Die Berichterstatterin des Ausschusses für Industrie und Forschung im Europäischen Parlament, Frau Pilar Del Castillo Vera (EPP), hatte kürzlich dazu aufgerufen, im Rahmen einer öffentlichen Konsultation Stellungnahmen zum Kommissionsentwurf einer EU-Telekommunikationsverordnung abzugeben.

Wir haben diese Gelegenheit genutzt und in einer Mail unsere Bedenken gegen die Passagen, welche Netzneutralität und priorisierte Dienste regeln, dargelegt. Hier der Text unserer Stellungnahme:

Dear Ms Pilar del Castillo Vera,

as an NGO working for digital human rights, Digitale Gesellschaft e.V. welcomes your call for a public stakeholder consultation on the proposed EU regulation for a single telecommunications market.

The regulation, as proposed by Commissioner Kroes in October, is a step in the right direction, even though it still comprises a number of serious flaws when it comes to the issue of net neutrality.

We are particularly concerned about the provisions in paragraphs article 23.2 and 23.5. Both of these paragraphs stipulate rather cloudy exceptions to the principle of net neutrality, allowing access providers to slow down or even block regular internet access for the benefit of specialised services. The problem with these exceptions is that they are far too unclear and inexact in order to ensure a neutral, non-discriminatory internet access.

According to article 23.2 „the provision of specialised services shall not impair in a recurring or continuous manner the general quality of internet access services“. What the draft fails to define is what a „recurring or continuous manner“ and „general“ actually mean – it could, for example, be anything from an impairment once a month to once or even more a day. Also, there is no definition of how low the quality of internet access has to drop in order to be considered an impairment of the general quality in the first place. The same problem occurs with the word „substantially“ in recital 50.

  • We therefore propose to remove the word „substantially“ from recital 50 and to remove the words „recurring or continuous manner“ and „general“ from article 23.2.

Moreover, article 23.5 letter a) states that „reasonable traffic management measures“ might be adopted „to implement a legislative provision or court order, or to prevent or impede serious crimes“. Apart from the fact that the draft lacks a definition of what a „serious crime“ is and therefore makes determinining its actual scope difficult, this exception opens the doors to blocking-orders and blacklists following the model of the French HADOPI law. Since this notion hasn’t got anything to do with the principle of net neutrality, it should be removed from the provision. The same goes for recital 47 which has a similar wording.

  • We therefore propose to delete recital 47 and article 23.5.

What is missing in the draft altogether is a strong and tangible definition of the principle of net neutrality. The latter would mean that access providers who offer specialised services are required to offer non-specialised access in the same quality as the specialised one. The quality of access should be measured not only by bandwidth but also other technical specifications like latency or jitter. After all, there would still be a surplus for the users of specialised services because the principle of „best effort“ would still be valid for the non-specialised access.

Furthermore, a non discriminatory internet access can only be guaranteed if it is mandatory for access providers to offer at least one non-throttled access-service parallel to a specialised service. Otherwise, strong pressure will be put on consumers to purchase the specialised services, impairing their right to use the services and applications they choose to, as stipulated in article 23.1 of the draft.

  • We therefore propose to amend the definition of „specialised service“ to ensure that the definition covers only services which are not run over the public internet and which are not functionally identical to services available over the public internet.
  • We propose to obligate internet access providers who offer specialised services to offer at least one flatrate best-effort access in the same quality (bandwidth, latency, jitter) as the specialised service.
  • We propose to delete from article 23.1 „and, in accordance with any such agreements relative to data volumes, to avail of any offers by providers of internet content, applications and services“.

We hope our input will be helpful in the continuous efforts of the ITRE commission to ensure the principle of net neutrality in a single telecommunications market throughout Europe.