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Net neutrality in the European spotlight

Although the new Hungarian Media Law has caused a heated debate Europe-wide, it is not the only issue that – in the opinion of many – challenges basic civil rights or freedom of speech. Net neutrality, another hot topic on the EU’s agenda, may come to an end if European regulators allow for prioritized services and traffic management, many internet activists and providers fear.

Although the new Hungarian Media Law has caused a heated debate Europe-wide, it is not the only issue that – in the opinion of many – challenges basic civil rights or freedom of speech. Net neutrality, another hot topic on the EU’s agenda, may come to an end if European regulators allow for prioritized services and traffic management, many internet activists and providers fear. The introduction and widespread application of a system which, in return for a premium fee, would guarantee wider bandwidth, greater speeds and more security to certain content providers is favored by several network operators, service and content providers, but criticized by those committed to the open net. Supporters of the system claim it would stop traffic congestion or prevent services such as YouTube from hogging the web. Those against this step fear that this way some services or contents would be prioritized over others and traffic would be monopolized by wealthy content providers. Following a three-month consultation with stakeholders, the European Commission has published the results of the public debate which serves as an overview of the current situation and may be the basis of future regulatory changes. Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, promised not to impair the neutral character of the internet, yet she also said that investments are needed to avoid bottlenecks. According to Kroes, network operators and service and content providers should be allowed to explore innovative business models, leading to a more efficient use of the networks and creating new business opportunities. (Zsófia Végh)