EU Digital Commissioner: Net Neutrality Is A ‘Taliban-Like’ Issue

Until recently, most people probably assumed that real net neutrality was more likely to come to Europe than to the US. But in one of those ironic little twists, not only has the FCC voted in favor of net neutrality, but attacks on the idea in Europe have suddenly multiplied, leaving the final outcome there in doubt. Worryingly, one of the strongest verbal assaults on net neutrality comes from the very EU Commissioner who is in charge of the relevant legislation, Günther Oettinger. Techdirt has reported a couple of times on the Digital Commissioner’s rather clueless comments, but this time he has surpassed himself. Speaking at an event held by the German Ministry of Finance last week, here’s what the he had to say on net neutrality, as reported by the Pirate Party’s MEP, Julia Reda — her post includes a video of Oettinger speaking (in German) and a transcript of his remarks (in English):

Net neutrality: Here we’ve got, particularly in Germany, Taliban-like developments. We have the Internet community, the Pirates on the move, it’s all about enforcing perfect uniformity. They talk about “the evil industry”. It’s not about the industry, it’s not about the CEO and his salary.

Oettinger then goes on to explain what he thinks net neutrality is about: telemedicine and car safety, apparently.

If you want to have real time road safety, our lives are at stake, this has to have absolute priority with regards to quality and capacity.

I think downloading YouTube can wait a few seconds. I think we can let the game at some times be less than perfect on the screen. But road safety (a commercial service!), health (a commercial service!) and a few others come to my mind: They should be able to deviate from net neutrality, this Taliban-like issue.

What’s interesting here is that alongside the very old idea of telemedicine, Oettinger uses exactly the same new argument against net neutrality as Nokia’s CEO last week. Since no one was talking about this kind of application before — unsurprisingly, since it’s a really stupid approach — a cynic might almost think that they have both been fed the same talking point by someone.

Fortunately, Reda’s position as Member of the European Parliament gives her the right to quiz the European Commission formally, and she is availing herself of this power to put the following rather pointed questions, which pick up on Oettinger’s comments:

Can the Commission name specifically every single hospital in the European Union and their specific telemedicine products and applications which rely on real time broadband internet connections whose technical specifications rely on the absence of enforced net neutrality rules in the EU? Please list each and every hospital, product and application, please do not cluster products and applications.

Can the Commission name specifically every single intelligent transportation system such as a car-mounted impact warning system, car or transportation security device whose performance relies on real time internet access and whose technical specification relies on the absence of enforced net neutrality rules in the EU? Please list every manufacturer, product and application, please do not cluster products and applications.

I can’t wait for the replies.

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