It is dead!
It has been months in the making and it is finally done.
We killed the free and open Internet after 25 Years and yes, it is our fault.
The Internet is a magic place. It amuses us with cat videos, empowers minorities, sparks revolutions and makes science-fiction become reality.
Who would have thought, just 10 years ago, that we can hold a videoconference out on the street? Who could have predicted the impact Facebook would have on society or how massively YouTube, Spotify and Netflix will change the way we consume media.
Our lives are pure science-fiction.
This all happened thanks to the beautiful Internet as it was in the past 25 years.
All this is over, at least in the EU.
Four days ago the EU-Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Guenther Oettinger announced the new rules for roaming charges and net neutrality within the EU.
On Twitter he announced “the end of roaming and netneutrality”
No roaming, so special fees for calls, text and data in a foreign country within the EU is a little too optimistic, or simple untrue. But this is not the subject of this article.
But what about net neutrality?
For starters, net neutrality is the principle the Internet has worked under since its beginning, more than 25 years ago. It grants every single package of data the same priority. It ensures a network without any discrimination between different users and services. This creates the beautiful and weird plain level playing field, that made companies like Facebook, YouTube, Netflix or Spotify possible, in the first place.
This playing field is going to become a lot bumpier after the new regulations will take place.
While Oettinge is bathing himself in the glory to have saved the “open Internet” the actual rules tell a different story.
Of course the paper that has been published and that you can find in our link section below, reads like a manifesto for net neutrality. Stating that it will protect the open Internet for everyone and forbids prioritized services.
While that may be true to some extend the exeptions are way too broad.
The new rules allow so called “specialized services”. Those services will in fact be independent from the rules od net neutrality.
Specifically IP-TV services will not fall under the rules of an open Internet. During congestions in the network ISPs (Internet Service Providers), like Deutsche Telekom, can refuse to grand those services the rights of net neutrality. Therefore asking for a special fee to get these services running again. A startup can not pay those fees? Well, bad luck.
Moreover ISPs have grown to become IP-TV hosts by themselves. The Deutsche Telekom for example runs a service called “Entertain” bringing TV and Sports-Events into peoples home. The ISPs now own the network and the content, which is a toxic mix for anyone else in the market.
Moreover so called “Zero Ratings” are legal. In Germany Spotify already has a deal with Deutsche Telekom in place, that works under these special conditions.
Meaning, that all the music you stream on your phone does not count against your data cap. Music from all other sources, like Ampaya, Deezer or AppleMusic will. Spotify is buying itself a better position in the market and the Deutsche Telekom capitalizes on its strong position as the biggest ISP in the strongest economy in the EU.
Again, the paper published by Oettinger claims to ban paid prioritized services. Where is the difference to “Zero Ratings”? I do not know.
In the end, both lead to the same result. I might choose an inferior service as a customer, because the ISP interferes. This is not a competition in a free market, if someone owns the market and uses its power to its interests.
Even worse, jobs are now in danger.
The strength of many startups is their technical prowess, not their big budget. They just release a better service than the big player and customers follow. In a plain market, like the internet has been to date, the best service always wins. Think about the rocket like rise of WhatsApp, Snapchat or YouTube.
Big player who might have missed the shift to the Internet can now buy their way to users and keeping smaller companies out of the loop. This is not only bad for consumers like you and me, it may even cost a lot of jobs.
In the United States Startups account for more and more jobs. Just look at the great companies that have grown out of a free internet. Google, Facebook, Uber or Airbnb are all multi-billion-Dollar companies generating thousands of highly paid jobs attracting highly educated people from all over the world. They initially won their market, because they had the best product at the right time.
Let´s stay in the US for a second.
The FCC, the commission that is responsible for regulating the ISPs, just introduced new rules. These rules fully protect the net neutrality treating access to the internet as a commodity. No prioritization, no “zero ratings” just the Internet as it has always been and intended to be since its beginning.
These new rules did not come from nowhere. Last year, the FCC presented a completely different set of regulations. It was much more tailored towards the interests of ISPs, pretty much like what the EU and Mr. Oettinger are now proposing. The backlash in the US has been amazing. The FCC-Servers crashed multiple times under the load and huge companies like Google, Facebook, Vimeo and others organized themselves to form a lobby of their own.
All this changed the mind of enough FCC-Members to change the proposed rules completely in favor for a strict stance for net neutrality.
So, what happened here in the EU?
First of all, did you hear about the new rules?
No, probably not. Let me explain, real short to you what the constellation is.
We have Günther Oettinger as the EU-Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, who said about himself, that he had no idea about the topic, when he took office.
We have a strong lobby of ISPs in the EU and many Media-Outlets completely missed the shift to the internet and see a chance to buy their way into the “new” medium.
If you look at data from transparency international, you will notice, that these companies did their homework. Nine out of the Top10 companies that Oettinger spoke with the most, are openly against net neutrality in its pure form.
More over, we do not have such a thriving sector of Internet-Companies that fight the initiative, like the US has. No Google and no Facebook is concerned about the EU.
So, the last resort to fight the death of the free and open European internet is up to you.
We as Thetechnologocals.com and I, personally, shared a petition on Change.org multiple times. We wrote articles about it and so on.
It is YOU. Only YOU could have changed it. It was and is YOUR responsibility to keep politicians in check. So if YOU enjoy free YouTube-Video and small companies trying to make a living against big giants, it is YOUR duty to do something. Sign the petition, talk to other people about this topic and call our local representative in the EU-Parliament.
The Internet as we know it is dying and only YOU can save it.
DO NOT FUCK IT UP!
Netzneutralität – Ist das wichtig, oder kann das weg? (DE)
Factsheet from the EU about the new rules
New rules for the open internet in the US