BEREC, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, this week published guidelines on the Implementation of the EU’s Open Internet Regulation. The EBU, as strong supporters of an open, neutral and transparent public Internet, closely follows all policy developments around net neutrality and the open internet. We contributed to the Public Consultation on the draft BEREC Guidelines, and we are pleased to see key points reflected in the final document.
The BEREC guidelines point to the fact that the net neutrality principle as adopted in the Open Internet Regulation will not hamper 5G developments. We agree. 5G is very important for the EBU and its Members – both in terms of content production and content distribution. For the EU to take the lead in 5G will require legislators, regulators and industry to work together to test its benefits to, and the potential for EU global leadership in, key issues of European competitive strength like media and the creative industries. With the approach taken in the guidelines, BEREC clearly recognises the potential for 5G to enhance the production of media content, including Public Service Media content and its delivery to citizens and consumers across the EU.
On the issue of Zero-rating, we are encouraged by the guidance given by BEREC on giving increased and robust powers to National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs). The EBU supports active monitoring of zero-rating practices by NRAs to assess the harm to end users’ rights, innovation and pluralism. We welcome the guideline’s detailed listing of criteria against which commercial and technical conditions limiting the exercise of end-users’ rights needs to be assessed. The addition of the step-by-step zero-rating offers’ assessment tool in annex to the Guidelines is also very useful.
We believe these guidelines will serve well the current phase open internet and we applaud BEREC for its work in developing them. Looking to the future, an important point needs to be considered: we believe that net neutrality as it is defined in the Open Internet Regulation and specified in the Guidelines might, as the market evolves, not be sufficient. Interconnection can move potential gatekeeping situations upstream, out of the scope of the current Open Internet Regulation. These upstream interconnection arrangements (between network operators, ISPs, transit providers and/or content providers) are necessary for the provision of Internet Access Service and have a direct impact on the quality of the best effort Internet offer. Interconnection is out of scope of the Open Internet Regulation, yet, there is the concern that the provision of content can be discriminated further back in the network – circumventingthe Net Neutrality principle. To have a truly open internet in the future, these interconnection arrangements must be closely examined by EU policy makers.
Further reading: the EBU’s response to the public consultation on Draft BEREC Guidelines on the Implementation of the Open Internet Regulation, November 2019.