7th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (III). The Net Neutrality debate: Stakeholders’ perspective

Notes from the 7th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Net Neutrality and other challenges for the future of the Internet, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 11-12 July 2011. More notes on this event: idp2011.

Panel: The Net Neutrality debate: Stakeholders’ perspective
Chairs: Miquel Peguera. Senior Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC)

Maite Arcos. General Director of RedTel (Spanish Association of Telecommunications Operators)

The Internet is a complex ecosystem: there are content providers (e.g. digital newspapers), service providers (e.g. Google), facilitating services (e.g. PayPal), connectivity providers (telecoms), user interfaces (e.g. Windows) and the users. Most of these actors are interconnected, but content and service providers are (usually) not connected with telecoms, which has caused several problems between them, amongst which who pays for the intensity of usage of the networks and whether content and services should be served on a neutral basis.

And there is an increasing pressure on telecoms as traffic increases at highest rates year after year… while Internet access charges have been diminishing in real trends. Content and service providers have no incentives on providing “light” services (there is no “price” on the bytes they transfer). It ends up with operators not being able to catch up with investment needs to maintain a quality service.

Possibilities:

  1. Stop investments, while degrading the service.
  2. Increase Internet access fees.
  3. Product and service differentiation.
  4. New negotiation with service and application providers to look for new and more balanced agreements.

Telcos do not thing #1 and #2 are an actual possibility, so we should be exploring #3 and #4.

Andreu Teixidor. Director de estrategia editorial de BUBOK

The printing press did not change the way to publish writings, but changed the world, as the Internet is doing to ours. The Internet is changing how works are published, but also how will democracy be transformed, the way we feel, etc. So, neutrality is not about an industry, it is about how we share our future.

Ofelia Tejerina. Lawyer. Asociación de Internautas

A first problem, dire problem, when it comes to network regulation is that policy makers usually do not understand the new nature of a digital society.

There are prior stages to net regulation that have not been satisfied as transparency or accountability of telcom practices.

And this transparency and accountability has to be guaranteed by the Judiciary branch, not the Government and of course not the private sector. And it is the Legislative branch that has to find out how to update the laws that we are using and that are completely obsolete.

One of the most important reflections has to be around pricing:

  • What are we really paying? Infrastructures? Content? Services? At what cost?
  • Who should be paying? Should any prosumer pay when they upload (and not only download) content?

Discussion

Ismael Peña-López: why don’t we nationalize the infrastructures? Wouldn’t that be solving many problems at once? Arcos: the problem would then be who pays for the infrastructure, would it be taxes? fees paid by the operators?

Antoni Elias: another problem would be how innovation on infrastructures would be triggered by public initiative. Most innovation comes from competing infrastructures, which would cease to be if they were to be merged under a single public infrastructure. [own short comment on the latter is reminding what happened with innovation in railroads in the UK once privatized or in electricity suppliers in the US]

Chris Marsden: it is not true that most infrastructures are paid by private money, as many last milers already know, having to pay Internet access from their own money or being supplied by the government as part of their universal access policy. On the other hand, the investment is nothing compared with the insvestments in railroads in the XIXth and XXth centuries, while benefits would most probably be way higher. Concerning competition amongst networks, what is more common is that telcos do share networks and just rarely compete on that issue.

Javier de la Cueva: why is it that the OCED states that we have the most expensive broadband services? Arcos: Spain is one of the few countries where there is a real choice where to get your broadband service. Besides, quality standards in Spain are very high, but this is not taken into account in the measurements performed by the OECD.

7th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2011)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2011) “7th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (III). The Net Neutrality debate: Stakeholders’ perspective” In ICTlogy, #94, July 2011. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=3778

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2 Comments to “7th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (III). The Net Neutrality debate: Stakeholders’ perspective” »

  1. I think Ofelia Tejerina makes a very good point. Every post or comment is increasing the value of the Internet, why nobody is paying us? Of course I dont’t want to be paid, I just want to point out the Telecoms arguments are very very very one-sided.

    I think the Telecoms bring forward a no-problem. They earn enough money, sure the bandwith per user has increased, but also the number of subscribers has (which, not suprisingly, they don’t mention).

    I support the idea of nationalizing the infrastructure and let the companies run the services. In Spain the ADIF is the owner of the rail infrastructure, and the private companies will start running their services on top of it. ADIF is a public company.

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