Telecoms ministers have called on the EC and pan-European group Body for European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) to monitor mobile operators to ensure that their traffic management policies do not compromise the principle of net neutrality.
According to Reuters, it is currently believed that infringements of net neutrality are “infrequent,” but there is concern that some internet traffic is being compromised. The Guardian said that BEREC will publish a report in February 2012 detailing whether operators across Europe are treating all traffic equally.
A widely discussed report from the Voice on the Net Coalition Europe, an internet telephony group founded by iBasis, Google, Microsoft, Skype and Voxbone, argued that “many mobile network operators, including all GSM/UMTS operators in several EU Member States, have decided to adopt technical and/or contractual conditions preventing users from using VoIP and P2P applications, and certain other forms of utilisation are otherwise impeded or subject to unjustified additional retail tariffs.”
VON Europe said that “the potential of accessing the internet on mobile devices and the increased demand by users implies that the principles as such should be the same, even if in practice, their implementation leads to different results due to the different capabilities and constraints of fixed and mobile networks.”
BEREC has published a questionnaire on network traffic management, which is due to be completed by 20 January 2012. While it said that data received will be published in a form that will be “mostly anonymous,” any operator which is sent the form by a national regulator but does not fill it in, or answers in an “obviously insufficient or inconsistent manner,” may have their names published.
Earlier this year, the Netherlands became the first country in Europe to introduce a net neutrality law, which could see operators fined up to 10 percent of annual sales for violations. This was reported to have been prompted by KPN’s move to impose an extra levy on third-party apps such as WhatsApp, which have been eroding existing service revenue.
The US has also introduced net neutrality laws, but this country has been less onerous on the demands placed on mobile operators, due to the increased need to manage traffic over wireless networks when compared to fixed.