Paris, March 26th – The European Parliament may be about to surrender absolute power over the Internet to the telecom operators. Under the false pretext that the existing rules governing market and competition would solve any problem, members of IMCO committee are about to allow “Net discrimination” in amendments pushed by AT&T and the UK government. If these amendments are approved, European innovation, Internet growth model and citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms may be in great danger.
The future of Internet in Europe lies in the hands of Members of IMCO committee of the European Parliament. For Internet’s fantastic growth, a basis of the future of Europe’s societies, innovation and wealth, depend on principles that have been upheld since its beginning: Non-discrimination over content, application and services accessed or carried over the network, and freedom for everyone to innovate.
This form of innovation “at the edge” is not the interest of established players. This is why telecoms operators, backed by the UK government, are pushing hard to obtain more control over what is done on their network. Selecting and prioritizing which content, applications and services can be accessed over their network would give them control over their competitors and maximize their profits by turning them into inescapable gatekeepers.
“Such a return to centralized, controlled networks would mean the end of the Internet as we know it, whose growth model is based on openness and equity. It could also have dreadful consequences for freedom of expression.” explains Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.
In amendments pushed by AT&T, the UK Government, the EPP/ED group and members of ALDE, competition law is invoked as the ultimate safeguard against net discrimination. This is dishonnest and deceptive: Competition law is fundamentally ineffective in face of such practices because it fails to prevent them and acts too late when harm is done and can not be corrected, as demonstrated by cases such as mobile operators’ discrimination over Internet access, roaming fees, or Microsoft’s grip over key European IT systems. Issues such as freedom of speech and freedom of information can not be abandoned to such a fate.
Citizens must continue to contact their MEPs to inform them about these issues and advise them to follow La Quadrature’s voting recommendations.
“The European Parliament has already proved it could stand for protecting citizen’s rights and innovation when they were threatened. The vote by 88% of the MEPs for amendment 138 in Telecoms Package first reading was a very strong signal sent to EU citizens. Will the European Parliament stand on its commitment towards fairness and liberty? Or will it give in to companies such at AT&T to strengthen them, and sacrifice the benefits the Internet brings to EU citizens? We will have the answers to these questions on March 31st. Just before elections, the European Parliament should prove citizens it has the ability and the will to protect them!”, concludes Zimmermann.