The European Commission said on Tuesday it still doesn't see a need for additional net neutrality rules at this point but has called on a European Union advisory committee to examine whether mobile operators are taking steps to block access to some Internet applications and content.
In a report to the European Parliament, the commission, the EU's regulatory arm, called on the advisory committee made up of officials who regulate electronic commerce to investigate specific instances of discrimination of Internet content and applications by mobile operators and other broadband providers in Europe.
The commission report noted that the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications detailed some concerns in a survey last year of its national regulators. The survey found examples of providers limiting the speed of certain peer-to-peer file-sharing or video streaming services in some countries, including France and Britain. It also found that some mobile operators in Austria, German, Italy and other countries were blocking or charging extra for access to Internet telephone services such as Skype.
Neelie Kroes, the commission's vice president of the digital agenda, said she plans to issue a report at the end of the year with the results of the electronic commerce regulators' investigation. She said the commission will recommend additional measures if necessary.
"If I am not satisfied, I will not hesitate to come up with more stringent measures, which may take the form of guidance or even general legislative measures to achieve the competition and choice consumers deserve," Kroes said in a statement. "If this proves to be insufficient, I am ready to prohibit the blocking of lawful services or applications."
Kroes also noted that new telecommunications rules that relate to network neutrality are set to go into effect on May 25, which will require providers to ensure consumers can "access and distribute information or run applications and services of their choice." The telecom rules set minimum service quality levels and require telecom operators to provide details about their network management practices and allow consumers to switch telecom providers within one working day.
The French Internet freedom group La Quadrature du Net criticized the commission's report as disappointing for failing to recommend additional net neutrality measures.
While the commission has been more willing to act in other areas, it has yet to set out specific rules barring broadband providers from blocking access to Internet content or applications. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved rules in December that barred wired broadband providers from "unreasonable" discrimination against Internet content, services or applications. Many public interest groups voiced disappointment the rules did not also apply to wireless broadband providers.