Legal frameworks on Net-Neutrality

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Session title

Neutrality across the ICT value-chain: from Networks to Platforms

Session subject

This session will focus on the ongoing efforts aimed at safeguarding the “network neutrality” principle at the European level, while investigating the concept of “platform neutrality”.

Session description

Over the last 15 years, Internet intermediaries such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and online platforms have acquired a pivotal role with regard to the full enjoyment of Internet users’ fundamental rights and the promotion of a free online market. Indeed, it may be argued that the aforementioned intermediaries have emerged as Internet “points of control”, allowing users to access and use the Internet and thereby exercise their rights to benefit from the information society [1].

On the one hand, ISPs have acquired the capability to manage Internet traffic through a variety of techniques that may be used to discriminate against specific content, applications, devices or users. To this latter extent, research conducted by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications [2] (BEREC) has demonstrated that discriminatory practices are quite widespread at the European level and at least 20% of European Internet users undertake contracts foreseeing restrictions of specific applications and services.

Therefore some observers have argued that ISPs are consolidating a position of gatekeepers [3], due to their technical capabilities to control access to online contents, applications and services. It is important to note that such control has the potential to jeopardise network neutrality and Internet openness, which play an instrumental role in fostering the free flow of information, media pluralism and a competitive online market. For this reason several legislators have already adopted or proposed network-neutrality regulatory frameworks, in order to define “rules of the road” for ISPs aimed at guaranteeing Internet openness.

On the other hand, the concept of “platform neutrality” has been increasingly debated and considered as beneficial in order to allow both new (e.g. blogs, social media platforms, etc.) and established (e.g. broadcasters) journalistic-content suppliers to play their crucial role in modern democracies, thus independently contributing to the citizens’ forming of political will. However, further reflection seems to be needed to clarify both the meaning and the implications of the platform neutrality concept.

This session will analyse the role that the network neutrality principle plays in order to further individuals’ participation to democratic life and foster a competitive online market, and will ignite discussion with regard to the challenges and opportunities associated to the “platform neutrality” concept.

Particularly, the panel will interrogate such questions as: (i) In order to maintain and develop a free and open Internet, which are the minimum requirements in terms of¬ network access, traffic exchange as well as peering agreements amongst different networks? (ii) Can better connectivity to specific content, applications and services be in the interest of end-users? (iii) What are “specialised services” and how can they be implemented? (iv) What do we mean when we speak about “platform neutrality”? (v) How does the “platform neutrality” concept relate to the provision of diverse online content and the prevention of monopolistic behaviours? (vi) Do we need regulation or can the market alone provide adequate solutions?

People

  • Focal point: Luca Belli, Council of Europe / CERSA, Université Paris 2
  • Live moderators: Luca Belli (CoE/CERSA) & Frédéric Donck (ISOC)
  • Rapporteur: Vladimir Radunovic (Diplo Foudation)
  • Remote participation moderator: Sorina Teleanu
  • Digital facilitator: Hauke
  • Panelists/speakers: Sabine Verheyen (European Parliament); Matthijs van Bergen (ICT Recht); Matthias Spielkamp (Reporters Without Borders); Elvana Thaçi (Council of Europe); Per-Erik Wolff (ARD).

Format of this working group at EuroDIG

Interactive roundtable

Protocol. Discussions

See the discussion tab on the upper left side of this page

Further reading

General information on network neutrality

Live stream / remote participation

Click here to participate remotely

Live transcripts

Click here to view the live transcripts

Collaborative protocol: Gdoc

Final report from working group

PDF (approx. 2 weeks after event)

Pictures from working group

Link

Session twitter hashtag

Hashtag: #eurodig_ws3