Thursday, 21 July 2016. The numbers are in: the European net neutrality movement is celebrating a huge milestone with the submission of over 500,000 comments to EU regulators.
The public consultation, organised by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), which lasted only six weeks and closed on the 18th of July, provoked an unprecedented response from the EU public. In their previous consultations, BEREC never received more than 100 hundred responses, so a massive total of 510,370 responses is truly historic.
‘The only industry fighting net neutrality is telecom. Why? Because these rules prohibit business models that, while profitable to telecom, would be disastrous for everyone else," said Markus Beckedahl editor in chief of Netzpolitik.org(Germany). "Net neutrality becomes a crucial test for democracy in Europe. Will we allow a small group of powerful companies to hijack European public policy? Or will regulators listen to the academics, innovators, small companies, and over 500,000 people who spoke out?"
The net neutrality movement has also been supported in open letters from academics and entrepreneurs and investors, both counting over 100 signatories including famous names like London School of Economics or Sound Cloud, and by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.
BEREC will publish their final guidelines on 30th of August 2016.
Quotes from members of the coalition
"You can't ignore half a million people, especially when that number includes leading tech startups, investors, experts from academia, and even the inventor of the web himself," said Thomas Lohninger (Austria, AKVorrat), "The public has spoken, and the demand is very clear: strong net neutrality rules to stop telecom giants from profiting by interfering with the Internet."
"A broad cross-section of the public supports these rules, and their demands are clear," said Agnès du Cornulier (France, La Quadrature du Net) "The only remaining question is: will Europe's regulators listen, or will they cave to lobbying pressure from enormously powerful telecom companies? If Europe's regulators are to maintain legitimacy, they must listen to the public."
"This is precisely what's so special about the open Internet. Without it, you never could have imagined such a broad coalition as this," said Simona Levi (Spain, Xnet) "That's also what's at stake if we lose. How would campaigns to deepen democracy – like this one – be possible, if we let a well-functioning Internet become the sole province of major companies that pay for special treatment?"
On the 30th of August, BEREC, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, will decide on its guidelines on net neutrality. These guidelines are intended for to implement the Regulation on neutrality adopted in Fall 2015, and are intended to clarify the many ambiguities and open norms in this legislation. At stake are basic, fundamental principles: will the Internet remain a vibrant level playing field for business, culture and political speech? Or will regulators let powerful telecom companies put most websites in a "slow lane", while wealthy corporations pay for special treatment?
In addition to overwhelming public support, the net neutrality movement has also attracted support from a broad range of experts and professionals. 120 entrepreneurs and investors signed an open letter in favor of strong, innovation-friendly net neutrality rules. The scientific community has also joined the fray, with a statement from 126 academic researchers.
One especially prominent proponent is Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, who wrote a joint statement with legal experts Barbara van Schewick (Stanford) and Lawrence Lessig (Harvard) stating that net neutrality is ‘essential to preserve the open Internet as a driver for economic growth and social progress’ and urged regulators to ‘not cave in to telecommunications carriers’ manipulative tactics’.
The telecommunications industry is the main adversary to this broad coalition. This summer, they launched a full-frontal attack on net neutrality in their ‘5G manifesto’, which calls on the EU to water down its net neutrality rules in exchange for investment in new 5G network technologies.