The Mirage of Net Neutrality – Netopia in European Voice

Today, Netopia writes an opinion comment in European Voice. It discusses the focus on so-called net neutrality in the Commission’s policy proposal on the digital single market.

Net neutrality is the idea that all data traffic should have the same priority. It’s great in theory, but in practice the telecom carriers use traffic shaping methods to discriminate, prioritise and otherwise control the data traffic, often for competition reasons but of course also for things like network security. The proposal suggests to deal with this not by stopping traffic shaping, but only by demanding of the carriers to tell us what types of traffic are discriminated. So, even if net neutrality were a good idea, this is nothing like it.

But the point is that network neutrality is based on the assumption that technology can be independent of vested interests and influence from outside. That infrastructure is neutral. This is of course not true of any kind of infrastructure, most construction projects are objects of much debate and often court processes. And the internet can only partly be understood as infrastructure, it is also very much an extension of society – and increasingly so as larger parts of work, business and social life are done not through but on the internet. Therefore, responsible policy must not accept the idea that absence of regulation is the way to freedom or openness. We would not accept that logic in any other aspect of society.