Europe’s regulators should reconsider draft Open Internet guidelines in two key areas: technology mandates and specialised services

As the digital revolution continues and new economies take shape, building the right framework for an open Internet is crucial. Cisco has been closely following Europe’s efforts and welcomed the Regulation that was agreed by EU legislators introducing the principle of net neutrality, and a clear ban against blocking services and anti-competitive behaviour.

This week we have sent our feedback to the Bureau of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) in response to its consultation on net neutrality guidelines. In that document we called on BEREC to review the draft guidelines to ensure innovation, competition and growth of digital businesses aren’t restricted in the quest for an open internet.

At Cisco we are concerned that there is a fundamental difference between the agreed EU Regulation and proposed language and guidance being created in the draft BEREC guidelines. If adopted as drafted, the balance of the EU Regulation would be skewed. It would introduce unnecessary restrictions and conditions beyond those approved by EU legislators, and it would be bad news for consumers and businesses alike.

To be clear, our concerns centre on two key issues:

  • technology mandates for how to deliver specialised services
  • limitation on the kind of services that can be delivered as specialised services

Technology mandates

Our first concern relates to the introduction of technology mandates on how specialised services are delivered  – based on today’s technologies. As we are facing a fundamental shift in network architecture and design, these technology mandates could potentially prevent European businesses and citizens from being able to reap the benefits of the new technologies being developed.

For example, the new guidelines could inhibit the growth and development of services such as home health care or home security surveillance and prevent them from being delivered with the most efficient and best available technology. So let’s make sure future technologies to deliver specialised services are not precluded because they don’t fit a predefined mandate based of today’s capabilities.

For good reason, the Regulation avoided technology mandates, and the guidelines should keep this flexibility and open up potential paths to future digital innovation.

Limitation on specialised services – when a best effort is no longer ‘good enough”

Our second concern relates to limitations of the kind of services that can be delivered as a specialised services. The draft BEREC guidelines seem to indicate that service providers would only be allowed to deliver managed and optimised services when regulators deem that the quality is insufficient or not ‘good enough’ as a best effort service.

We need to ask ourselves a simple question:  will the current proposal have the unintended consequence of rolling back services that internet users have come to expect and rely on, like for example Voice over LTE (VoLTE)? What about high quality videoconferencing services? You may get a ‘good enough’ service over the internet, but if you are working from home or on the move, you may want to choose a high quality video conference or TelePresence service with reliability and voice and video quality levels that you may not be able to get as a best effort service over the internet. Will this still be allowed?

We all want guidelines that are right for the future – not just right now — and which adequately support the digital transformation of industries and societies, and therefore deliver long-term and broad-based gains for Europe. It is not about creating a fast or slow lane for traffic or asking for carve-outs for specific technologies, but about meeting customers demands and requirements to deliver next generation applications and services.

We therefore urge BEREC to reconsider the draft guidelines in these areas to ensure that European businesses remain competitive globally, and that European citizens are able to reap the benefits of digitisation.

Please download our response to the BEREC guidelines here.



Pastora Valero

Senior Vice President, International Government Affairs

Government Affairs