“Paid Prioritisation Prohibited”

3 Questions to Nathalie Vandystadt, European Commission spokesperson for the Digital Single Market.

On 27th October, the European Parliament voted to adopt an agreement reached in June to end roaming charges by 2017 and to set net neutrality rules in the EU for the first time. After the vote, Netopia asked three questions to Nathalie Vandystadt, European Commission spokesperson for the Digital Single Market.

Per Strömbäck: Does the EP vote allow for a two-speed internet? (That is not the same as a neutral network)

Nathalie Vandystadt: No, on the contrary, the vote has fully ensured that every European must be able to have access to an open internet and all content and service providers will be able to provide their services via a high-quality open internet. But more and more innovative services require a certain transmission quality in order to work properly – not just today’s services, such as IPTV, but new ones such as telemedicine or automated driving. These and other services that can emerge in the future can be developed as long as they do not harm the availability and the quality of the open internet.

It is not a question of fast lanes and slow lanes – as paid prioritisation is not allowed – but of making sure that all needs are served, that all opportunities can be seized and that no one is forced to pay for a service that is not needed.

The Regulation sets very clear and strong conditions for the provision of such specialised services and includes the necessary safeguards to ensure that the open internet is not negatively affected. Such services have to meet the following conditions:

– They have to be optimised for specific content, applications or services;

– Optimisation must be objectively necessary to meet service requirements for specific levels of quality that are not assured by the internet access service.

The text also sets very clear safeguards to avoid that the provision of these services impairs the internet access. These services:

– Cannot be a substitute to internet access services;

– Can only be provided if there is sufficient network capacity to provide them in addition to any internet access service;

– Must not be to the detriment of the availability or general quality of internet access services for end-users.

PS : Netflix have done battle with ISPs over net neutrality in order to avoid special charges, but now some ISPs start to pay Netflix – reversing the interests. How does such a change influence the Commission’s telecom single market policy?

NV: The Telecoms Single Market Regulation is based on principles (non-discrimination, access to content of the end user’s choice etc) in order to be future proof.

The Regulation will not change because of changes to the commercial behaviour of some operators

PS : Can a ”neutral” network guarantee fair competition and free speech? Is that not a case for active governance rather than the absence of authorities?

NV: The new rules will create a positive individual right of end users to access or distribute internet content and services of their choice. This right can be enforced by courts as well as by regulatory authorities. The rules apply to all customers of internet access service.

National regulatory authorities are fully present in this process. They shall monitor and enforce compliance with the open internet rules. These authorities will thus have the power and obligation to examine how the traffic management practices of internet service providers affect the end-users’ (consumers and businesses) rights to access and distribute content, applications and services of their choice. They will have to ensure that the quality of the open internet access service reflects advances in technology. National regulatory authorities will also have to ensure that the availability and quality of the open internet access service is not degraded by traffic discrimination through internet service providers or by the provision of specialised services. Regulatory authorities furthermore have the responsibility to assess commercial practices, e.g. as regards differentiated data pricing such as zero-rating, to ensure that they do not circumvent the provisions of the Regulation, including those on non-discriminatory traffic management, and do not lead to situations where the choice of end-users would be materially reduced in practice, in their specific market circumstances. Regulators are also empowered to set minimum quality of service requirements on internet access providers and other appropriate and necessary measures to ensure that all end-users enjoy an open internet access service of good quality.