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European net neutrality plans could do more harm than good

Ofcom chief warns against mismanagement.

By Vinod

Net neutrality rules approved last month by the European Parliament could in fact end up being damaging to internet users as a whole, UK industry regulator Ofcom has warned.

In a speech given at the weekend, the chief executive, Ed Richards, expressed concern that laws to ensure unrestricted access to the internet across the continent could mean "not more certainty but less," when it comes to the legal status of online access.

Richards warned that the new legislation could bring, "Not the timely exercise of reasonable objective judgment, but the pursuit of time-consuming and self-interested litigation".

His worries concern a supposed shortfall in proper management of the internet under the new rules, which would outlaw, among other things, faster internet access for companies willing to pay more.

In a statement following last month’s decision, Ofcom expressed its concerns that "well-intentioned but overprescriptive and detailed legislation may deliver the opposite of the intended effect". In doing so, it appeared to stand apart from other European telecoms groups, which had rallied behind European Commission vice president and telecoms enthusiast Neelie Kroes, who had called for unity and support for the new laws, which also promised an end to roaming charges and improved regulation of the continent’s mobile spectrums

As an alternative to the impending situation, Richards instead proposed introducing legislation focussing on sustaining the quality and performance of the internet, as well as the provision of managed services.

Although the blocking of any kind by internet access providers was "highly undesirable", certain companies should be allowed to apply traffic management to improve the user experience for their customers, he stated.

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This should not, however, extend to outright blocking, throttling or practices, Richards said, highlighting how some networks prioritise their own content and services as one example.

Network operators should also continue expanded on their managed services in order to help them make "a return for investment they have made in their networks", Richards stated, although this should ultimately be beneficial for the consumer.


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