The European Regulation (UE) 2015/2120 adopted in November 2015 laying down measures concerning open internet access entered into force on April 30th 2016. On June 6th 2016, the BEREC launched a public consultation on draft guidelines whose objective is to support NRA in monitoring of net neutrality.
Net neutrality aims at ensuring that all end users benefit from an equal access to internet and are not subject to any discrimination. Net neutrality gives rise to arguments in the EU as well as in the US.
The European Regulation prohibits to Internet Service Providers ("ISP"), except for specific exemptions, to block or slow down the internet traffic of a service to the end user of an internet access.
For this purpose, the Regulation imposes the "zero rating" principle, according to which “an ISP must apply a price of zero to the data traffic associated with a particular application or category of applications”, and allows a "reasonable traffic management" to transfer data from end user’s terminal to ISPs.
As such, the BEREC proposes in its draft guidelines that the "zero rating" shall be controlled on a "case by case" taking into account "the respective market positions of those providers of internet access services, and of the providers of content, applications and services, that are involved”. Regarding the "reasonable traffic management", the BEREC proposes to optimize the data transfer to the benefit of "specialised services" based on technical requirements for service quality, notably for services such as VoLTE, linear TV over IP and health services.
The public consultation will run until July 18th 2016. The draft guidelines will inevitably be a source of conflicts. Telecom operators have already expressed their concerns by stating that the guidelines jeopardize the development of the 5G as well as investment efforts and that they will have a negative impact on innovation and on the quality of services.