18 APR 2011
The European Commission will unveil proposals to foster a neutral and competitive Internet on Tuesday (19 April), drawing praise from big industry for its cautiousness while consumer groups and activists lament its lack of substance.
While the US has long since passed legislation to ensure an open Internet, the EU has been struggling to catch up.
In a draft proposal seen by EurActiv, the European Commission does its homework on possible infringements of net neutrality but prefers to adopt a wait-and-see approach before coming up with concrete measures to prevent network operators and Internet providers from forging monopolies.
As more European media consumption – such as radio, TV, telephony and video conferencing – migrates to the web, regulators are concerned about operators' attempts to block or slow down services which compete with their own or don't yield much profit, effectively creating fast lanes and slow lanes for different services.
The term 'net neutrality' was coined by Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, who has written widely on the rise of Internet monopolies such as Google and Facebook. Ironically, without a neutral net, which allows consumers to get the services they need when they need them, the Facebooks of tomorrow will not be able to build up the same critical mass and reputation.
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