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Council of Ministers to mull the Telecoms Single Market bill: a clear chance to lobby


via Flickr © News Oresund (CC BY 2.0

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) which, amongst other things organises the Eurovision Song Contest (above),  is supporting a - perhaps final - push in support of European net neutrality as the Council of Ministers prepares to sit down to an informal dinner (as you do) before getting down to brass tacks tomorrow to discuss the crucial Telecoms Single Market legislation.

It’s joined with the Net Neutrality Alliance, a rainbow alliance of groups and interests in Europe which incudes the European consumer organisation, BEUC; the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA); La Quadrature du Net and the  Voice on the Net (VON) Coalition Europe, to issue a joint statement and more or less lobby the meeting.

The EBU is an alliance of public service media and draws its members from Europe (mostly) was well as the rest of the world  (73 members in 53 countries) and its voice acts as a refreshing counter to the chiming of commercial TV, cable and satellite TV interests which have traditionally viewed Web and Web delivery as a challenge at best, anathema at worst

It’s fair to say that public service broadcasters have thrown themselves far more enthusiastically into Internet video and radio delivery than have the commercial outfits and, as a consequence, Net Neutrality, which cable TV  by contrast usually views as a threat.

Public service broadcasters don’t have the ‘monetisation’ problem that many commercial broadcasters have. ‘Free’ web distribution fits (fairly) well with the public service ethos most of them espouse and in Europe they have at least some level of lobbying power with politicians whereas public broadcasting in the US is very much the poor relative.

In the UK, for instance, the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up and live TV service is one of the most popular applications on the Internet.  Interestingly, the regulation of both television and telecoms in the UK is conducted by the same agency, Ofcom.

For all these reasons, public broadcasting in Europe has some weight to throw around when it comes to deciding things like net neutrality.

The EBU says it’s signed an open letter alongside a broad coalition of digital stakeholders, urging the EU Council of Ministers to support strong and clear net neutrality rules in the Single Telecoms Market Proposal for a Regulation.

The EBU and the rest of the coalition are most anxious that there be clear wording (something that was missing right up to the final crossed ‘t’s and dotted ‘i’s phase at the parliamentary passage of the bill), as only this can ultimately prevent the prioritization or discrimination of Internet traffic.

And the EBU brings up a crucial point that is often missing from the argument. Anti neutrality rhetoric usually conflates higher or specialised services with upstream charging as if the commercial  involvement of a specific upstream provider were the only way to deliver ‘better than best effort’. In fact there is nothing to prevent mobile operators from continuing to offer users better classes of service or, as the EBU points out,  “specialised services” or internet access packages with different speeds and volumes as long such services were non-discriminatory to upstream providers.

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