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EuroDig, Workshop 1: End-users access to and choice in services (Net Neutrality Workshop)

The workshop had an aim to discuss various Network Neutrality (NN) issues such as
* how to build the economic model for ISPs;
* how to provide a balance and keep openness of the Internet;
* how to strike a balance between businesses and users;
* how to find a balance for the regulators.
Each of the presenters made a presentation about NN issues mostly with regards to their countries, although there were some universal NN presentations as well.

Frode Sørensen, Norwegian Post and Telecommunication Authority, NPA
He addressed the questions about the definition of NN and why we need it. He pointed out that if the Internet is open, all traffic should be treated equally. Real world experiences showed that the major problems emerge when there is a lot of traffic and lots of illegal content. The main stakeholders in Norway are: government (secure citizen rights, development of the society), network operators (financing net operator and net expansion), consumers, service providers.
Anotehr question was whether NN was threatened in Norway which the Norwegian ISPs did not agree with. For them, there was no problems with NN in Norway, this is why they rose the question whether there is a need to discuss it. Their argument was that the market competition takes care of it. The counter response was that there are two issues, such as
* What if you can’t change your ISP?
* How easy is it to change?
In my opinion, these arguments can be applicable to Norway but not to some other countries that do not have ISPs monopoly and citizens can choose from other ones.
The ISPs do not have incentives to break NN as:
* this threatens sources of revenue
* this leads to segmentation of market
* it’s not clear where advertising revenue goes
Norway wrote the guidelines on NN for ISPs based on soft approach to be found at http://www.npt.no

Michael Wagner, EBU
Michael Wagner was a NN proponent. He pointed out that users nowadays wanted to have access to audio-visual content and they had the right to access to information. Another argument for NN was that the users need quality content. As an example he named history of YouTube that shows that if you base your service on user generated content the service will fulfill different needs compared to professionally developed content. Users need quality content generated by established media partners.
Therefore, there is a need for NN to enable users to:
* access to quality content online, and the one with high traffic requirements, such as TV programs.
* equivalent on the Internet. European model = media pluralism, cult diversity and so on.
He also pointed (I agree with this statement strongly) that online content is useless if end users are prevented from access to it.
One of the solutions he proposed to satisfied all the sides involved in NN is enhanced network traffic management and the possibility for national authorities to put principles on QoS. Further, he proposed to create European forum on network management to exchange practices.

Johan Hallenborg, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden
Johan Hallenborg addressed the importance of freedom of expression (FOE) issues for the Internet. As Sweden is going to obtain the EU presidency soon, the task of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden is to work on FOE on the Internet and to highlight it during the EU presidency. The way they would like to do it is to work with colleagues from
Council of Europe (normal forums of HR).
There will be a meeting in November in Warsaw to discuss these issues.
Other issues highlighted by Johan were:
* importance of stressing the role of FOE on the Internet;
* in certain countries FOE on the internet is better and more free that the FOE of the press.

Malcolm Hutty, Chair, EuroISPA
He presented the industry point of view to make the speakers’ panel less biased. He described business models for the Internet and expressed his doubts as for the regulations and whether the current ones will work in the future. Moreover, he pointed out that the policy makers need to show that the regulation they plan will improve the situation, and that they understand the situation and impact of the regulations.
He stressed that networks become not more restricted, but vv and therefore there was a need to develop new models. He stressed that even if the regulation was needed, the behaviour of ISPs should be established.
He also relied on market regulation as a key point for defining the future approach of ISPs to the services and NN.
Finally, he raised a question about the nature of the regulation – should it be self-, government or market regulation. There was a response from the audience that it’s better not to choose between regulations, but to elaborate a common approach, combination of regulations. This was taken as an important conclusion.

Max Senges, Chair, IGF's Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles
He stressed that the aim of NN is to bring human rights into the cyberspace and to promote humanistic nature of the Internet. It’s important to elaborate more user centric approach, not technology centric approach to NN. In his opinion, the right way to approach NN is transparency.

Gustavo Cardoso, Lisbon University Institute
Gustavo’s approach was similar to Max’s and he pointed out that the Internet is about users and their preferences. His presentation was based upon the statement that the Internet is not a mere source of information for the end users, but rather entertainment and communication, as well as other services. He provided interesting country based statistics that defined the key usages of the Internet:
* Latin America and South Europe: Communication
* China: Entertainment
* USA, Australia: communication, entertainment, information + e-banking and so on.
* UK, Sweden: communication, information.
He also stressed that technology MIGHT be neutral (I would strongly agree with ‘MIGHT’, as the practice proves it is not neutral), but people and organizations are not. E.g., p2p networks are a direct threat for Hollywood.

The major conclusion of the workshop were not surprising: the panelists decided that there is a need for further meetings and discussions NN with more stakeholders: so-called cooperative approach. In this sense I would wonder whether these negotiations will result in some practical policies and results so that ISPs can follow them to ensure NN. At the moment, in my opinion, the ISPs activities with regards to ignoring NN are still going on as they do not really care of the discussions unless involved directly.
To be more specific, some of the conclusions were:
* there is not a single solution but a network of available solutions;
* the Internet is about people, not just technology;
* it is better to improve the Internet (increase capacity of bandwith) so that everyone has equal access to all possible services;
* it’s better to address NN as an Open Internet issue.

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