HomeAccessLet net neutrality fire creativity Europeans told

    Let net neutrality fire creativity Europeans told


    Stop siding with Big Tech says expert on Berec

    The latest net neutrality guidelines from apex regulator Berec could force broadband providers to get more creative, according to a top Net Neutrality expert. After yesterday’s ruling by the EC regulator, dominant players in the publishing market are no longer exempt from rules over data caps. This prevents quasi-cartels from trampling over the European mobile industry’s delicate supply chain ecosystem, according to competition champion Barbara van Schewick, a professor at Stanford Law School and director of its Center for Internet and Society. As a specialist on net neutrality Professor van Schewick heralded the new net neutrality guidelines as ‘a great win for Europeans’.

    No data cap

    As a result of Berec’s ruling European subscribers will get more data to use as they choose. For the European mobile supply chain, it’s even better news as the legislation gives a big, much-needed boost to online competition, according to van Schewick. Despite intense lobbying from big carriers and giant platforms, Berec voted to clearly ban zero-rating offers that benefit select apps or categories of apps by exempting them from people’s monthly data caps. The new ban applies whether the app pays to be included or not, closing a loophole in the draft guidelines.

    No limit to creativity

    “This is good news for Internet users,” said van Schewick, “when harmful zero-rating plans are banned, users get much more data for the same price. Carriers are no longer able to limit how people can use their data or push them to use apps from the dominant platforms.” Some say Zero-Rating is just a practice where a carrier does not count some online activity against a customer’s monthly data cap. Others sese it as collusion against the smaller players and nobbling competition. For example, many European carriers offer plans that don’t count the data used on Facebook or WhatsApp against a subscriber’s data cap.


    Berec’s previous net neutrality guidelines did not categorically ban selective zero-rating programs or category-based ones that, for example, offer to zero-rate all music or video apps. This was a loophole carriers across the EU exploited and they collectively launched hundreds of zero-rating programmes. These often exempted the carriers’ own services and disproportionately benefited big platforms like AppleGoogle and Facebook, while small companies and European start-ups were left out. Berec has now closed those escape clauses. Van Schewick argued that there is historical proof that zero-rating is suffocating.

    Room for invention

    “After the German regulator banned Deutsche Telekom’s and Vodafone’s discriminatory zero-rating plans, Vodafone gave affected customers up to 25 per cent more data for the same price,” said van Schewick. Earlier this month, Deutsche Telekom boosted some affected customers’ monthly data volume from 24GB to 40GB for the same price. Additionally, smaller apps and websites no longer have to fight to be included in these kinds of zero-rating plans and can compete with the giant platforms on an equal footing.

    Data diversity

    The guidelines allow carriers to offer non-discriminatory zero-rating programmes that treat all data the same. A mobile operator can still count data usage against a subscriber’s cap at certain times of day or as a promotion. The big difference is that they can no longer force subscribers to use that data on a specific site. Van Schewick urged European mobile operators to show a bit more initiative. “Carriers in other countries that have banned discriminatory zero-rating have innovated with offers such as unmetered data from midnight to 6 am or letting users choose hours per month where their data usage is uncounted,” said van Schewick, “I expect that carriers across the EU will soon end their discriminatory zero-rating plans and offer customers of those plans significantly more data for the same price.”