Probably the most expected workshop of the day was the one on network neutrality. I attended it also, and, though I must admit that, at some points, the discussion was a bit too technical for me, here are few things that particularly drew my attention.
In the beginning, it was outlined that there are many views on this single concept, and that the “core” principles somehow agreed upon with relation to the concept are transparency and non-discrimination.
The policy framework suggested by Google and Verizon was also brought into discussion, as this move from the two companies that are usually perceived as being on different sides was at least surprising. It outlines not only the previously discussed network neutrality principles, but it suggests differences when it comes to managing the networks: the wireless Internet as different from the wired one.
As the most controversial aspect of the framework is the different treatment to be given to wired networks when compared to the wireless ones, the discussion on the main differences between wired and wireless networks represented a significant part of the workshop. The thing that I kept in mind is that wireless networks are constrained by the fact that spectrum is a scarce resource. The network providers want to offer their customers best services, while also ensuring the best RoI possible and also being constrained by the scarcity of the resources.
One important thing that was outlined was that, except for satellite, there is no mobile network; the device is mobile, the network is fixed.
With regard to traffic management measures, it was mentioned that it is too early to make predictions on what the future is going to be, so that to be able to say what the traffic management measures should be taken in one year, not to talk in the future years to come.
The intention of telecom operators to introduce managed services which are business driven was also addressed. The representative of France Telecom outlined the fact that traffic management is a way to optimize the services provided. He also pointed out that if you increase the capacity of the network, you will increase the demand; there are users that are skilled and will occupy more bandwidth. Therefore, the priority would be to introduce a price model (prices for usage) to balance the demand and the capacity. But there were views that this approach presents the risk of free ride.
The main challenge for regulators is how to secure that there is a level plain field for all players - IPSs, content providers. There are two solutions that could be adopted: apply hard traditional law or choose soft law regulation. In the second case, it is important that all players are involved in the drafting of these soft law regulations (guidelines voluntarily agreed and respected by market players).
The informed decision by consumer is very important; they have to know what they want and what they buy. If this is achieved, the problems will themselves be solved: consumers will choose the operator that offers the services they want, without restrictions. In this reasoning, it was argued that it is competition the one that will solve the problem by itself. But there was an opposing view, according to which we can’t rely on competition, because on certain markets there is no competition. Affirmative steps need to be taken so that to ensure that consumers rights are respected.
One important question raised was related to the implications that the abandoning of the NN principle would have on the global flow of information (which is difficult to be ensured even on an open network).
Vint Cerf made a very clear point that users should have the freedom to go anywhere they want to go on the Internet, but that this should not mean that we should not be open to a wide range of diff business models (e.g. the Google advertising model).
Related to this point, Jovan Kurbalija made a last point on the issue of delegation of choice, which is problematic when it comes to Internet: how to ensure real implementation of this principle. Besides the regular mechanism, there is a need to do more in order to ensure the real possibility of exercising choices.