European Commission Opens Net Neutrality Consultation

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The European Commission has launched a public consultation on network neutrality and the use of traffic management, it said on Wednesday.

Neelie Kroes, commissioner for the digital agenda, announced in April a plan to take a closer look at network neutrality, which the Commission said is generally agreed to mean the idea that all data transported over the Internet should be treated equally.

Service and content providers, consumers, businesses and researchers are all invited to respond to the consultation by Sept. 30, 2010, the Commission said.

The Commission wants feedback on possible technical and economic problems linked to the use of traffic management, which can be used by operators to prioritize one type of data traffic over others. It also wants to know whether the new regulatory framework can handle those problems, or if more regulation is needed.

The use of traffic management can help avoid problems and result in better performance, but it can also slow down access to non-prioritized services or applications. Some claim that treating one type of data differently from another undermines the openness of the Internet, according to the Commission. This makes traffic management and network neutrality two very complex issues, and all sides need to be looked at carefully and objectively to strike the right balance between different interests, it said.

In April, Kroes said she will set the bar for introducing new regulation high, and it must be justified by the need to tackle specific problems.

After having looked at the responses to the consultation, the Commission will publish a so-called communication on net neutrality by the end of 2010. The communication will set out the Commission's thinking on whether additional initiatives or guidance are required, it said.

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