A blow to net neutrality
The European Commission is currently planning a regulation that has the potential to shake the foundation of the internet as we know it. It aims to oblige US streaming providers and similar services to contribute to the costs of expanding internet infrastructure in Europe. This may sound fair at first glance, but it carries serious consequences for net neutrality and the dynamics of the digital market.
Net neutrality, which states that all data on the internet should be treated equally - regardless of content, origin, application, sender, and receiver - is at stake here. This planned "data toll" or "internet tax" would result in internet traffic being broken down by type and provider. This step would create a two-speed internet, in which some services could be favored, while others are pushed into the background.
South Korea, the only country worldwide that has introduced a similar fee, serves as a negative example of such a development. The consequences of this decision are sobering: higher costs for end users, a decreasing selection of content, and restricted streaming quality. This is a strong indication that regulatory interventions in the open network can have substantial negative impacts.
The question of where to draw the line is also problematic. Which providers would fall under this regulation? Would website operators face higher costs? And how should one distinguish between data, which mostly comes from a few large CDN providers that already charge high prices? These and other questions raise serious concerns about the feasibility and the consequences of these plans.
Furthermore, the role of lobby groups, especially the telecom lobbying association ETNO, in this discussion must be questioned. ETNO, which includes former state or partially state-owned network operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, or Swisscom, is a driving force behind this push. Their involvement raises serious questions about the fairness and transparency of the process.
Finally, we must consider the potential long-term effects of these plans. Could they lead to some providers withdrawing from the European market, similar to what happened after the introduction of the GDPR? This would reduce the variety of services offered and harm consumers. One often hears the argument that this should be seen as an opportunity for a European Netflix / Facebook / YouTube / CDN / ... But that never happens. Even the current AI developments come from overseas, and that's no wonder. Because technological innovation here in Europe unfortunately has an unnecessarily hard time and is constantly faced with barriers that do not exist in the US, for example.
The EU Commission's plans are another example of the problematic attempts to regulate the internet and digital technologies. Whether it's AI regulation, data retention, or now streaming fees, it seems like politics often creates more problems than it solves. It's important that we remain vigilant and defend against such attacks on our digital freedom. Net neutrality is a cornerstone of the internet and must be protected.
The EU's plans for streaming fees could have far-reaching effects on net neutrality and the economy of the internet. They carry the risk of increasing costs for end users, reducing the selection of content, and restricting the quality of streaming services. Furthermore, they raise serious questions about the drawing of boundaries between different types of providers and the role of lobbying associations in this process.
Compounding the issue, these plans could lead to some providers withdrawing from the European market, which would reduce the variety of services offered and harm consumers. This is even more concerning given that telecommunications providers already make substantial profits, while the loss-making business mainly comes from the infrastructure itself.
A better solution could be to make the internet infrastructure a public good or at least have it funded by the states or the EU. In this way, universal, equal access to the internet could be ensured without disproportionately burdening individual providers or users. This would not only protect net neutrality but also reduce the digital divide in society and ensure that all citizens can equally benefit from the advantages of digital technologies.
Moreover, a stronger state involvement in financing the internet infrastructure could help reduce dependence on individual large corporations and ensure that the interests of citizens, not those of lobby groups, are at the center. However, such an approach would require careful regulation and oversight to ensure that public funds are used efficiently and for the benefit of society.
Ultimately, the goal must be to preserve the internet as an open, equal, and accessible space where data is treated equally, regardless of its origin, content, or provider. It is crucial that we resist all attempts to undermine this principle and instead seek solutions that promote digital freedom and diversity while providing the necessary infrastructure required for the use of these technologies.
Titel photo by Robynne Hu.
This post was created with the support of artificial intelligence (GPT-4).