet access,” it does not seem legitimate to block voice over IP services (such as Skype) since they do not consume more bandwidth than other services that are currently accessible via mobile networks.” Hear hear.
So: thanks to ARCEP for their encouraging suggestions, and we hope they adopt them formally very soon so that French Internet users can benefit from access to all of the Internet, not a subset of it as they do now because of the French mobile operators’ restrictions (did I mention that you are forbidden to use VoIP, newsgroups and P2P on the iPad in France (see here in footnotes and here under ‘mentions légales’). That’s where the emoticon comes in handy).
Now we can do a little bit more to protect the open Internet elsewhere in the world, by responding to similar consultations by the UK and by the EU authorities.
In the UK, some of the mobile operators restrict Internet access in major ways, either prohibiting VoIP and Skype usage, or requiring users to pay a surcharge. Some also forbid the use of online audio, video, streaming, peer-to-peer apps and services – in short, they don’t let you enjoy most of the Internet. The UK communications regulator Ofcom has produced a discussion paper on ‘traffic management and net neutrality’ – which does not seem to consider all these restrictions a problem at all – and is asking for comments by 9 September.
In Brussels, the European Commission is asking for comments by 30 September on its (promising) ‘public consultation on the open Internet and net neutrality in Europe’ (PDF). On the basis of the response, the Commission will make proposals to the European Parliament by the end of the year on how to protect the open Internet. That will impact all 500 million Europeans and how they can use and enjoy the Internet. As was explained by the Romanian telecoms regulator who is encouraging people to respond to the Commission, “It is important to have as many respondents … as possible to ensure that their interests will be reflected in the regulations the Commission might propose after analysing the consultation results”.
If, like us all at Skype, you care passionately about ensuring that (in Europe and elsewhere in the world) the Internet remains the unique and wonderful tool for freedom of expression and communication, choice and innovation, and the free flow of information that we have come to cherish over the past twenty years, it is imperative that you make your voice heard by responding to these consultations: here for the UK consultation, and here for the EU consultation.
Let’s get proper protections of the open Internet in place, where we Internet users – not anyone else – choose what we do online, and where ‘innovation without having to ask for permission’ is the norm. If you need inspiration on how to respond, look at the ARCEP suggestions mentioned above and at the petition for an open Internet in Europe. A little bit more effort and we can make sure we will always enjoy a free and open Internet – let’s do it.