Statement by European academics on the inappropriateness of imposing increased internet regulation in the EU
The European institutions are currently debating the desirability of imposing restrictions on the way in which internet service providers (ISPs) in the EU can manage their networks and develop their offerings. This is closely related to the ‘net neutrality’ controversy which has been raging for several years in the United States. We find, however, that it is counterproductive to argue around ‘net neutrality’. They key issue is whether internet service providers should be prevented from introducing differentiated quality of service levels on the Internet. Right now, information circulating over the Internet is generally carried under a ‘best-efforts’ model: ISPs try their best to convey all the information they handle to its destination. This simple model has served Internet users well so far; according to some scenarios, however, it could become impracticable if Internet traffic grows explosively with the rise of video-based applications, services and content. For instance, for most ISPs today, a small fraction of their users (usually less than 10%) account for most of the use of their networks (usually around 80%). This imbalance is not reflected in the subscription rates, even though that small fraction of users does affect the quality of service provided to other users. One way for ISPs to deal with this issue is to introduce different levels of quality of service, so that users (including application, service and content providers) can decide how much quality of service (priority, etc.) they want to purchase.