Net Neutrality consultations: EU and UK

A number of bodies around the world are conducting various forms of action in respect of so-called Network Neutrality. While the United States’ FCC (Federal Communications Commission) public consultation phase (see FCC News Release) has just closed the EU and UK are currently in consultation phases that end in September 2010.

the Virtual Policy Network encourages the online games, social media, location based and augmented reality industries, interested academics and policy makers to respond to these request for comments.

Specifically tVPN draws actors’ attention to some of the unique aspects of these technologies that might not be highlighted from the digital elements of traditional media industries. Such specific may include:

  • Importance of ping times to some types of gaming
  • Equal access a range data sources in populating augmented reality layers

Further details on the European consultations, including background documents, consultation question, reply dates and response details follow.

Consultation key details

EU Consultation

Ofcom Consultation

Network Neutrality: Summary

In short the question of Network Neutrality is whether governing authorities should have powers to force network providers (both fixed and mobile) to treat all traffic on their networks equality – this applies to traffic characteristics such as: content source / destination and content type e.g. web, video, torrent (often defined at the protocol / port level) etc. The debate also encompasses governing authorities powers to for force network providers to be transparent, to consumers, in their management of traffic – which is further taken to mean not only provision of information but provision in a manor that is accessible, clear and understandable.

Questionnaires

Both the EU and Ofcom consultations solicit responses in the form of a questionnaire, the questions asked by both bodies are as follows.

EU Consultation

Question 1: Is there currently a problem of net neutrality and the openness of the internet in Europe? If so, illustrate with concrete examples. Where are the bottlenecks, if any? Is the problem such that it cannot be solved by the existing degree of competition in fixed and mobile access markets?

Question 2: How might problems arise in future? Could these emerge in other parts of the internet value chain? What would the causes be?

Question 3: Is the regulatory framework capable of dealing with the issues identified, including in relation to monitoring/assessment and subsequent enforcement?

Question 4: To what extent is traffic management necessary from an operators’ point of view? How is it carried out in practice? What technologies are used to carry out such traffic management?

Question 5: To what extent will net neutrality concerns be allayed by the provision of transparent information to end users, which distinguishes between managed services on the one hand and services offering access to the public internet on a ‘best efforts’ basis, on the other?

Question 6: Should the principles governing traffic management be the same for fixed and mobile networks?

Question 7: What other forms of prioritisation are taking place? Do content and application providers also try to prioritise their services? If so, how – and how does this prioritisation affect other players in the value chain?

Question 8: In the case of managed services, should the same quality of service conditions and parameters be available to all content/application/online service providers which are in the same situation? May exclusive agreements between network operators and content/application/online service providers create problems for achieving that objective?

Question 9: If the objective referred to in Question 8 is retained, are additional measures needed to achieve it? If so, should such measures have a voluntary nature (such as, for example, an industry code of conduct) or a regulatory one?

Question 10: Are the commercial arrangements that currently govern the provision of access to the internet adequate, in order to ensure that the internet remains open and that infrastructure investment is maintained? If not, how should they change?

Question 11: What instances could trigger intervention by national regulatory authorities in setting minimum quality of service requirements on an undertaking or undertakings providing public communications services?

Question 12: How should quality of service requirements be determined, and how could they be monitored?

Question 13: In the case where NRAs find it necessary to intervene to impose minimum quality of service requirements, what form should they take, and to what extent should there be co-operation between NRAs to arrive at a common approach?

Question 14: What should transparency for consumers consist of? Should the standards currently applied be further improved?

Question 15: Besides the traffic management issues discussed above, are there any other concerns affecting freedom of expression, media pluralism and cultural diversity on the internet? If so, what further measures would be needed to safeguard those values?

Ofcom Consultation

i)    How enduring do you think congestion problems are likely to be on different networks and for different players?

ii)    What do you think are possible incentives for potentially unfair discrimination?

iii) Can you provide any evidence of economic and or consumer value generated by traffic management?

iv) Conversely, do you think that unconstrained traffic management has the potential for (or is already causing) consumer/citizen harm? Please include any relevant evidence.

v)    Can you provide any evidence that allowing traffic management has a negative impact on innovation?

vi) Ofcom’s preliminary view is that there is currently insufficient evidence to justify ex ante regulation to prohibit certain forms of traffic management. Are you aware of evidence that supports or contradicts this view?

vii) Ofcom’s preliminary view is that more should be done to increase consumer transparency around traffic management. Do you think doing so would sufficiently address any potential concerns and why?

viii) Are you aware of any evidence that sheds light on peoples’ ability to understand and act upon information they are given regarding traffic management?

ix) How can information on traffic management be presented so that it is accessible and meaningful to consumers, both in understanding any restrictions on their existing offering, and in choosing between rival offerings? Can you give examples of useful approaches to informing consumers about complex issues, including from other sectors?

x) How can compliance with transparency obligations best be verified?

xi) Under what circumstances do you think the imposition of a minimum quality of service would be appropriate and why?

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