Public consultation on open Internet rules for Europe ends with a bang: academics, investors, startups (including founders of Skype, Soundcloud, and Shapeways), web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and 510,370 members of the public demand strong net neutrality rules.
THE INTERNET—The numbers are in: the European net neutrality movement is celebrating a huge milestone with the submission of over 500,000 comments to EU regulators.
In just six weeks, the public consultation organized by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), provoked an unprecedented response from the EU public. In their previous consultations, BEREC never received more than 100 hundred responses. By the 18th of July the number of responses totaled 510,370—a historic feat.
This massive surge of comments from the general public comes on the heels of similar demands from a broad coalition of academics, public interest groups, web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, joined by Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig and Stanford’s Barbara van Schewick, and 135 startups and investors, including founders of the major European startups Skype and SoundCloud, and US companies like Medium, DuckDuckGo, and Cogent Communications.
Two weeks ago, major European telecom companies threatened to delay investment in the next generation of 5G mobile network technology unless regulators weaken the current version of the draft guidelines. But in the face of such a broad coalition and overwhelming public support, Europe’s telecom companies—however powerful—appear increasingly isolated.
"The public has spoken. Now the question is, who will Europe’s regulators listen to?" said Fight for the Future co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng, "Will they listen to the powerful telecom companies? Or will they listen to the historic coalition of academics, innovators, small companies, and over 500,000 people who are calling for real net neutrality rules with no loopholes?"
"Letting ISPs charge for special "fastlanes"—while putting every site that can’t pay in a slowlane—would destroy the economic and cultural miracle that is the open Internet," said Fight for the Future co-founder Holmes Wilson, "We won this debate in the US, but now Europe is facing its own critical test. Who will win? Startups and everyday Internet users? Or powerful telecom and cable companies? Now that it’s clear where the public stands, we hope regulators will side with the public, but it’s too soon to tell."
Startups, investors, and public interest groups are seeking three specific changes to draft BEREC guidelines, before BEREC finalizes guidelines on August 30th:
1. To clearly ban on anti-competitive forms of "zero rating" (i.e. the practice of exempting select applications from users’ monthly data caps) in the guidelines;
2. To prohibit telecom companies from using the law’s legitimate exception for specialized service to offer paid fast lanes to Internet applications, content, and services that could function on the regular Internet, which would circumvent the law’s ban on fast lanes on the Internet.
3. To strengthen the "traffic management" provisions to ensure that telecom companies can only speed up or throttle entire types of application, such as games, or video chat if there is no other, less discriminatory way to solve the traffic management problem.
About Fight for the Future:
Fight for the Future is best known for its work building Battle for the Net, the net neutrality campaign hub that was central to the victory for net neutrality rules in the US, and organizing the Internet Slowdown, an online protest for net neutrality that drove 760,000 comments to the US Federal Communication Commission in one day. To support the movement for net neutrality in Europe, Fight for the Future launched the SaveNetNeutrality.eu campaign, which contributed 44,987 signatures to the effort, by offering widgets—featuring a countdown and a "slow loading" icon—that any website or blog could install to help gather comments.