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EU or US: who’s tougher on net neutrality?

The European Union came to an agreement on net neutrality last week. Set to take effect on April 30, 2016, the rules are “the strongest and most comprehensive open Internet rules in the world”noted the European Commission. It may come as a surprise to American net neutrality advocates who consider the FCC to be the Regulator in Chief of net neutrality.

So who deserves the “honor” of being tougher on net neutrality?  Both the US and EU rules have provisions in common, including outright bans on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization; transparency requirements, and limits on traffic management with exceptions for emergencies, security, and court orders. Specialized services, zero rating, and interconnection deals are legal under both sets of rules, subject to scrutiny.

How do the EU rules compare? For one, they are likely more sustainable politically. The EU took its time in making the rules. For 18 months and through a number of leadership changes, the issue stayed credibly on top of the policy agenda. Net neutrality supporters describe themselves as part of a bottom-up consumer movement, and in the EU, they have the support of representatives from a broad coalition of parties. This is in contrast to the US, where many see the movement as a top down effort derived from a campaign promise made by President Obama.  Even the Harvard Berkman Center’s assiduous analysis of coordinated media and advocacy concludes that net neutrality is a “conventionally defined partisan issue” in the US.

By placing net neutrality within the larger context of their Digital Single Market and Telecoms package, the EU offered a coherent framework and thoughtful portal for the policy on its website. Furthermore, the fragmented nature of the EU forced the government to commission independent research and analysis, thereby providing voters with a more developed view of the proposal. And while more data could have been collected, the EU at least instructed regulators to conduct a surveyof operators’ disclosures for traffic management. The European competition authority also analyzed content and interconnection markets for abuse. While the outcome of this investigation – no proof of wrongdoing – should have led lawmakers to pause before making legislation, at least they undertook the process.

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Source: Techpolicy Daily

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