Net Neutrality: Neelie Kroes Yields to Operator Pressure

Paris, 17 January 2013 — In an Op-Ed in Libération (in French), Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Internet-related policies, can be found giving in to telecom operator pressure and giving up on Net Neutrality. Ms. Kroes supports the creation of a fragmented Internet, banning innovation and opening the door to unacceptable censorship.

Neelie Kroes says: "Public interest is not in opposition with consumers subscribing to limited Internet offers, more differenciated, possibly cheaper" (our translation). By deliberately ignoring that such offers would change almost nothing for operators in terms of cost1, but would allow them to avoid investing in the development of network capacity while restraining possibilities for citizen participation, Neelie Kroes takes into account only short-term private interests that run contrary to public interest.

When fundamental freedoms, innovation and competition are threatened (as evidenced by a study by the BEREC, the European regulator, according to which 20 to 50% of EU citizens would be subject to such access restrictions2) invoking the free market is not sufficient. This pseudo-liberal discourse, which instrumentalizes child protection and privacy, only tries to hide - unsuccessfully - that Neelie Kroes is giving in to operator pressure and choosing not to act.

EU Commission representatives must urgently take strong measures to prevent telecom operators from controlling or censoring communications in order to protect citizens' fundamental freedoms3. Only users, at the network's edge, must be able to choose their access restrictions, through the use of parental control, ad blockers or any tool of their choice.

"Through such shameless defense of operators, Neelie Kroes is giving up on defending the public interest and citizens, who must keep fighting to defend a universal Internet that allows innovation and democratic participation. Net neutrality is not a question of market but, before anything else, a question of fundamental freedoms.", rages Benjamin Sonntag, co-founder of the citizen organisation La Quadrature du Net.

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