The main reason why, back in 2013, Neelie Kroes felt compelled to put forward a set of EU-wide rules on net neutrality is that she could predict a wave of domestic regulations was bound to materialize sooner or later: a nightmarish scenario for a European commissioner who dreamed of building a telecom single market where “telcos can think European to compete globally”.
Alas, the kind of national fragmentation Mrs. Kroes ardently sought to prevent is about to be blessed by the EU law. Under a hard-fought settlement reached by the European Parliament and the Council in June, key elements of the first-ever EU bill on net neutrality will be adjudicated in the member states and their interpretation left up to national regulators. For example, domestic regulators will determine what is and what is not a “specialised service”.
This epilogue, which contradicts the original goal of the bill as it was conceived by Neelie Kroesand, has very little benefits for consumers and comes with a higher price. It may underdime the legal certainty and regulatory predictability (at EU level) that the telecoms sector badly needs to attract more investment. The truth is that a regime of “European net neutralities” is nearly as bad as not having a legislation at all.