FEATURED | Net Neutrality: Myths & Truths

FEATURED | Net Neutrality: Myths & Truths


“Net neutrality” is a very basic principle which emphasizes on individuals free access to all content and applications equally, regardless of the source, without Internet service providers discriminating against specific online services or websites.  In other words, it is the principle that the company that connects you to the internet does not get to control what you do on the internet. So, in this article we will try to discuss some of the myths associated with “Net Neutrality” and will try to rationalize it for better understanding.

FEATURED | Net Neutrality: Myths & Truths

Myth 1: Net Neutrality is bad for the development of infrastructure – who is going to pay?

The availability of content is a factor that stimulates broadband investment. Revenues from broadband and mobile access are dependent on demand for web-based content and applications. This has been empirically proven through the PLUM[1] study, which found that “the ability of consumers to access Internet content, applications and services is the reason consumers are willing to pay Internet access providers. Access providers are dependent on this demand to monetize their substantial investments.”

Some Internet access providers argue that application and content providers “free-ride” on network investment made by others. This claim is baseless, because users already pay for content and applications, which allows access providers to profit from their investment in networks. Content and applications providers buy services from access providers, purchase network access and services. Moreover, consumers’ demand to use high-bandwidth applications, such as peer-to-peer and streaming music and video, creates demand for faster Internet connections, more revenue for access providers and, ultimately, fuels investment in infrastructure.

Myth 2: Net Neutrality legislation would mean no network management, causing problems for the quality of the Internet.

It is not true that legislation protecting Net Neutrality would prevent access providers from managing their networks. In fact, the Transmission Control Protocol (“flow rate fairness”) that is at the core of Internet engineering has been one of the greatest congestion management tools that has helped make the Internet such a success.

What Net Neutrality would prevent is not traffic management, but rather arbitrary restrictions implemented by access providers that are designed to undermine the openness of the Internet as a short term measure to make extra profits

Myth 3: Charging application and content providers will help promote broadband investment

Some access providers time and again have publicly expressed their will to charge content and application providers – in addition to access charges already paid by end-users – arguing that this will help investment in next generation networks. This is a dangerous approach because there are no existing obligations that would guarantee that access providers use any additional revenue for investment. In fact, they might even prefer to opt for less investment, since lower quality for basic Internet service may encourage the adoption of non-neutral (and more expensive) “premium” services.

Myth 4: Net Neutrality legislation isn’t necessary, since customers can “vote with their feet”.

If a company is restricting your access, whether blocking websites or services, the European Commission repeatedly stated that customers can switch companies to those who are offering the “full” Internet. However, if I am running a Belgian web service and it is being blocked by access providers in, say, Poland, Greece and Spain, I have no choice as I am not a customer of the foreign providers that are blocking my freedom to conduct business.

For consumers, good switching is insufficient in an industry where they are tied into lengthy contracts, as their ability to switch providers may not be feasible in practice. End-users can be left in a restricted, low quality slow lane, or a fast lane with fewer destinations to reach, without even knowing about it.

Myth 5: There is no need for regulation, let the market decide

This is a false dilemma. While competition is a necessary mechanism to construct a healthy market, it does not effectively prevent access providers from adopting non-neutral practices. The regulatory framework cannot solely rely on competition and transparency.

It is clear that competition law moves too slowly, and is demonstrably not effective in curbing the problem at hand. In light of the growing, overwhelming evidence that access providers are tampering with end-users’ ability to access the Internet, relying solely on market forces will lead to the development of a multiple-tier Internet, to the detriment of citizens.

Myth 6: Costs are exploding because of data growth

This is untrue for both fixed and mobile network connections. For fixed telephony networks, traffic-related costs are a small percentage of the total connectivity incomes because they have a single line per household, so traffic growth over this segment involves no additional costs. The question is different for cable and mobile networks because the cable and radio access network is shared by users and the costs of adding capacity are significantly higher than they are for fixed networks. However, the progress from 2G to 3G to 4G for mobile and to from EuroDOCSIS 1.x to 2.0 (and soon 3.1) for cable has lead to important reductions in the cost of carrying traffic. This means that even if costs for mobile access are higher, cost per unit is declining. In this case, not only does data traffic growth contribute to profitability for access providers, but it may contribute to lower average costs per data unit carried by the network.

Myth 7: Net Neutrality will harm innovation

It is not true that Net Neutrality would stifle innovation, quite the opposite in fact: a failure to enact Net Neutrality protections will undermine content and application providers’ freedom to do business. As explained in chapter 3, a non-neutral regime would hinder innovation in content, as start-ups and smaller companies would suddenly be faced with barriers to enter the market – and uncertainty about what new barriers may be created. The innovators’ freedom to impart information is therefore limited – as is their freedom to do business, being protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Myth 8: It’s our network; we can do whatever we want with it.

The Internet is a “truly public place” that enables a new frontier of freedom, and serves as a tool to exercise this freedom.” [2] Citizens have grown to depend on the stability, openness and integrity of the Internet to exercise their fundamental rights, including their freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of association. These responsibilities are internationally recognised under the UN Framework, which acknowledges the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. Moreover, the EU Delegation to the 7th International Governance Forum (IGF) stated in 2012 that “the Internet is not just a technology or a digital market space.

Myth 9: Net Neutrality is a problem in the US, not in Europe

There is overwhelming evidence that European access providers, particularly in the mobile sector, are using technical measures to tamper with end-users’ ability to access the Internet for their own commercial interests.

For example, recent findings from BEREC (the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) show that this is indeed a problem in Europe, where more and more operators are restricting access to content (such as P2P sites), services (such as VoIP) and degrading the quality of Internet connections. In addition, the evidence collected through citizen platforms such as Glasnost[3] and Respect My Net [4] provides a crystal clear picture of the numerous, harmful neutrality violations already taking place in Europe.

Publication Details:

The EDRi papers - Issue 08 – Creative Common License 3.0, Download The Paper - LINK


2 Joint Statement of the EU Delegation to the 7th International Governance Forum (IGF) in Baku http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-12-852_en.htm

3 Glasnost data visualised in a Net Neutrality map http://netneutralitymap.org/

4 Respect my net: http://respectmynet.eu/list/
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