European regulators warned operators to comply with open internet rules which only allow exceptional traffic management measures to mitigate impending network congestion, criteria it reported is yet to be generally met during the current pandemic.
In a joint statement, the European Commission (EC) and Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) noted although there had been an increase in internet traffic related to ongoing Covid-19 (coronavirus) mitigation measures, it was yet to lead to “general network congestion”.
Ahead of predicted capacity issues, the bodies called on telecommunications operators, content companies and application providers to work together on measures such as adapting video streaming platforms.
However, the regulators warned operators they must still adhere to open internet access rules, which prevent blocking, throttling or prioritising specific types or sources of content.
The rules allow for additional traffic management in exceptional circumstances to prevent temporary issues. Measures undertaken must be “transparent, non-discriminatory, proportionate and based on objectively technical differences of traffic”.
BEREC and the EC added: “When implementing exceptional traffic management measures, operators should consider proportionate solutions to the problem observed that would guarantee access to [the] internet to all users while being effective to manage congestion that might be caused by peak traffic, be limited in time to the strict necessary [sic] and ensure that equivalent categories of traffic are treated equally.”
Operators are also required to inform national regulators in a “timely” manner of action being taken, to ensure transparency and aid monitoring of the situation. To the same end, a special reporting mechanism is being introduced to assess the level of internet traffic in each member state.
Meanwhile, both Netflix and Google’s YouTube announced policies in Europe to reduce their impact on network congestion by restricting streaming to standard definition.
In a series of tweets, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Thierry Breton welcomed the moves by the streaming giants, noting both companies had shown a “strong sense of responsibility”.