European Law and Regulation of Mobile Net Neutrality

Chris Marsden

Abstract


Mobile is a rapidly growing and potentially major element of the future Internet, and its environment cannot be sensibly considered in isolation from fixed networks. A note on terminology: Europe uses the term Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) while the United States uses ‘wireless’ Internet Service Providers (ISPs). ‘Wireless’ is somewhat more open in the United States. In Europe, mobile has always made special pleading for forms of self-regulation, as we will see. The article introduces mobile broadband, then considers net neutrality in the fixed environment including the new laws passed in November 2009 in the European Parliament, before considering the mobile net neutrality debate, the degree of price control regulation exerted on European mobiles and the MNOs’ vigorous rear-guard anti-regulation defence. Finally, I look at the effects of this regulatory asymmetry and whether MNO calls for mobile to be treated differently from other ISPs can be justified. I conclude by examining what the effect of price and content control on mobile is likely to be for incentives for fixed ISPs and produce a result that I describe as the ‘fixed’ strategy.


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