miércoles, 20 de enero de 2016

#NetNeutrality : Is the really debate over?

Which should be the right approach to the review of the net neutrality principle was one of central debates of 2015. A decade after its definition, the debate of its updating was opened in both sides of the Atlantic in 2014 and tackled at different pace. Firstly, the FCC adopted in February its open internet order that took effect in june 2015. On the European side, the EU institutions reached an agreement in June 2015 on the Connected Continent package that contains the new net neutrality rules that will be applicable from April 2016.

It is said, that each side of the Atlantic have taken a radically different approach in the review of the net neutrality principle. Apparently, this affirmation is true. On one hand, some scholars see the different approach taken as one of the possible obstacles to reach an agreement on a digital chapter within TTIP. On the other, the critics for each of the new set of rules are from different and opposite points of view. While in the US the new net neutrality rules are criticised for being extremely strict and for making the broadband in a new utility, in the EU the opponents of the new net neutrality consider that they have an excess of loopholes that will allow telco companies to kill innovation.

But are the rules so different? The first reading certainly could provide that conclusion, nevertheless the reality in the end could be different. Both US and EU telco operators are putting forward ideas for new services quite similar based on the different set of rules. European operators are thinking on applying the concept of specialised services to IPTV and US operators are proposing zero-rating plans for mobile video services. In both cases, the reality is that in the end it will be the regulatory authorities who will be obliged to decide on the matter. In USA,  the FCC has already started the process to take a decision ; in the EU, BEREC has to publish guidelines for the interpretation of the EU regulation. So the reality is that apparently both set of rules will leave the same space of maneuver for a new wave of connectivity services.

So the only truth is that the debate on net neutrality has not ended. The more clear evidence of this fact is that few days after the approval of the EU rules by the European Parliament the same institution debated again on net neutrality, and also members of the civil society has published new contributions to the debate that they have the intention to send to BEREC. In USA, the legal battle on FCC ruling has not ended and now the Courts has to decided on its validity. Therefore, the first step on the effective application of the rules will show their real strengths and weaknesses, and consequently if we have to reopen immediately the debate or not. Like it or not, the digital era will be an era of continuous legal innovation.

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