My Dinner with ETNO

Written by Leslie Harris

Lest there be any doubt about ETNO‘s intentions with its controversial proposal before the ITU, the chair of the European telecom association confirmed last Tuesday that the plan would prohibit Internet neutrality laws like the one recently adopted in the Netherlands.  

At a European Internet Foundation dinner in Brussels last week, ETNO Executive Board Chair Luigi Gambardella was joined by my colleague Jim Dempsey, MEP Sabine Verheyen, Megan Richards from the European Commission, and Richard Hill representing the ITU to debate the upcoming review of the International Telecommunication Regulations treaty. (Audio files of the discussion can be found here.)

Gambardella defended the ETNO proposal, which would alter international treaty language to prohibit Internet neutrality rules and tip the scales in Internet interconnection agreements in favor of increased payments to legacy telecom networks. Gambardella repeatedly argued that the proposal was intended to “future proof” the Internet. But the more he spoke, the more it became clear that the only thing ETNO is aiming to “future proof” is the role of incumbent network providers.

As we have previously written, if ETNO’s proposal becomes treaty law, it would put countries seeking to preserve a neutral Internet in violation of their treaty obligations and likely increase the cost of Internet access for users, especially in less developed countries.  Dempsey reiterated the danger CDT see in ETNO’s and other proposals for an increased regulatory role for the ITU in Internet governance.

Few in this knowledgeable Brussels audience seemed to be buying the ETNO line; at times the Q & A devolved into a slugfest with Gambardella dodging a host of questions and biting commentary. A good time was had by most.

For more on the ITU, check out CDT’s resource page.

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