The EU has commissioned an investigation into how European ISPs handle traffic and manage their networks, in a move that could lead to new legislation on net neutrality. The investigation, to be conducted by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), will cover both mobile and fixed Internet providers, with particularly close attention paid to any barriers consumers may face when changing operators. BEREC will also consult with consumers and corporations to determine whether or not ISPs are being completely transparent about their traffic management practices, or advertised connection speeds. In a speech delivered yesterday, Neelie Kroes, the European Commission's Vice President for the Digital Agenda, admitted that some ISPs need to restrict some bandwidth-heavy services in order to protect their networks, but promised to publicly name and take action against any operators found to be stifling competition or consumer choice:
"Mark my words: if measures to enhance competition are not enough to bring Internet providers to offer real consumer choice, I am ready to prohibit the blocking of lawful services or applications. It's not OK for Skype and other such services to be throttled. That is anti-competitive. It's not OK to rip off consumers on connection speeds."
It's unlikely, however, that the EU will implement legislation as pointed as the net neutrality rules the FCC unveiled in the US, nor as expansive as the law that Chile introduced last summer. In a report issued yesterday, the EU affirmed that "operators should be allowed to determine their own business models and commercial arrangements" -- words that no doubt delighted many in Europe's ISP community. The results of BEREC's investigation are due to be published by the end of the year.