NY Times discovers true network neutrality (in Europe), but focuses on the wrong issue

by Esme Vos, MuniWireless

The New York Times featured an article today on the European Commission's continued struggle to create more competition in the market for broadband services, notably, Commissioner Viviane Reding's push for functional separation of the infrastructure and services businesses within large telecommunications companies. Functional separation is a better way to guarantee network neutrality than regulations that attempt to define and legislate it.

Unfortunately, the title of the NYT article is Regulator in Europe Proposes a Superagency to Wield Power Over Its Phone Markets. Like most American mainstream papers, the Times plays on Americans' fear of big government and regulation, where every government intervention (including those necessary to keep up infrastructure like old bridges) is considered bad.

Excerpt from the NYT article:

"But while broad consumer support helped push political passage of the mobile phone roaming limits, a plan to create a Brussels superagency that could intervene in domestic markets lacks natural consumer appeal and faces formidable industry opposition."

Lacks consumer appeal? Is the NYT kidding? The last time I checked, most Europeans loathe their local telecom incumbent just a little bit more than they despise their cable operator. Anyone who breaks the power of the incumbent wins the popular vote.

Has the European Commission been successful in diminishing the power of incumbents? Yes, but not enough and that's why Reding is on the war path again.

Indeed, telcos are hopping mad and running scared. The Times even quotes their industry association saying:

"We believe that competition is more vibrant than ever, and that functional separation would be a terrible idea," said Michael Bartholomew, director of the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association, which represents 41 operators in 34 countries.

Well, the Commission is right on target then if the telecoms association thinks functional separation is a bad idea.

Sometimes you need regulations to create a competitive marketplace. A superagency might be just the thing the EU needs right now especially since the former monopolies still wield tremendous market power in the EU member states. In the end European consumers benefit via lower broadband prices, more choice among providers, more varied broadband infrastructure like fiber, WiMAX, Wi-Fi, cable and good old copper.

article originally published at http://www.muniwireless.com/article/articleview/6320/1/2.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey