Excerpt from voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech

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Cecilia Kang
Friday, November 12, 2010

E.U. decides against net-neutrality rules

Europe's top Internet policymaker said Thursday that the region will not introduce net-neutrality rules to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or prioritizing certain content on their networks.

Neelie Kroes, the commissioner for the European Union's digital agenda, said in a speech in Brussels that European nations would instead rely on guidelines that would stop anti-competitive behavior by telecom and cable firms and protect consumers. She warned, however, that the E.U.'s position could change if industry behavior puts consumers at a disadvantage.

"If we encounter significant and persistent problems, I will not be afraid to change the law in the future to achieve competition and choice consumers deserve," Kroes said in the speech.

Several countries, including the United States, have been weighing net-neutrality proposals as more people rely on the Web as a primary mode of communication. An effort by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski to advance net-neutrality rules has been hobbled by a court decision that cast doubt on the agency's authority to regulate broadband providers.

In her speech, Kroes said that a telecom regulatory framework adopted by the European Commission in 2009 provides clear guidelines for what is and isn't permissible behavior. National regulatory authorities overseeing the practices of their local network operators are "our best insurance policy," and "competition is the open Internet's best friend," Kroes said.

She also said consumers will guide industry behavior. If a carrier were to block Skype, a service Kroes said she uses to call family back home, consumers would protest. "I hope this monitoring and the upcoming implementation of the telecoms framework by member states will pave the way for truly open networks," Kroes said.

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