European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes [official website] on Thursday said that existing regulations to ensure net neutrality [backgrounder; JURIST news archive] are adequate for the time being [press release]. Kroes spoke following a four-month fact-finding period on net neutrality, a concept by which the open flow of information over the Internet is protected regardless of the amount of revenue generated by accessing the information. She stressed that maintaining the competitive nature of the European telecommunications market, transparency of service plans and ability to readily change between providers are all crucial to ensuring universal access to the Internet. According to Kroes, additional legislation might compromise the telecommunication industry's growth, though may be considered should current laws fail to sufficiently protect consumers. Such regulations may be implemented in the event that operators attempt to artificially spur sales by reducing services in basic packages or blocking access to particular web sites.
Net neutrality remains a controversial issue. In the US, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) [official website] introduced legislation [JURIST report] in July intended to block the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] from implementing its National Broadband Plan [official website; materials]. The FCC opened a new proceeding [JURIST report] a month earlier to identify the legal approach that will best support its efforts to develop universal access to "high quality" Internet broadband services after the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in April that the commission lacks authority to require broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. Telecommunications companies Verizon, AT&T and Comcast [corporate websites] argue that net neutrality would inhibit their ability to effectively manage Internet traffic.