The European Union yesterday warned that telecom operators will not be allowed to charge online content providers to deliver high-bandwidth content to Internet users. Stephane Richard, chief executive of France Telecom, argued recently that “there is something totally not normal and contrary to economic logic to let Google use our network without paying the price.” Google owns YouTube, a popular video-sharing website that is bandwidth-intensive. Telefonica is also believed to be supportive of France Telecom’s view that those websites causing an explosion in the amount of data carried over networks should contribute to the cost of expanding network capacity, or face slower delivery of their content. However, the Financial Times (FT) reports that EU commissioner Neelie Kroes said she would take action if operators sought payments in exchange for carrying high-bandwidth services. “Users should be able to access and distribute the content, services and applications they want,” she said in a speech in Paris.
The FT report notes that the principle of ‘net neutrality’ Ms Kroes endorsed means operators would not be allowed to block services even if they are provided by competitors. Indeed, she warned operators not to block VoIP services such as Skype. The report adds that the EU debate echoes discussions in Washington, where net neutrality has been on the agenda for several years. US regulator the FCC has been consulting about a principle to preclude operators from discriminating against certain types of data traffic.