BEREC (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) issued draft guidelines to help Europe’s National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) to interpret the European Net Neutrality rules that were finalized in November 2015. The rules and guidelines don’t appear to address Sandvine’s Business Intelligence, Cyber Security, Subscriber Engagement, and Business Services suites of solutions.
There are some important guidelines, however, with respect to Sandvine’s Subscriber Services and Traffic Optimization portfolios but, as in the United States, it seems that communications service providers (CSPs) can launch well-executed new services that employ zero-rating and engage in reasonable traffic management to manage congestion. Sandvine’s Best Practices for Zero-Rating and Sponsored Data, and reasonable network management under Net Neutrality both appear to be consistent with BEREC’s guidelines on these topics.
Here is a very high level summary of some relevant BEREC guidelines:
- Offers that block access to certain applications or services or only offer “part” of the Internet are not allowed. This requirement appears to be targeted at European offers that blocked the use of VoIP services under their plans.
- CSPs can’t contractually prevent the practice of tethering.
- Zero-rating is allowed if it follows the spirit of the rules. In particular, it is safer under the guidelines to zero-rate a class of applications versus individual applications. Country-specific factors relating to the competitive environment and market power can be taken into account.
- Sponsored data (where a third party pays for or subsidizes the cost of certain bandwidth, such as a game developer paying for downloads of its new game) was not addressed at all.
- Reasonable traffic management to address network congestion is allowed and should be based on technical factors (not commercial), to improve the quality of experience for all users. The measures should be proportional in duration and scope to the problem.
- “Specialized services” are only going to be allowed under very precise conditions when QoS can’t otherwise be guaranteed by an internet access service, and when such services don’t compromise the quality of an internet access service.
A public consultation period to comment on the draft guidelines is now open and will close July 18th. Final guidelines will be published by BEREC by August 30, 2016.
Again, European CSPs may want to review Sandvine’s Best Practices documents as a starting point for navigating these newly interpreted rules.