European ISPs Lobby ITU Against Net Neutrality

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Service providers say they should have the right to charge for better service

European ISPs have asked the ITU to guarantee service providers’ right to charge more for guaranteed service levels, against the wishes of those lobbying for Net Neutrality.

Governments including that of the Netherlands have passed laws banning the creation of a so-called “two-tier Internet”, in order to prevent service providers choking rival services. However, the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO) has argued that the ability to charge for differentiated service is essential and urged the UN’s telecoms body to enshrine the principle in new international regulations.

Neutrality is not an option?

The International Telecommunications Regulations govern how the world’s telecoms operators work and are set out by a UN agency, the ITU (International Telecommunications Union). They are up for renewal, as their last version from 1998 pre-dated widespread use of the Internet.

ETNO’s submission to the ITU sets out a difference between “end to end quality of service delivery” and “best-effort delivery”, and says operators should get “fair compensation”,  concluding that “nothing shall preclude” commercial agreements based on differentiated service.

Net Neutrality advocates say charging for services would allow providers to kill off competitors that run on top of their networks, like VoIP services such as Skype that operate over networks and compete with telephone services. The question also raises fears of Internet taxes.

ETNO has proposed a new IP ecosystem based on end-to-end quality of service, alongside today’s best-efforts Internet, which could allow service providers to charge more and make more revenue. Rather than killing off services running over the top of networks, it would allow them to choose to buy a value-added delivery mechanism if their customers required it, ETNO argued.

“By endorsing the concept of  ‘quality-based delivery’, it will be possible to establish new interconnection policies based on the ‘value’ of the traffic, not only on the ‘volume’,” ETNO said.

Since May 2011, it has been a legal requirement under EU law that Member States’ telecoms regulatory authorities promote the ability of internet users “to access and distribute information or run applications and services of their choice.” However, there is no set definition of Net Neutrality and the EU has launched a formal investigation.

ETNO’s contribution sparked a lot of comment about Internet taxation but the body has denied forcefully that it intended to promote anything of the sort. ETNO was approached for comment on the possible conflict with national laws, but did not respond before publication.

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