The European Parliament voted on the EU Regulation applying to open internet access and roaming on 27 October. The Regulation provides national regulatory authorities with far-reaching responsibilities to enforce compliance with provisions aimed at ensuring open internet access.
“For the first time, the new TSM Regulation gives us real powers in an area in which we have been actively involved for quite some time: net neutrality,” commented Johannes Gungl, CEO of RTR’s Telecommunications and Postal Services Division, referring to the Regulation soon to enter into effect.
The Regulation specifies for the national regulatory authorities to monitor future compliance with the provisions included in the legislation. “We regard receiving this responsibility as a very positive step, and we will put a monitoring system in place as swiftly as possible,” Gungl added.
“The content of the new Regulation in its current form falls short of our expectations and is not ideal in our view,” Gungl summarised his evaluation of the new rules governing net neutrality. “Yet it puts into our hands a tool that we can work with.”
Among other things, the Regulation will empower the national regulatory authorities to verify the actual capability of end users to exercise the rights accorded them by the Regulation, to set minimum quality standards, and to define deadlines and levels of detail relating to how internet access providers meet information requirements.
“Monitoring activities will render the data and facts needed to objectively discuss the topic of net neutrality. We will then truly know whether there have been breaches of net neutrality. More clarity, more facts and less speculation about what is going on in the net – all this should contribute to achieving an objective discussion. The current discourse is strongly marked by assumptions, misgivings and fears,” Gungl observed, adding, “Monitoring will help us build a solid foundation for later deciding whether any sharper regulations are required.”
Each year Austria’s regulatory authority will also report to the European Commission and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) on the state of open internet access in Austria and extensively inform the general public.
While previously very active in the area of net neutrality, a lack of sufficient legal basis has kept RTR from taking any direct action; rather it has been collecting expertise, consulting with stakeholders and participating in BEREC working groups, in this way making significant preparations towards effectively implementing the regulation.
The regulator’s most recent public activity in this area was the “Net neutrality in the light of convergence” conference (see www.rtr.at/de/inf/Netzneutralitaet14102014, in German).