The EU must focus on fostering the rules of net neutrality

May 16, 2024
The EU must focus on fostering the rules of net neutrality

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality refers to a principle that ensures internet service providers (ISPs) treat all online traffic equally and openly, without discrimination, blocking, throttling or prioritisation by user, content, service, application, or any method of communication at hand. In the digital space, the term isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the lifeblood of innovation, particularly for startups in the tech industry, as these organisations rely heavily on the open and free Internet to nurture, launch, and scale their innovative products and services. Should ISPs begin to pick their favourites, they’d start creating major barriers for newcomers, impeding startups’ ability to compete on a level playing field with more established companies. Such a scenario not only threatens fair competition but also undermines the internet’s democratic and inclusive essence.


The Need to Safeguard the Free and Open Internet

Consider the following scenario. A new streaming service startup emerges in the market with innovative, personalised features and fresh, unique content. In a world without net neutrality, ISPs could potentially strike deals with established streaming giants like Netflix or Hulu, granting them faster and smoother access to users while slowing down or even blocking the startup’s access to the platform. As a result, the new service struggles to deliver its content effectively to users, facing constant buffering and slowdowns compared to its competitors. This not only frustrates users but also hampers the growth potential as customers opt for the smoother experience offered by the established platforms. 

Clearly, the discrimination towards smaller players could lead to a situation where startups, who tend to operate on limited budgets, find themselves at a severe disadvantage. This hindered ability to deliver their products or services to users effectively would result in a limited consumer choice, hampering their ability to thrive in the market. In stark contrast, if the platform would have the same level of access to users as its competitors, it could provide streaming service consumers with a diverse array of choices. For that reason, upholding the principles of net neutrality fosters an environment of fair competition, empowering startups to flourish based on the strength and the merit of their innovations rather than their financial power.


The Future of Net Neutrality

As the European Union heads into parliamentary elections and the appointment of a new Commission, the debate over net neutrality somewhat continues. Some major telecom operators have been proposing the implementation of network fees; an experiment that has previously proved unsuccessful in South Korea. However, this move in Europe is firmly opposed by other stakeholders who recognise their detrimental impact on consumers, and the open and interoperable nature of the Internet. 

At Allied For Startups, we strongly advocate for prioritising the safeguarding of net neutrality rules in the forthcoming mandate. By championing policies that uphold the principles of an open and free Internet, the EU can continue to foster a digital ecosystem where tech startups thrive, innovation flourishes, and the Internet remains an equally accessible platform that’s inclusive for all players involved. This is why we have recently co-signed a joint statement calling to refrain from the proposed changes to the telecommunications regulatory framework, to ensure that the EU remains pro-competition and preserves the rules of net neutrality.