Europe’s startup community signs open letter for net neutrality

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An open letter signed by 133 founders, investors, and companies has just been sent from Europe’s startup community to European telecom regulators. The letter makes the business case for strong net neutrality protections and was signed by by Skype, Soundcloud, Shapeways and other well-known companies. Also academics, public interest groups and over 500,000 members of the public have joined the initiative of clear unified demand for strong net neutrality rules.

At the beginning of July 2016 major European telecom companies threatened to delay investment in the next generation of 5G mobile network technology unless regulators weaken the current version of the guidelines. Until August 30, regulators are drafting guidelines that will define how Europe’s new net neutrality law will be applied in practice. The letter from the startup community urges regulators to make three changes to these guidelines to protect startup innovation in Europe:

  • clearly ban on anti-competitive forms of “zero rating” (i.e. the practice of exempting select applications from users’ monthly data caps) in the guidelines;
  • prohibit telecom companies from using the law’s legitimate exception for specialized service to offer paid fast lanes to Internet applications, content, and services that could function on the regular Internet, which would circumvent the law’s ban on fast lanes on the Internet;
  • strengthen the “traffic management” provisions to ensure that telecom companies can only speed up or throttle entire types of application, such as games, or video chat if there is no other, less discriminatory way to solve the traffic management problem.

Fred Wilson, signer and founder of Union Square Ventures stated: “If Europe doesn’t pass strong net neutrality rules, telcos will pick their preferred partners, subsidize the data costs for those apps and make it much harder for new entrants to compete with the incumbents.”

The open letter was organized by the Factory, a Berlin-based creator of a network of office spaces for technology companies and entrepreneurs across Europe. The full text of the letter is available here.