Over the past 20 years, the Internet connectivity market has grown at an exceptional pace. It has been the ground for an unprecedented level of innovation and facilitated cross-border trade through e-commerce, helping to further develop the internal market and contributing to the erosion of entry barriers between Member States.
But the Internet owes much of its success to the fact that it is open and easily accessible, provided that the user has an Internet connection. Any content provider has had the opportunity to test its ideas and their relative value in the marketplace. The required investment, such as buying a domain name, renting a space on a server and implementing its application or software has been relatively low. As a result, new services have been made available to consumers: browsing, mailing, Peer-to-Peer (P2P), instant messaging, Internet telephony (Voice over Internet Protocol ‘‘VoIP’’), videoconference, gaming online, video streaming, etc. This development has taken place mainly on a commercial basis without any regulatory intervention.
The openness of the Internet is closely linked to the application of the principle of network neutrality or net neutrality. The Electronic Communications' Framework defines it as the ability for consumers to "access and distribute information or run applications and services of their choice."
The revised Framework supports the following aspects of network neutrality:
- Choice (cf. Art. 8(4) of the Framework Directive)
- Transparency (cf. Art. 20 & 21 of the Universal Service Directive)
- Quality of Service (cf. Art. 22(3) of the Universal Service Directive)
- E-privacy (cf. Art. 5 of the ePrivacy Directive)
Find out more about:
- The challenges of achieving an open and neutral Internet
- The actions performed by the EU to reach its set objectives on network neutrality