Net neutrality has once again become a hot topic, now that the American FCC repealed the rules set in place during the Obama administration to protect net neutrality. Because of that American providers are no longer required to treat internet traffic equally.

Proximus is against

Closer to home Proximus-CEO Dominique Leroy pleaded for the end of net neutrality. She want’s big users like Netflix, Google and Facebook to pay to Internet Service Providers. A statement Minister Alexander De Croo immediately called her out for.

Rightly so, as far as we’re concerned. Especially because Proximus, like a number of other Providers by the way, have threatened the rules about net neutrality before. Just think back at offers where users could select one app which data use didn’t appear on the invoice. Also the recently terminated experiment ‘My Apps Space’; with applications whose costs in mobile data use were carried by the makers of the apps, is pitted squarely against the rules of net neutrality.

From a purely legal standpoint there’s currently nothing wrong. After all, the European regulation about neutrality, that has been in place since April 30th 2016, doesn’t mention zero rating. That is when a provider doesn’t count certain internet traffic in the total data volume of the customer.

The consumer is pro. Or against after all?

A good thing for the consumer, because they get something for free. Right? The problem is that every positive discrimination comes with a negative discrimination. One party gets something another one doesn’t. It’s perfectly possible for Netflix to pay a provider to not have their traffic charged to the consumer, while traffic from Amazon or Hulu does get charged. It that letting the market evolve or distortion of competition? It’s becoming a very thin line, where net neutrality is really being put at risk. In the Netherlands, they understood that and recently the Senate reinforced the rules concerning net neutrality.

Too many loopholes

As far as we’re concerned the European regulation has too many exceptions to still guarantee real net neutrality. Exceptions that came about under pressure by the big providers. This way, providers receive the right to intervene in the network traffic. If they think that it’s going to get busy on their network, they don’t have to upgrade that network. They’re allowed to give priority to certain services. That means a provider can give priority to the data traffic for IPTV to allow the viewer to watch television without fits and starts. Something that is already happening by the way: Already in 2011, Telenet admitted to slowing down p2p-traffic on purpose.

Nucleus wants strict net neutrality

What if it is taken one step further and a provider speeds up its own IPTV-traffic and not that of Netflix? From a purely legal standpoint that’s perfectly possible. They’re not allowed to slow down Netflix-traffic, but in the case of a saturated or “suspected saturated” network they’re allowed to prioritize their own traffic. If they want to guarantee the quality of certain services (like IPTV or IP-telephony), it must happen on the protocol level. That way all IPTV or IP-telephony traffic is prioritized and not only that of one of multiple players. But it’s really a non-discussion: if every player makes sure to (continue to) offer sufficient network capacity, we don’t even need to talk about net neutrality. Perhaps Minister De Croo should have it checked how he can (help) provide that?

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