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Strand Consult´s research notes about net neutrality:

EC President Juncker's office confirms that BEREC agreement with Indian telecom regulator could violate EU law. Why is BEREC making an agreement with one of the world’s most corrupt and least connected countries? Strand Consult Research Note.

Strand Consult has followed net neutrality regulation around the world for years. Working with leading academics in law, policy, economics, engineering, and communication, Strand Consult has published evidenced-based assessments of the policy. They key takeaway from the explosion of rulemaking and litigation across dozens of countries is that net neutrality policy is not driven by actual harm, but well-funded, highly-organized, ideologically-driven transnational activism, frequently which includes regulators themselves who purport to be independent.

The most recent example is the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) signing a Joint Statement and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for “mutual interest and reinforced cooperation” with the Telecom Regulatory of India (TRAI).  While regulators around the world share and collaborate, the BEREC agreement with TRAI exceeds BEREC’s authority and attempts to justify BEREC’s effort to implement an extreme version of net neutrality that exceeds the EU law. This research notes explains the apparent illegalities of the agreement as well as responses to Strand Consult from European President Jean Claude Juncker and BEREC Chair Johannes Gungl.

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Many claim that the American telecom regulator FCC killed net neutrality on June 11, 2018. Is it true?

Journalists around the world read stories from the American media on neutrality and internet regulation. Some copy-paste the stories into Google Translate to make an article for their local language publication. Some journalists consider this “reporting” and don’t read the official source documents. As a result, what actually happened in the United States gets lost in translation. Strand Consult has followed this issue closely in the United States for years. What the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has done is the following:

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Telecom regulation should be evidence-based and implemented with transparency. The reality of BEREC is that net neutrality rules are made behind closed doors and driven by the ideology of a few regulators from a small group of European countries.

Strand Consult has for many years followed how net neutrality rules have been made in over 50 countries and has published extensively in this area. Strand Consult documents that the “public consultations” conducted by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) are perfunctory exercises conducted to gather support for its pre-determined outcomes.

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CASE: BEREC tenders a net neutrality measurement tool before it completes its evaluation of the net neutrality implementation. This proves that BEREC’s “public consultations” are just formalities. BEREC collects consultation responses so it can solicit more support for its pre-determined outcomes.

Many policy decisions by the Net Neutrality Expert Working Group (NN-EWG) of Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) are made before all BEREC member nations meet and before public consultation are ever conducted. While the premise of a sub-committee is to investigate policy options for the larger body and to provide recommendations for discussion, the goal of the NN-EWG is to prioritize net neutrality as a key activity for all of BEREC above other domains. This can be observed in net neutrality taking up about one-fifth of BEREC’s 2018 Work Program and Net Neutrality being noted on the masthead of the BEREC website. No other BEREC domain is mentioned even though BEREC does significant work in 5G, spectrum, market access, and market definition and so on.

Most EU regulators already have a speed measurement regime in place and report that operators perform above 95% of the expectation. But the NN-EWG wants to implement an EU-wide Net Neutrality (NN) Measurement Tool ostensibly to measure broadband speeds and traffic management. The NN-EWG hopes to automate the net neutrality process with so-called open and crowdsourced tools, so that BEREC itself need not undertake investigations and so that it can increase the number of “violations” and resulting fines on operators.  BEREC can use such an automated regime to prove to policymakers that the regulation and BEREC’s oversight is justified.

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Documentation: BEREC President Johannes Gungl’s answer to Strand Consult on transparency – 11 simple questions he declines to answer

Strand Consult believes that telecom regulation should be evidence-based and implemented through a transparent process. This research documents Strand Consult’s correspondence with the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) on its freedom of information requests into the net neutrality implementation process, particularly the Net Neutrality Expert Working Group (NN-EWG).

The level of transparency of telecom regulation differs significantly across countries. For example, the American Federal Communications Commission (FCC) employs a strict “ex parte” process in which every verbal or written communication to any FCC staff which could impact policy must be publicly disclosed in an online database. This provides transparency to the many parties which wish to influence FCC policy.

Strand Consult follows BEREC in many areas including net neutrality. Because the policy can have significant economic and social impact, it is essential the regulation be conducted in a transparent process. Indeed, BEREC is required to operate in a transparent fashion, and EU law guarantees the right of EU residents the freedom of information to access to government proceedings. Sadly, Strand Consult’s experience does not live up to BEREC’s expressed commitment and EU law. Strand Consult has requested documents for dozes of secret meetings of BEREC’s NN-EWG in 2016-2017, but BEREC, after delaying response for weeks, either rejected our requests for information or provided only minimal information.

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BEREC’s net neutrality process is a black box. Strand Consult fights for transparency against telecom regulators that like to make net neutrality rules behind closed doors

Strand Consult has followed the net neutrality debate around the world for years. Its team includes some of the leading experts, and we have published many reports on the topic. In this research note we present new research showing the lack of transparency in the process to implement net neutrality by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and how 8 European countries dominate the proceedings in an effort to realise regulation that exceeds the bounds of the EU law.

Transparency is essential in a democracy. Transparency is a foundational concept to the European Commission and European Parliament. The work of the European Union is translated in 24 official languages to maximize the transparency of the law for Europeans. Moreover European residents are ensured freedom of information under Article 15 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union and thereby can access documents online, through databases, and by individual request. But while the law may be transparent, the EU delegates significant responsibilities to regulatory institutions including BEREC. In Strand Consult’s view, BEREC has fallen short of the EU standard.

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The press claims that the American telecom regulator FCC killed the free Internet. Is it true?

Many of the stories you read about net neutrality and internet regulation originate from the media in the USA and then are copy-pasted into Google Translate to make a story in a local language. Many journalists consider this “reporting” and don’t both to read the underlying source documents or understand the situation in the USA.

These articles cultivate myths, one of which is that removing rules imposed two years ago by the Obama Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will kill either the Internet, hurt consumers, or put the internet at the mercy of some telco “gatekeeper.” These journalists forget that the Internet was free and open before the Obama era rules were imposed in 2015, and it is free and open today under new rules. Indeed, all of the major internet companies we know today began before 2015 when the Obama-era rules were imposed. Moreover, both the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will police and deter abuse if it arises.

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Important information – What’s happening in the EU and US on network neutrality and internet freedom?

149 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) has signed a letter to the US Congress in disapproval of an action taken by the independent telecom regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The letter was organized by Mariete Schaake (D66/ALDE).

Unfortunately, the MEPs who signed this letter probably are not informed on what is going on in the US. If you want the detailed version of what's happening in the United States, read this research note as I've written: The press claims that the American telecom regulator FCC killed the free Internet. Is it true?

It is such that one of my employees has a PhD. focusing on network neutrality regulation from Denmark’s Aalborg University. In addition to that, she has been very close to what is happening in the United States and as one of the people at the President's transition team (2016-2017), focused on the American Telecom Regulator FCC. In that process, she was very close to the decisions taken and she knows everything about what is happening in the United States, where she is considered one of the leading experts in the field.

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Breaking News: US telecom regulator FCC to vote on repeal of harmful net neutrality rules and restore free market Internet. EU falling further behind on broadband and 5G. Strand Consult Research Note

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) announced today a proposal to make a clean break from harmful, heavy-handed regulation of the Internet and in its place a restoration of the competition-oriented framework under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In contrast to 2015 when “The Obama FCC hid its heavy-handed Internet regulation plan from the public until two weeks AFTER the vote. Everyone will be able to read Chairman Pai's plan to restore Internet freedom tomorrow, more than three weeks BEFORE the vote," noted FCC Chair Chief of Staff Matthew Berry.

After a decade of unprecedented capture of telecom regulators by well-funded activists, Google and Netflix, the move by the FCC signals the restoration of the rule of law, freedom of choice for consumers, and a return to permission-less innovation for all Internet actors. The FCC vote will take place December 14 and if approved, restores the framework that made the US the global leader in the Internet.
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In global race for 5G, Canada's telecom regulator erects net neutrality road blocks with zero rating restrictions while Dutch court strikes them down, shifting the landscape for investment and innovation

This research note reviews last week’s developments in Canada and Netherlands on net neutrality and zero rating. Canada’s telecom regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CTRC), issued a sweeping framework on differential pricing practices.  Meanwhile the Dutch court ruled in the lawsuit of T-Mobile Netherlands against telecom regulator Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), affirming that net neutrality cannot be interpreted as ban on price discrimination. Free internet services are now legal in Netherlands.

While Canada has joined India as a country that restricts the freedom of actors to partner in the digital Internet ecosystem, most countries support price flexibility and partnerships.  Nevertheless, net neutrality rules have become a road block to 5G in many countries, and Canada’s framework solidifies the barriers.

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EU and BEREC celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution with increasing “nationalization” of the telecom industry.

While free markets may have given rise to the mobile revolution and the commercialization of the Internet, many European politicians and telecom regulators believe that centralized government and control is the way to the digital future. 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, when Vladimir Lenin established what became the Soviet state. Some may think that communism is dead, but it is in fact alive and well, dressed up in feel good/look good policies designed to help desperate politicians centralize power in bureaucratic institutions.  Look no further than roam like home and net neutrality as Soviet central planning with a human face. Strand Consult has warned about this for years. See EU Commission’s schizophrenic telecom policy: hurts investments, costs jobs, and pulls EU's digital development even further back compared to other parts of the world.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of Easter Europe was less than 30 years ago, but many have forgotten there was no telecom paradise behind the Iron Curtain. Zev Katz, an expert of Soviet history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, observed that the USSR, “…saw no great merit in devoting major resources to the development of the mass telephone network for the convenient communication between private citizens” and that the telephone system was “amongst the most underdeveloped and inefficient elements of the Soviet communications system.” The telephone existed primarily for bureaucrats, telephone books were next to non-existent, and receiving a telegram was considered a celebratory event even as late as the mid-20th century.

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Net neutrality in US vs. EU: BEREC digs in while American FCC transitions oversight to FTC. The consequences for operators, content providers, and consumers. Strand Consult Research Note

What’s happening in Europe

Yesterday the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) presented its assessmet of the reports of the 29 European nations with net neutrality rules. At 37 pages with a lot of diagrams, the report is a thin cup of tea that that doesn’t provide a true picture of what’s going on. While nearly every national regulatory authority asserts that the internet is open in their country, BEREC’s conclusion is that the rules need to be implemented even harder.

Strand Consult not only read and annotated all 29 reports, but summarized and analyzed the information in its own report, Net Neutrality in EU after 1 Year: Unintended Consequences for operators, content providers, and consumers. This report numbers over 100 pages and describes the many court cases against European regulators to which BEREC only briefly alluded to in its presentation yesterday.

In the meeting BEREC could point to no bad actor, so the meeting lacked popular appeal. As such, BEREC has launched a marketing campaign to communicate to the public what neutrality is and what they are doing to regulate it. A year ago BEREC’s message was that the public cried out for regulation. Apparently, this year they forgot all about it.

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Online activism for net neutrality activism is nothing new. Strand Consult describes how Silicon Valley regulates its competitors to maintain market dominance

It’s no surprise that online protests for net neutrality are driven by slick marketing campaigns with state of the art database, analytics and content management systems. In contrast to the homegrown, grassroots they pretend to portray, in online protests, every click is coupled with website optimization, and each user’s name is cataloged and recycled for the next campaign. The big internet companies Google, Netflix, and Amazon like to freeride on this “stick it to the man” ethos to create the appearance that they are mere proletariats. The reality is that their market cap is greater than the GDP of most countries. They do this campaigning as a way to make their employees not feel guilty about being part of the corporate machine. It’s a deceit to their employees and the public.

Silicon Valley traffics in the “free market for me, but not for thee” hypocrisy. These companies would never agree to submit to the rules they want their competitors to play by. They enjoy the freedom to manage their networks in a non-neutral fashion and a free market for their own data, but don’t want telecom operators to have such advantages because (1) that would mean competition for internet services and (2) a better experience for consumers.

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16 Questions that BEREC President Sebastian Soriano won't answer on net neutrality

During a recent speech entitled The Promises and Perils of Net Neutrality, BEREC President Sebastian Soriano stated his relief that the EU made a net neutrality law and that BEREC was enforcing it. Soriano’s speech at the Digital-born Media Carnival in Montenegro appears to be a way to profile an obscure bureaucratic institution to media hipsters in an remote European city. Tellingly the event, sponsored by UNESCO and the Dutch government (smarting from a recent smackdown of their burdensome net neutrality law), appealed to “information explorers and digital rights enthusiasts” with a professionally produced festival “teaser” of revolutionary imagery of Occupy masks, protest, and burning effigies. Naturally Soriano mentions Larry Lessig and Tim Berners-Lee, celebrated figures on the Left for their views on net neutrality, and incidentally, financially supported by Google and the Ford Foundation. The subtext is that the EU regulation is cool, so cool in fact, that the revolutionaries no longer need to design the technologies of freedom themselves; they can leave all that to the government.  

Soriano explains that the net neutrality law “…at its core, lies the safeguard of several fundamental rights which are designing Internet as an infrastructure of freedom: protection of personal data, freedom of expression and information, freedom to engage in business and innovate, non-discrimination and consumer protection.” He likens net neutrality to the First Amendment of the USA, but fails to mention that the American net neutrality rules are being challenged as a very violation of the freedom of speech. Notably the case is brought against the American telecom regulator (FCC) by Dan Berninger, the co-inventor of VOIP whose HelloDigital platform which need prioritization to deliver high definition voice to social media comments is illegal under the current US framework.

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The net neutrality debate is absurd. What’s the real threat to Internet—governments surveilling citizens or telecom operators selling subscriptions? Strand Consult Research Note

The internet, some decades old now, was birthed in part as a research project of the American military which did not want to be reliant on the Ma Bell telephone network. The Internet has transformed our world, not to mention telecommunications, and its success has caught the attention of telecom regulators. Given that so many subscribers have vacated the highly regulated public switched telephone network for mobile and internet communications, telecom regulators have scrambled to find something new to do. They promote concepts such as net neutrality and fake news to be relevant and to justify new authority to regulate new technologies. Meanwhile governments, which used to have a firm hand on communications, find themselves disrupted with the many ways that people communicate outside of their purview.

Policymakers invent problems, bogeymen, and villains to create a narrative which supports their desired regulation. Frequently the facts don’t match the reality. For example telecom operators have sold subscriptions to the internet for some 30 years; the price per megabyte has fallen in about 90%; speeds have increased 3000 percent; and people consume increasingly larger amounts to data. All the same, telecom operators are called “gatekeepers” and saddled with regulation designed to deprive them of shareholder value.

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Tesla’s bundling of zero rated Spotify with a SIM card is a violation of the EU’s net neutrality rules. Strand Consult submits complaint to two European telecom authorities.

European telecom authorities in Sweden, Netherlands, and Hungary have banned zero rated mobile services, including music streaming apps such as Spotify. American car company Telsa offers electric cars with services for music and navigation which communicate via mobile networks and embedded SIM cards. In practice Tesla is operating as an mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) and should be subject to regulation under EU and national telecom rules. Strand Consult has complained to European telecom regulators about Tesla’s violations.

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Many speculate on the future of US telecom policy. Strand Consult comments on the festive rumors from a number of media

In this research note Strand Consult reviews the President Elect Transition Team, the Trump administration, and other key actors and then describe the real policy and its impact on the telecommunication industry.  Many over-interpret the role of the transition team.  A far better indicator of policy is the Republican party platform which was released well before the election.

The Role of the Presidential Transition Team
Over the last few months there have been articles in which sensationalize the US under Trump, the new leadership at the Federal Communications Commission, and the future of American and global telecom policy. Headlines such as “Farewell to the FCC as we know it”, “This is the year Donald Trump kills net neutrality”, and so and so will “strip FCC of consumer protection" reflect the irrational and uninformed view of many journalists whose knowledge of telecom policy starts and ends with net neutrality.  The truth of the matter is that there are more important issues at stake including spectrum, cybersecurity, and billions of dollars in subsidies.

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How the telecom industry will experience disruption - threats and opportunities.

Disruption is a both a creative and destructive competitive force. Even though we have experienced convergence for decades, policymakers are reluctant to adapt regulation to the new reality. Rather than embrace a modernized competition framework across markets, regulators double-down on old-fashioned sector specific telecom regulation. Policies such as roam like home, net neutrality, set top box regulation, and aggressive access mandates, hobble telecom providers while giving over the top (OTT) players and resellers an undue advantage. These policies, propagated under the guise of “enhancing competition”, actually distort it.

To be sure, telecom regulators might not have the statutory authority to regulate international/foreign OTT providers, but that is not an excuse not to do the right thing. When telecom markets are competitive, ex ante regulation is supposed to be removed and general competition regulation put in its place.

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10 regulatory challenges that impact telecom operators and regulators.

The trends of convergence have been with us for decades. While communications, content, and computing have been converging--and even the regulators of these industries--the actual regulation has not converged, and remains sector specific.

Telecom regulators and competition authorities are challenged by these technological trends. They use toolboxes based on outdated models and assumptions. It would seem that with the emergence of Skype and WhatsApp which have singlehandedly erased 20-30 percent of the value of the telecom industry that officials would “get it”, but no. Instead they insist that the telecom industry needs even further regulation on top of the technology that has disrupted its cash flow.

Understandably telecom players ask for an even playing field with over the top providers (OTTs), but it falls on deaf ears. With unchecked OTTs, nations suffer loss of tax revenue and a 99-1 traffic distribution of their internet, in which 99% of the traffic flows to locations outside of the country. Current business models and regulation don’t allow operators to recover the cash flow they need or to partner with local content providers to make competition with Silicon Valley giants.

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If the goal of the Open Internet is to ensure users’ rights and a good network experience, why did the EU ignore 8 telecom regulators who wanted to expose bad smartphones?

Strand Consult has for many years focused on providing consumers with good mobile network experiences. In May 2013 we released the research note Telecom regulators in 8 countries launch war against smartphones, say consumers require transparency describing in how telecom regulators in 8 countries asked for EU support to expose bad smartphones.

Unfortunately, the EU closed its ears to the telecoms regulators from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden. Instead it gave overwhelming attention to Google's and other US-funded net neutrality activists.

There is much academic evidence that shows that the vast majority of poor mobile experience results not from the network, but from the phone. But this is not a sexy thing for the EU to regulate, as people love their phones and phone makers run circles around regulators. Besides, it’s just easier to blame bad experiences on mobile operators, even if there is no evidence for it. Regulation by the EU is not about righting a wrong, facilitating market entry, or creating competition. It’s about creating a story that EU is doing something for the consumer. As such, roaming and net neutrality rules were announced in time for summer vacation, but neither of these measures create jobs or stimulate growth, the point of the Digital Single Market exercise.

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10 reasons not to trust BEREC on net neutrality. The EU process to create Open Internet guidelines lacks transparency, independence and credibility. See video of debate hosted by Slovenian telecom regulator which operators are suing over zero rating.

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) is collecting feedback on its proposed net neutrality guidelines through July 18. While BEREC may claim that it is taking public input, the truth is that the de facto guidelines were made long before the public consultation started. The consultation process is just a formality to make it look like BEREC listens to the people. Substantive change to the guidelines is unlikely, so the only way to undo BEREC’s illegality is to bring attention to its secret processes.

The rules adopted by the European Parliament and subsequent agreement by the European Commission and Council represent an important compromise not to unduly hamper freedom and innovation. At the time of the Parliamentary vote in October last year, amendments crafted by Google-sponsored net neutrality advocate Barbara van Schewick were rejected. However those provisions made their way into the BEREC interpretation through a series of closed door meetings. This represents not only an violation of the EU law, but a circumvention of the democratic process.

At the launch of the guidelines on June 6, BEREC Chair Willem Eschweiler pronounced, “We are not making new rules.” This is reminiscent of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chair Tom Wheeler announcing his effort with the line, “We are not regulating the Internet”. The truth is in the contradiction. The real story is the opposite of what is said.

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Dutch telecom regulator ACM hires Google to measure speed of Internet, empowers consumers to make complaints based on bogus data

Dutch telecom regulator Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) announced the launch of an Internet speed tool based on MLab, a partnership of Google, New America Foundation, and Princeton University. ACM said such measurement is a requirement stipulated by the new EU net neutrality rules. Should the measurements not match the contracted speeds in the contract, the consumer is able to recover fees from the telecom operator. The measurement tool is not certified and the ACM says its cooperation is preliminary, but the ACM nevertheless encourages users to adopt the tool, which unwittingly sends bogus data to the regulator and users’ personal data to Google. This research note describes some of the problems of MLab measurement, the technical limitation of broadband providers’ ability to offer speed guarantees, and the moral hazard to which ACM exposes users.  Additionally Strand Consult describes the many challenges in measuring the quality of the mobile network. Its report "The experienced mobile coverage - what is bogus and what are the facts?" documents that various measurements based on mobile apps and crowdsourcing are worthless and do not provide an accurate picture mobile coverage.

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Net neutrality advocates are the new ambulance chasers in EU. They write the rules, create the complaints, and bully the regulators into adjudication. Small telecom operators don’t know what’s about to hit them.

An ambulance chaser is a lawyer who follows an ambulance to the emergency room, hoping to make clients out of victims. The proper term is barratry, overzealous prosecution of rules for the purpose of profit or harassment. Having succeeded to promulgate net neutrality rules in 50 countries, net neutrality advocates now use the rules they wrote, to define and submit egregious complaints about telecom operators. Concurrently they pressure telecom regulators to enforce rules, frequently for illegitimate infractions. If regulators don’t respond the way advocates want, then advocates intimidate them with negative press coverage and targeted clicktivist campaigns. The use of such pseudo-public pressure to censor, intimidate, and silence critics is also a form of barratry, and there are rules against it in a number of countries.

The work of net neutrality advocacies is by no means done. Getting rules on the books is just the beginning. The philanthropic foundations that fund net neutrality indicate that they will continue funding. This means that advocacy organizations will lodge complaints about whatever suits the funders’ whim and financial portfolio. Netflix wants price controls for “free” interconnection and overbuilt network capacity. Google wants reduced copyright restrictions. Established advertising platforms want to limit the entry of broadband providers with asymmetric privacy obligations. These and other concerns will fall under the “open internet” grab bag which is designed to deprive operators of their property and force them to provide their services for free.

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The EU’s net neutrality rules and BEREC's implementation guidelines are a threat to Gay Mobile and other niche MVNOs that want differentiate themselves.

Last week the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) presented its guidelines for national regulatory authorities to implement the EU’s Open Internet rules. While the EU may have agreed on rules, in practice, it is BEREC's interpretation that decides what is allowed. BEREC has an expansive interpretation of net neutrality (a term never used in the EU rules), has introduced services to regulate that are not found in the official EU rules, and seeks to scrutinize ways that operators can earn revenue in future.

This is particularly bad news for mobile network virtual operators or MNVOs, which don’t own their networks, but need the ability to differentiate themselves to different market segments. This note describes the efforts of a number of important niche MVNOs. We describe a variety of MNVOs service specific communities, including military veterans, low-income inner city communities, and the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LBGT) community. However this analysis applies to a variety of niche, ethnic, religious, and other communities which wish to use creative business models and unique content. The analysis show that their growth will be imparied if BEREC’s implementation guidelines don’t change. Essentially the regulations and their interpretation will cement the market positions of Google and Apple, those companies which own and operate the apps stores which are the heart of the mobile content industry.

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The European telecoms regulator BEREC launched a hearing on implementing the net neutrality rules - most telecom operators do not have the knowledge or the documentation required to make a serious response

Net neutrality and “open internet” regulation is a major subject globally. Some 50 nations around the world now have rules, and the number is growing. Given the speed of rulemaking and limited regulatory impact assessment, many have difficulty understanding what net neutrality is, how the regulation works in practice, and how to have a meaningful dialogue on the issue with many different stakeholders.

In the coming month operators will respond to the BEREC consultation. Many of the operators fail to make a compelling response either because they lack the knowledge, are not able to communicate in an effective way, or they are afraid to take a strong position.

In general, we find that operators are both arrogant and ignorant; arrogant that they need to acknowledge the activist element, but also ignorant in the important academic information that can bolster their case. Most important, operators are outmatched when it comes to the global, coordinated, and sophisticated campaigns orchestrated by internet activists. These groups run circles around the operators.

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How will a BREXIT impact telecom regulation in Europe? John Strand: "It will be a regulatory nightmare for telecom operators."

Leading up the referendum on June 23, there are many articles which attempt to analyze the economic and political consequences of whether the United Kingdom will BREXIT (British exit) or BREMAIN (British remain) in the EU, but none have investigated the impact to telecom policy and regulation. Taking into account how EU telecom policy has worked over the years, this research note explores the angle from mobile telecom operators’ perspective and how EU politicians and regulators will likely respond.

For starters, the EU is not popular among many Europeans, and its leaders have not been able to communicate to ordinary people what the EU project is about. In practice, EU skeptical parties prosper. A number of referendums have not gone in favor of the EU. In December 2015 Denmark said No the EU, declining adopting a number of new EU rules. It looks as if the UK may say no the EU too, and bid farewell to the EU. Yet another spike could be hammered in the EU coffin.

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Net neutrality: Feelings may be justified in the debate, but there is no excuse not to follow an evidence-based approach to regulation
- A complex debate
There is no doubt that the net neutrality debate is complicated. Each country considering net neutrality rules has its own definition—from notions that all traffic should move at the same speed across a network to rules that enshrine modular internet architecture to other definitions. In a number of countries, calls for net neutrality have been coupled with arguments for freedom of speech, freedom from censorship, and respect of privacy.
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Net neutrality is place or on track in at least 50 countries – Strand Consult’s new report compares the rules, legal instruments, provisions, and outcomes
Strand Consult provides evidence-based research and analysis about the telecom industry, and has studied net neutrality in detail for some years. While most articles and reports about net neutrality focus on theoretical aspects, Strand Consult’s report is perhaps the only comprehensive, empirical investigation of net neutrality, looking at countries before and after rules are implemented.

The report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders' Arguments gathers all the information that you need in one place, including a summary and breakdown of the world’s rules by country, background on the key supporters and opponents, the 30 arguments for and against net neutrality, a review of the debates on zero rating and prioritization, and the academic background on net neutrality. Additionally our analysis show the emerging unintended consequences in countries with net neutrality rules including increased regulation on other parts of the internet ecosystem, increased broadband prices, copyright enforcement, privacy regulation, and increased surveillance.
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Why did BEREC invite Google’s top net neutrality lobbyist to write the telecom rules

The process to write the implementation guidelines of EU’s Open Internet rules is led by a self-proclaimed net neutrality activist from a non-EU telecom regulator with the help of Google’s top de facto lobbyist from Silicon Valley.

The EU Director General for Competition or DG Comp has floundered for years to bring antitrust action against Google. In spite of half a dozen investigations over the last decade, no meaningful remedies have been exacted on the company. Nearing its 20th birthday, Google enjoys a monopoly not just in search and mobile operating systems, but significant market power in video, comparison shopping, web browsers, web analytics, maps, and email. But the EU only has itself to blame for Google’s monopolies in the these markets. Given the European Commission’s schizophrenic approach to telecom, Google is rational to create and take advantage of fiscal and regulatory arbitrage. While one branch of EU government attempts antitrust enforcement against Google, another strengthens the company’s power through Open Internet rulemaking, a policy that restricts how European providers and startups can compete against Google and serve European end users.

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Response to Norwegian telecom regulator on zero rating

The Norwegian Communications Authority (NPT) recently published a blog on Net neutrality and charging models in which it suggests that operators should be prohibited from using zero rated subscription models. NPT can be commended for its opennes by posting its blogs in English (making the content more accessible and searchable) and by publishing the direct contact information of its employees. Norway has an impressive record on net neutrality, not only for its leadership in addressing the issue early on, but in a voluntary, co-regulatory approach which has succeeded to deter violations for 5 years and running. The Norwegian approach proves that supporting an Open Internet is already in the business interests of operators, and ex ante regulation is not needed to force operators to do what they want to do anyway.

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10 reasons why journalists should not interest themselves with net neutrality rules being introduced in the EU and around the world to regulate the telecom industry
Many talk about net neutrality but few have spent the time needed to understand the complex topic. Not only are net neutrality rules being proposed around the world, but they are increasingly coupled with proposals for regulation of the internet and internet companies.

Strand Consult’s team of top academics has studied this issue in detail to produce a report “Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders' Arguments”, 340 pages that explore the issue in various countries around the world. To date, a number of media have covered the sensational aspects of the issue, but few have investigated the unintended consequences of the rules that could impact the entire internet ecosystem.
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The Internet is a haven for terrorists and psychopaths. Making net neutrality rules is probably one way for governments to legitimize more control over the Internet.

The Internet is wonderful. In addition to all of the commercial opportunities it affords, it enables unprecedented opportunities for communication.

But the Internet is also a playground for terrorists and psychopaths. In a matter of minutes, terrorists can announce that they have taken a journalist hostage and then upload a video of his execution. To be sure, such behavior should be condemned, but the fact remains that the Internet allows terrorists visibility and impact that they didn’t have before.

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Net neutrality on trial in the USA: What the oral arguments in the American court mean for telecom operators in the EU and the rest of the world. A report from Washington.

On Wednesday 9 December 2015 the European Commission is scheduled to present legislative proposals for the Digital Single Market which include rules for net neutrality. To many it may seem yet another boring piece of paper from the European Union, but not for mobile, cable and telecom operators. Regulation can have major impact on those those which develop innovative digitally connected services.

While the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) presses forward with its net neutrality framework to be presented in September 2016, it appears that the Federal Communication Commission’s plan for the “Open Internet” is unraveling. A three panel court in Washington criticized the regulator for failing to follow instructions on how such rules should be created. Not only are its rules threatened to be disqualified for procedural reasons, much of the FCC’s Open Internet Order may be unlawful.

For the last few years Strand Consult has analyzed net neutrality and its impact on investment and innovation in some 50 countries. It has a produced a comprehensive report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments. In more than 450 pages, it describes what operators need to know about this issue and the key arguments that stakeholders make for and against it.

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What Norway's telecom regulator forgot to say about net neutrality rules in the US

A week ago NKOM, Norway's teleocm regulator, released a blog comparing US and Norwegian approaches to net neutrality rules. This note critiques NKOM’s analysis and includes the important points about the American rules which NKOM failed to mention.

Strand Consult has made a detailed analysis of the more than 20 countries with net neutrality rules and the various legal instruments used. The US is unique where the telecom regulator attempts to create rules from existing telecom regulation, and it has been struck down in court twice for exceeding its authority. It now faces it’s third attempt.

As for the rest of the world, net neutrality is pursued either through parliamentary legislation or multi-stakeholder dialogue. The soft approach, as pursued in Norway, has been more successful to deter net neutrality violations than hard law. Moreover, society wins with a lower cost model of regulation and reduced risk of regulatory errors. If the US wants a sustainable net neutrality solution, Congress, not the FCC, must act.

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Why ad blocking, a form of digital self-defense, is not a net neutrality violation. Strand Consult Research Note

Now a $100 billion business globally, mobile ads account for about 20 percent of the data traffic consumed on a typical mobile subscription. This is frequently traffic that subscribers don’t want and haven’t asked for. Video ads, in particular, slow the Internet experience and can render in such a way to obstruct the actual content the user requests, not to mention burn out the device battery and run up the customer’s data charges. Not only are some ads irrelevant to users, a number may be infiltrated with “malvertising”, the malicious practice of embedding malware within legitimate advertising (or even running parallel to legitimate advertising), which can infect users’ systems without even clicking on the ads.

Moreover mobile ads are not passive. You can’t change the channel or leave to the room to avoid exposure. Digital ads are integrated with advanced ad serving technologies to collect information about the users’ behavior which is aggregated and offered to advertisers to help them make their ad placing decisions. Understandably at least 200 million users have downloaded ad blocking software to protect their user experience and economize on their mobile subscription. The market for ad blocking is a big and growing, as consumers use these tools as a form of digital self-defense.

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The national broadcasting and media companies in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, UK and other European countries should support their local internet providers in net neutrality discussion. They’re in the same boat as telecom companies and have the same challenges. Norway has the right idea with a soft approach to net neutrality.
Strand Consult has followed the net neutrality debate for some years. Our report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders' Arguments looks at how the debate plays out in different countries and the various stakeholders. Those who believe that “hard” approach, or legislation, is the way to preserve net neutrality are misguided. Any law creates winners and losers and that opens the door to endless challenges and litigation. Given the the theory of rational expectations, any rule that unduly punishes one party creates an incentive for a legal workaround.

Norway has the right idea to pursue net neutrality with a soft approach. In Norway stakeholders including internet service providers, content companies, application developers, consumers, and government come together for an ongoing dialogue to create win-win solutions. More important, Norway has chosen a model which builds consensus between national actors that contribute financially to Norwegian society.
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Operators should be the world’s leading consumer organizations. How operators lost consumers’ trust and how they can get it back.
It’s an irony that the world’s operators, which provide communication services, should frequently do such a poor job at communicating. There are few services in the world more demanded than mobility and connectivity, and yet operators who provide these essential capabilities are maligned. Given that people love to communicate, they should love their mobile operator, the same way they love their phones, cars and other personal devices. In this research note, we look at the challenges operators face and how they could address them.

Operators have lost customers’ trust because of the proliferation of misguided regulation that drives a wedge between operators and their customers and because of a lack of leadership in the policy dialogue.
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Netflix Q3 shareholder letter reveals PR tactics to shakedown telco and content industries and to influence regulators
There is more to Netflix’s success in being the world’s leading on-demand over the top (OTT) video service than good content and cool technology. To grow to more than 50 million members in more than 40 countries requires a shrewd public reations (PR) and policy game to paint itself as the fragile underdog to regulators, journalists and the public while it fiercely lobbies for regulation against the telecom and content industries.

Netflix’s recent 3rd quarter financial letter to shareholders provides salient examples of its powerful double-talk. The company notes that even though it missed some of its numbers for the US, “There is no change to our view on the long term attractiveness and US market size of Internet television, and no change to our view of the ultimate size of our US membership.“ We find it interesting that the company that so maligns broadband providers has managed to build a successful, profitable and growing business on top of their networks. Indeed if broadband networks were not up to speed in the US and around the world, Netflix would still be a DVD-by-mail company.
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Net neutrality: Telecom operators, act now or be left on the platform when the EU net neutrality train leaves the station August 18
Many talk about net neutrality in the European Union but few understand the consequences for industry, innovation and consumers. The deadline for input to the EU’s net neutrality rules is August 18, just at the launch of the Italian presidency. Net neutrality, if imposed in Europe, will be a paradigm shift and have an drastic impact on the already ailing telecom industry in Europe.
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AT&T’s Sponsored Data is nothing new. Why it’s hypocritical to allow paywalls but not data caps.
Over the last few days there have been some negative stories about AT&T’s new Sponsored Data program which enables certain mobile applications to avoid being counted toward a subscriber’s data cap. AT&T compared the product to the toll-free 1-800 services with which Americans are familiar. However this product is very common with dozens of mobile providers around the world that regularly offer data plans where certain content and applications are not counted toward the data cap. Consumers in these countries don’t complain of net neutrality violations, rather they look for mobile providers to offer them value for money.
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American telecom regulator FCC just released 400 pages of net neutrality rules - Get a review and assessment of rules and likely legal challenges in the 3rd edition of Strand Consult's report: Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders' Arguments

A number of countries have made net neutrality rules or are in the process of doing so. Most operators have experienced political interests that want to regulate and control the Internet. The FCC’s rules set a new standard in the demands they place on the industry—and also in their scope which could be used to regulate internet companies, the very service and application providers that the rules purport to protect.

If you think that the so-called Title II regulations in the United States only apply to telecommunications companies, you are wrong. The FCC has chosen to classify broadband under the regulations of the monopoly telephone era, a sharp reversal of its policy that allowed broadband to be relatively free from regulation. In so doing, the FCC opens the Internet to hundreds of rules and provisions. Anything that the FCC deems a telecommunications service, “transmission between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing”, could be regulated. The FCC has also created the ability to hear disputes and bring actions against companies using a“standard of conduct” clause. Interconnection may be the first battle.

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Should you trust Sir Tim Berners-Lee on net neutrality?
Strand Consult eagerly awaits action from the Juncker team, particularly Andrus Ansip, VP for the Digital Single Market. In our earlier research note, we observed that Ansip in his confirmation speech reiterated the goals first described by Neelie Kroes, but were ultimately not delivered. Kroes lost political capital on net neutrality, and Ansip does not want to make the same mistake. He has come out with in support for the notion even though it contradicts his libertarian roots.

Politicians engage in feel-good, look-good populist rhetoric about net neutrality where emotions substitute for facts, but it’s a slippery slope. As has been revealed on numerous occasions, most recently this week in the US with the FCC rejecting two Congressional bills that would enshrine net neutrality in favor of regulating the industry under the monopoly era framework of Title II, net neutrality is probably a Trojan horse for continued regulation of the telecom industry with the ultimate goal to turn private networks into public utilities.
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Net neutrality campaigns have succeeded to make toxic rules in the US. India is the next target. The Indian regulator’s process to solicit comment on OTT will likely be hijacked by activists.
Like regulators in other countries, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India seeks to update its regulatory framework to incorporate the role of over the top (OTT) services and applications in competition. TRAI offers an open process where anyone can submit comments. This process which is supposed to solicit authentic and informed comment is easily gamed with digital tools by advocacy organizations expert at conducting global campaigns from a distance. Of the alleged 4 million comments submitted to the FCC, just 1000 submissions had substance. The vast majority of comments were computer-generated form letters, many of which came from outside the United States. American media have already attempted to smear the regulatory process in India to catalyze net neutrality advocates to action.

A number of countries have made net neutrality rules or are in the process of doing so. Most operators have experienced the political interests to regulate and control the Internet. The FCC’s rules set a new standard in the demands they place on the industry—and also in their scope which could be used to regulate internet companies themselves, the very service and application providers that the rules purport to protect.
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Tier 0: A new category of telecom operators is born. The reign of Tier 1 operators such as Orange, Vodafone, Telefonica, and Deutsche Telekom is over.

A Tier 1 telecom operator owns a telecom network in which it is the top level operator. It hosts its own numbers and delivers voice and data services. Tier 2, 3 and 4 operators operate their own numbering systems, and they may own some amount of network, but generally they purchase access to higher tier networks to deliver services. Like other operators, a Tier 0 operator has its own system to manage users. However unlike Tier 2-4 operators, Tier 0 operators don’t not have to purchase network access to provide their services. Instead they create services through technology innovation, and the Tier 1-4 operators have to deliver the Tier 0 services for free.

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EU Vote on Roaming Net Neutrality: Monitoring citizens’ mobile use is okay, but don’t touch the internet
The proposal adopted by EU parliament today will not solve the big problems there are in the EU when it comes to providing citizens with access to broadband infrastructure.
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EU telecom regulation is the art of the possible. This week’s ITRE Committee vote kills net neutrality to save free roaming. But rest assured that net neutrality will be resurrected, once EU leaders have assured their re-election

While the EU Commission has pursued a lot of nice-sounding policies, it has avoided fundamental reforms that would reverse Europe from falling behind in the digital economy. When it comes to the digital single market, EU leaders have shown that the next election is more important than Europe’s competitiveness in the global economy. Strand Consult’s report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments reviews Europe’s many economic challenges and examines EU telecom regulation and politics.

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Are mobile operators' subsidies for iPhones a violation of net neutrality and the Open Internet?

Network neutrality, which has been defined differently from country to country, is essentially the idea that all data should move at the same speed across the internet—and that laws should be passed require operators to manage their networks accordingly. Traffic management was less of an issue in the narrowband era when it mattered little if an email arrived with a few seconds delay. In the broadband era, however, different applications require different qualities of service. Latency makes voice over internet protocol (VOIP) and video application unworkable, but the signal from a coffee machine connected to the internet can be delivered with less than best efforts service.

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The net neutrality debate will explode in the coming months. Many telecom operators are not prepared.
Here are the 30 arguments that proponents of net neutrality will use in the debate.
The net neutrality debate as measured by the number of articles and tweets has been is growing steadily over the past few weeks. Strand Consult has followed this topic for years and observes that many operators are not prepared to participate in this debate where they play a central role. The report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments investigates the challenges facing the telecom industry and reviews what has happened and what will likely happen in a number of countries on this issue.
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Net neutrality is shaping up to be the key debate for the telecom industry in Europe in 2014
Here are four risks operators face
The telecom industry is accustomed to a transparent regulatory process where rules are clear, and each party gets the chance to express its opinion. With the net neutrality debate, those days are over. Using social media and the press, small actors can exert an outsized influence on the debate. Operators will come under fire when and where they least expect it, and they will likely be attacked for a mistake.

The EU Commission has a proposal for net neutrality, and many supporters of the issue want to bring it forward in the European Parliament. These include the Council of Europe, the OECD, the World Bank, telecom regulators, various political advocacy groups, and luminaries such as Tim Berners Lee.
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Google, Apple and Microsoft discriminate in many ways
When it comes to net neutrality, why don’t people talk about operating systems?
Many are talking about net neutrality, and it is high on the EU’s policymaking agenda. The debate about the open internet is important, but the discussion is one-sided. Net neutrality supporters focus exclusively on internet service providers (ISPs) and overlook the many instances of discrimination across the internet value chain - operating systems, web platforms and devices.
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