A multi-speed Europe

INTERNET providers will be barred from charging online businesses for “fast lanes”—that is, giving priority to their traffic—except for certain specialised services, such as videoconferencing or telesurgery. They also must not block or slow traffic other than reasonably to manage their networks, such as to avoid congestion.

This is the essence of a law the European Parliament passed on October 27th, after months of argy-bargy with the EU’s executive, the European Commission, and national governments. For those unfamiliar with the debate over “network neutrality”, the principle of treating all internet traffic equally, the rules may seem much the same as those approved by America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in February. But although the wording is similar, the details vary enough that they may produce a very different outcome—one that could further weaken Europe’s smallish online industry.

To understand the differences it helps to compare the telecoms markets on both sides of the Atlantic. America has big, profitable fixed-line and mobile operators, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, which want to be free of regulation. They may not be very popular with their customers, but competition between them is limited and they wield great lobbying power. However, they have found their match in America’s internet giants, including Google and...

via Business Feeds

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