Europe’s Choice

Andrew Orlowski explains the state of Internet regulation in both the US and Europe in The Register:

For almost twenty years, internet engineers have persuaded regulators not to intervene in this network of networks, and phenomenal growth has been the result. Because data revenues boomed, telecoms companies which had initially regarded packet data networking with hostility, preferred to sit back and enjoy the returns.

But that’s changing fast. Two months ago the US regulator, which scrupulously monitors public radio for profanity, and which spent months investigating a glimpse of Janet Jackson’s nipples, decided it needed to start writing technical mandates. And so off it went.

Unnoticed by almost everyone, so did the EU.

“It’s the revenge of the unemployed Telecomms Regulator”, one seasoned observer in Brussels told us this week. “The internet really put them out of business. Now they’re back.”

The Internet is indeed the most lightly-regulated network going, and it’s the only one in a constant state of improvement. Inappropriate regulation – treating the Internet like a telecom network – is the only way to put an end to that cycle.

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3 Responses to Europe’s Choice

  1. Brett Glass says:

    It's not just the regulators who are looking to save their jobs; it's the “consumer crusaders.” They used to do a brisk business by railing against the telephone companies. Now that we're seeing a digital convergence, they are turning their attention to the Internet. This has caused them to take steps to promote a duopoly (they can't justify their positions as Davids unless there are Goliaths to fight, and so they are actually pushing regulations that will drive the little guys out of business, leaving a duopoly). They then need to impose complex regulations which require constant vigilance to enforce, so that they can be “watchdogs.” This is the REAL reason why the Washington lobbyists (e.g. Free Press, Public Knowledge, etc.) are pushing for “network neutrality.” It's not about consumers. It's about keeping their jobs, growing their staffs, and getting contributions. (If consumers are not dissatisfied, these lobbyists won't get money, so it is vitally important for them to bring about consumer dissatisfaction.)

  2. It's interesting that the Internet is the only communications network to undergo continuous improvement since its deployment, and is also the least regulated. Forcing it into the mold of regulatory stasis – with the consent and approval of the watchdogs – doesn't strike me as step in the right direction.

  3. Andrew Orlowski says:

    That was my impression too, Brett – broadband regulation has been captured as a “consumer issue” by politiicians and bureucrats.

    Last November the European Commission announced that it wanted to be a telecomms regulator itself, establishing a new authority. It’s currently engaged in a turf war with national telecomms regulators (NRAs), such as OFCOM in the UK. In the spring it proposed a “slimmed down” (100+ staff) authority.

    And so “pipe regulation” (at the packet level) has bled onto the agenda because it suits both the EC’s mission creep, and politicians who may fear being ambushed.

    The thing is, there’s no one to ambush them here. I

    n the UK, we’re throttled and metered up the wazoo, and we do what the British do best in such circumstances. Grumble.

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