Response to the consultation by the Body of European Regulators in Electronic Communications BEREC on Net Neutrality Policy
This is a collaborative submission from a group of academics based in the UK with expertise in Information technology law and related areas. The preparation of the response has been funded by the British and Irish Law Education Law and Technology Association. The response has been co-ordinated by the Information Technology Think Tank, which is supported by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and led by the SCRIPT/AHRC Centre for Research and Intellectual Property and Technology, University of Edinburgh. This response has been prepared by Joseph Savirimuthu, a Lecturer in Law at the University of Liverpool. In addition, this response is submitted by the following individuals: Dr Subhajit Basu, University of Leeds, Mr Sefton Bloxham, Chair of BILETA, Mr Michael Bromby, Glasgow Caledonian University, Dr Abbe Brown, University of Edinburgh, Professor Joe Cannataci, University of Malta/University of Groningen, Dr Catherine Easton, Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr Martina Gillen, Oxford Brookes University, Mr Felipe Romero Moreno, Oxford Brookes University, Professor Abdul Paliwala, University of Warwick.
On 22 June 2011, it was reported that the Netherlands became the first country in Europe to legislate for Network Neutrality principles. Information and communication service providers like mobile telephone operators are now banned from blocking or charging consumers extra for using Internet-based communication services. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a set of rules for its Net Neutrality policy, which comes into operation on 20 November 2011. The industry has not fully endorsed this policy and has launched a legal challenge. Network Neutrality policymaking provokes a wide range of reactions as evidenced by consultation processes in the US, UK and EU. These reactions are in essence a product of the perspectives the various actors in this debate bring to bear (e.g. policymakers, industry, innovators, consumers and citizens) on questions relating to who can or should define the rules on what we access, how we access and what we consume from providers like ISPs, Google, Apple, Skype, broadcasting and telecommunication companies.
We welcome BEREC’s contribution to the extent that it brings to the forefront the role and value of transparency in Network Neutrality policymaking. The following response acknowledges the complexity of the policy issues raised by Network Neutrality and views the work of BEREC in this respect as part of a much needed dialogue with all stakeholders, aimed at creating an Open Internet that will continue to adhere to the ideals of the visionaries who ‘invented’ the Internet. This contribution deliberately avoids introducing the normative underpinnings of Network Neutrality per se, or the premises informing the role of transparency. These caveats should be borne in mind, as the Consultation Document clearly acknowledges – adherence to transparency principles, policies and norms will in themselves not guarantee an Open Internet. Accordingly, the focus will be directed on selected aspects from the Consultation Document.