Diverging US-EU Internet trade visions

U.S. and EU Internet trade policies continued to head in opposite directions last week.

Increasingly divergent U.S.-EU Internet policy visions complicate negotiations for the most forward-looking part of the nascent Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).

Last week the European Parliament narrowly passed amendments adopting an uneconomic, anti-investment vision of net neutrality that is very different than the U.S. economic, pro-investment, net neutrality vision.

That vote is on top of two problematic European Parliament data protection votes that occurred a few weeks ago.

One made European data subject to EU law and favors EU data storage, to protect Europeans’ privacy, and to foster a European tech, cloud and Internet sector. The second called for a suspension of the U.S.-EU data protection safe harbor that lets U.S. firms self-certify their compliance with EU privacy law.

Per the Telegraph, a “bloc of left-wing” Members (socialists, greens and liberals), passed European Parliament amendments “that would ban extra charges for particular types of data such as video” in order to stop a “two-tier Internet” – i.e. public and private Internet tiers.

By banning European ISPs from charging more to provide video streaming services like Netflix and Google-YouTube quality assurance guarantees, the law effectively would set the price of transmitting downstream traffic at zero in Europe.

At core, the European Parliament has passed an uneconomic and anti-investment Internet commons policy; “traffic should be treated equally without discrimination, restriction or interference independent of the sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application.”

European industry and other opponents argued that all Internet traffic is not the same or an equal burden on the network. Thus these natural differences require differential network management and pricing in order to offer quality assurances to different kinds of traffic.

Opponents also railed against a policy that would nonsensically: divorce costs from prices, eliminate profits necessary to fund investment in Europe’s lagging fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure and harm growth and jobs.

In stark contrast, in the U.S. last week, FCC Chairman Wheeler essentially confirmed an opposite Internet vision that would not subject the Internet backbone to inflexible net neutrality regulation like the European Parliament did.

A U.S. Court of Appeals decision in January ruled that the FCC’s prior attempt to price regulate broadband ISPs with an implicit zero price on downstream video traffic from a Netflix or YouTube was illegal common carrier regulation.