On 10 October, the European Commission finally released the results of the exploratory consultation on the future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure – and there’s good news! For now, it seems like the Commission will not be moving forward with the idea of implementing Network Fees. Here are the key takeaways from its report:
On Network Fees: In their summary, the Commission lays out that “the majority […] of the respondents expressed opposition to a mandatory mechanism of direct payments from CAPs/LTGs to contribute to the financing of network deployment”.
On Net Neutrality: A significant number of NGOs, consumer organisations, and academic institutions have expressed their concern over how introducing network fees could break net neutrality rules and the existing Open Internet Regulation. Allied for Startups and its Members argued in its consultation response to policymakers that indeed, introducing a network fee incentivises prejudicial traffic management. Similarly, respondents also made vocal their concerns regarding how network fees would incentivise innovation and competition. The issue is that smaller players “could be subject to substantial payments, leading to an unwanted reduction in demand for data transfer services”. Lastly and very importantly, the impact on consumers was also cited, as a fee would inevitably result in a reduction in content and higher prices for internet access.
Having said this, the majority of stakeholders agree that while Net Neutrality might be safe for the time being, it’s not over yet – it’s just a little break.
We are very proud that our Members have yet again voted on Net Neutrality to remain one of our key priorities for the coming year and beyond. This is because the Internet as we know it, has made it easier to open an online business than a cafe. The Internet is the engine for innovation and has allowed startups to thrive and successfully compete against more established players. At Allied for Startups, we advocate for a number of important ingredients that allow for startups to thrive – startup visas, access to capital, artificial intelligence, and data transfers amongst others, but if the open nature of the Internet ecosystem was to come into question, it would become increasingly difficult for existing companies, including startups, to compete globally.
The Free and Open Internet, which the principle of Net Neutrality advocates for, is the foundation for innovation and economic growth. Over the last years, countless startups that benefit from the Open and Free Internet have provided their products and services to people all over the world, fostering economic development, meeting growing consumer needs worldwide and increasing consumer choice at an unprecedented scale. Let’s make sure we don’t take that for granted, as it’s a product of Net Neutrality.