NET NEUTRALITY - Appointment as an Expert for the EU

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Besides the traditional fields of trademarks, designs, copyrights, the attorneys at LexDellmeier also advise on media & web issues relating to intellectual property.

Due to the expertise in the fields of IP, internet, media & web, LexDellmeier's founder, Alexandra Dellmeier-Beschorner, has just recently been appointed as an Expert in Group III of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The EESC was created in 1957 and serves as an advisory and consultative board for the European Commission and the European Parliament.

On 19 July 2011 the EESC's first meeting with respect to "The open internet and net neutrality in Europe" together with representatives from the European Commission and Parliament took place in Brussels.

1. What is net neutrality?

The principle of net neutrality has not been defined in the EU yet. However, "net neutrality" in essence means that companies providing internet services should treat all sources of similar internet data (e.g. emails, VoIP, internetTV etc.) equally and not discriminate between different types of traffic for commercial motives.

2. The (potential) problem?

Fact is, that countries, companies and network operators are restricting access to the public internet, or changing how it operates, for political, commercial or technological reasons.

The burning question and hot topic in the EU - as well as in the US - is: Should "net neutrality" be defined, regulated and thereby be ensured for all users? A detailed study by the EU has been conducted and published in May 2011 with the title: "Network Neutrality: Challenges and Responses in the EU and in the U.S."

3. The EU Commission's current position

According to the study, the EU Commission and Parliament is of the opinion that there is no evident threat that countries or operators are taking advantage of the internet and its possibilities to limit access in any way. In short: the position is that of a "wait and see"-one - which in essence is reflected as an opinion at the end of the above mentioned EU Study. If something happens or goes wrong, then the EU will react, define the terms "open internet" and "net neutrality" and what is allowed and what not. Currently, the position is that competition on the market and the existing telecommunications laws are sufficient in order to secure consumers' and users' interests.

4. The EESC's position

In its first joint meeting on 19 July 2011 the EESC with its responsible Rapporteur from Portugal, Mr. Pegado Liz, with his technical expert, Mr. Pádraig Kenny, have drafted a Working Paper with the title "The open internet and net neturality in Europe" for consultation. Approx. 18 representatives and members from all of EESC's three groups (Group I, II and III), the EU Commission and EU Parliament attended the meeting to discuss the first draft.

The EESC in its working paper (not published yet) is essentially taking a more proactive approach with respect to "net neutrality". Irregularities, e.g. the Dutch case regarding KPN and its public disclosure on possibly trying to circumvent the concepts of "net neutrality", have raised concerns among a large number of the EESC's members of not addressing the topic and not defining it.

The first draft of the Working Paper - in essence favoring a more pro-active approach to tackling "net neutrality" as well as defining it and setting up principles has been discussed in detail. The second meeting on the Working Paper and its implemented revisions on the basis of the joint discussions of 19 July 2011 is on the EESC's agenda on 31 August 2011 in Brussels.

LexDellmeier will participate in the further discussions, give expert input and will update its blog readers accordingly.