OPEN LETTER TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Dear Member of the European Parliament,
We wish to express our deepest concerns about the future of the Internet in Europe with regard to the latest amendments to the Telecoms Package, which is at this time in the final phase of its Second Reading stage. Several harmful amendments to the Telecoms Package have been adopted on March 31st, in the IMCO Committee of the European Parliament. Most of these amendments weaken or render void any protection to consumers, allow practices which are detrimental to the fundamental rights of the citizens, and give wide and discretionary powers to telecommunication companies.
Amendments relating to traffic network discrimination which allow Internet providers to filter contents and applications and to give priority to certain services, whilst blocking others. The consequences will be catastrophic for citizens’ freedom and for Internet based innovation. Any business operator on the Internet will have no longer the certainty of reaching all of the web surfers of Europe. Conversely, every Internet user will see only the portion of the Web which the provider will allow access to.
Open and non-discriminatory access, which has always been the basis for the growth of the Internet, is threatened by American telecommunications companies AT&T and Verizon, which have pushed a series of amendments. These amendments will create a permanent state of bandwidth scarcity and allow companies to prioritize certain contents, applications and services over others. They will also discourage investments in network infrastructure, preventing competition and innovation. This will seriously threaten fundamental freedom of speech. What’s more, as EU Observer stated (http://euobserver.com/19/27859):
“US President Barack Obama made net neutrality a key issue while on the campaign trail, and at the beginning of March appointed Julius Genachowski, a strong backer of net neutrality, as the country’s top telecommunications regulator. The big US telcos see the writing on the wall, and so the battlefield has shifted across the Atlantic.”
The AT&T amendments have been pushed, at the very least, without regard to their potential to slow innovation in Europe, and to put it at a disadvantage to the USA. The European internal market, which is based significantly on the Internet, will no longer have the benefits of an open and non discriminatory Internet. Yet, those very benefits will still be available to all other countries outside the EU.
In the time of a serious economic crisis, the risk is that the gap between Europe and USA will be artificially created, slowing down the core of the electronic telecommunication infrastructure.
It is our understanding that the European Parliament has not been correctly informed, if even perhaps misinformed, about the aforementioned risks which have emerged more clearly after the stage of first reading.
Already, on the 3rd of April the largest German mobile telecommunication company announced they are blocking Skype, even though Skype is both a key application for voice communication on the Internet and is known to consume a small amount of bandwidth. Therefore it is obvious the decision was not based on any real need of traffic management or Quality of Service.
It shows that traffic management policies and Quality of Service can be used as an excuse to block specific applications. It also demonstrates that purely depending on competition among telecommunication companies is a crude mechanism to guarantee an open Net and emphasizes the necessity for the Universal Service Directive, that guarantees to citizens, business companies and Internet operators unlimited access to services, applications and protocols on the Internet.
Thus, we implore you to consider the matter carefully, since the whole future of the Internet in Europe, and therefore one key element of future European social and economical prosperity, is at stake now.
We cordially invite you to examine the following independent analysis related to the amended articles of Universal Service Directive, Framework Directive and Authorisation Directive, by Monica Horten, PhD researcher in European Communication Policy at University of Westminster, Communication and Media Research Institute.
We hope that you will defend citizens’ fundamental rights and the future economic prosperity of the European market project which is based around fundamental Internet freedoms
Within our coalition we have experts in areas relevant to the Internet and citizens’ rights including filtering, network technologies, digital rights management, privacy and data protection, policy, law, media and software.
The undersigned groups and individuals represent thousands of European citizens and Internet users, in nearly all EU Member States.
P2P Foundation Michel Bawens and Celia Blanco