A Deloitte Viewpoint
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication. While the issue of net neutrality has been a topic of heated debate among policy-makers, industry stakeholders and advocacy groups for some time already, it recently gained traction among the general public following the deal between Netflix (an American provider of on-demand Internet streaming media) and Comcast (America’s largest broadband provider) to ensure that Netflix movies and television shows stream smoothly to Comcast customers.
"Net neutrality goes beyond business interests, touching upon wide reaching issues such as the European digital single market and the future of the internet as a whole..."
According to the European Commission, the absence of clear rules on net neutrality left some 96% of EU citizens without legal protection for their right to access the full open internet. In turn, this translates into lost opportunities for European businesses and innovators. Moreover, the adoption of local laws in individual EU Member States, for instance the Netherlands and Slovenia, is further complicating the situation.
Following the last couple of years of struggle to resuscitate the European economy, tapping into new sources of growth and innovation is crucial to the EU. Needless to say, the much needed economic injection depends greatly on good connectivity, which in turn relies on harnessing digital technology and ICT. As for the European single market, it remains largely fragmented by 28 national markets, which is stalling the possibilities of connectivity and scale to blossom into a fully digital economy.
Internet services for all
In response to this situation, European Commission Vice President Kroes issued in 2013 the proposal for the Connected Continent Regulation (MEMO/13/779), which aims at a single market for Internet and communications. By doing so, the European Commission took a clear stance for net neutrality by linking an open internet to the proposal.
Since a great deal of the net neutrality debate centres on the management of internet traffic by ISPs and what constitutes reasonable traffic management, the proposed regulation has been designed to deliver an open internet for all citizens in Europe and to enhance transparency by requiring operators to provide their customers with accurate information about the speed and quality of the internet service they provide.