Open Internet on the verge of being a rare commodity

Open Internet is on the verge of being a rare commodity. Not because it's so difficult to manage, or because the resources for it is scarce. On the contrary. When telecom operators are inquired how much the bandwith costs, how much data transfer costs, beside the actual service cost and the investment in the infrastructure, they cannot give any numbers. 

Yesterdays conference, coorganized by Access, Marietje Schaake MEP and Sabeine Verheyen MEP, guaranteeing competition and open internet in Europe, was enlightning. The European Commissioner of Digital agenda, Ms Neelie Kroes gave the opening speech about how important it is to have transparent, open Internet services and ensrue consumer's right in the digital era.

There she spoke, of course, about Net Neutrality. What is Net Neutrality? Net neutrality "is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication."

Ms Neelie's speech was not well suited for the crowd. Among the speakers and attendees, there were expert on open access, net neutrality, human rights, people who have been fighting for the openness. Some of them are in direct touch with everything that's been going on in Turkey the past few days, and haven't had much sleep. This was the crowd that make  sure people have access to secure internet, that's not filtered or tracked by the local government. 

A particular sentence struck me:

"Openness and liberty are values I am determined to defend everywhere. I'm just back from a trip to Egypt. The Arab Spring showed us the power of the internet. So I am determined to support and champion that network. A network that is open and unified, and delivering democratic values. Across the world, and here in Europe."

Arab spring did not happen on Youtube or Twitter. It happened in real life. The Arab spring, and now the Turkish summer, is showing us how powerful people can be when they are fed up with the oppression and fake impression of safety and security. Our network is not open and unified, it is not delivering democratic values. It is highly filtered, censored and controlled by telecom operators and other people in power who look the other way when people's basic human rights have been affected. Why should there be any difference between the right of assembly on the internet versus away from keyboard? Why should there be any difference between free speech on the internet and in the real world? 

There are huge problems with today's internet. There is too little awareness about the fact the we, as in we the people, are too much dependant on our telecom operators on what we can see and what we are allowed to do with this amazing tool the Internet is. There's too much power in the hands of the telecom operators, too little will of the governments to regulate it. We are locked inside walled gardens, and those fences are just getting taller as we speak. 

"But I do not propose to force each and every operator to provide full Internet: it is for consumers to vote with their feet. If consumers want to obtain discounts because they only plan to use limited online services, why stand in their way? And we don’t want to create obstacles to entrepreneurs who want to provide tailored connected services or service bundles, whether it’s for social networking, music, smart grids, eHealth or whatever. But I want to be sure that these consumers are aware of what they are getting, and what they are missing." This is what Ms Kroes wrote in 2012. This is in stark contrast with what she said in her speech yesterday, where she wanted to defend the values of liberty and transparency. What is more important, ensuring that enterpeneurs get a tailored market they can control people's communication, or a market which protects the consumer from being locked inside walled gardens, where his freedom of speech and of assembly is being restricted?

It is always possible to say something comforting about whatever you're supposed to be talking about. Ms Kroes is in the rare position that she is capable to take action, and has been in that position for the past four years. I would like to see something happen, finally, along the lines she has been drawing these past years.

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I am the chairman of a Swedish and a European standardisation committee about social care alarms used by more than 2.6 million users in EU. We have based our new standardised protocol on an open internet standard called SIP - Session Initiation Protocol. See: www.sis.se/en/standard/std-101762

We are looking for examples of obstacles of using SIP (financing, delays, fine prints in contracts etc.) in Europe with different operators an equipment! Net neutrality and transparency regulation is of interest! Complains and suggestions in the European agenda is important for us!

Please contact us at the authorities - the Swedish agency for participation - for all in society ( www.mfd.se ). Participation in the public space - the internet is on our agenda!


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