Net neutrality discussions in Europe and Canada

At work it’s been very busy the last weeks, with a particular customer changing requirements more often than the word has letters, therefore it’s unfortunately been a bit quiet in here…

Nevertheless, I wanted to quickly point out that in both, the European Union and Canada, there are currently hearings about “net neutrality“. This term refers to the notion, that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are generally expected not to interfere with or discriminate against any of the applications their customers use on the Internet. The discussion arose, when some ISPs started to throttle Peer-to-peer filesharing traffic to relieve their network load, as such applications create up to 70% of overall Internet traffic in some parts of the world.

Peer-to-peer Internet traffic

Relative amount of peer-to-peer filesharing traffic compared to overall Internet traffic by geographic region. Source: torrentfreak.com

The general consensus of Internet users seems to be that discriminating certain content is a bad practice as it prevents users from utilizing whatever applications they want to use, at a level of quality they expect from their Internet connection. Therefore, the current discussion is, whether ISPs should be forced to abstain from discriminating against certain traffic by the force of law, or if the market forces will sufficiently punish ISPs and therefore discourage the practice.

In the current edition of ACM’s Communications magazine, there is a lengthy and well-written point-counterpoint article about the topic. In terms of arguments, I must say the force-of-law arguments appear to hold up much better than the market-based approach. On the German blog netzpolitik.org, there is also a video interview with Rossoglau Kostas of the European Consumers’ Organization about the topic:

I thus invite readers to voice their opinions about the topics so they are considered in the hearings. The platform for Canada is SaveOurNet.ca which allows for directly sending an e-mail to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) commissioner charged with the hearings. Law professor Michael Geist points out that the deadline for submissions has been extended to February 23. For the European union, La Quadrature du Net is a very active citizen group participating in the discussions, although their website is less clear as to how individuals can support them.

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