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Monday, March 12, 2012
Net Neutrality Study Shows Excessive Blocking and Throttling Internet Traffic in Europe

Blocking VoIP and peer-to-peer (p2p) Internet traffic is common in the European Union, said E.U. regulator BEREC, leading to calls for an E.U. net neutrality law.

Last week BEREC submitted to the European Commission (EC) its preliminary findings on reported Internet traffic management practices, following a Europe-wide data collection exercise launched jointly with the Commission in December 2011.

According to the report, the most frequently reported traffic management practices are the blocking and/or throttling of peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic, on both fixed and mobile networks, and the blocking of Voice over IP (VoIP) traffic (mostly on mobile networks, usually based on specific contract terms). When blocking/throttling is implemented in the network, it is typically done through deep packet inspection (DPI).

Beyond this, BEREC has found a very wide range of practices across Europe, and an equally wide range of implementation methods and policy justifications for them. About one quarter of respondents provide justifications for certain traffic management practices based on what could be described as "security and integrity" concerns (e.g. controlling "spam" traffic) ? though some of these traffic management measures are best described as congestion management techniques.

About one third of the fixed operators manage their networks in order to offer specialised services (for the provision of facilities - based applications, e.g. telephony or TV) alongside a (public and best efforts) Internet access service.

BEREC also found a wide variety of data caps and "fair use" practices - these were not the main focus of its investigation, since (with some exceptions) in general they do not imply differentiated treatment of traffic.

BEREC is now in the process of validating, consolidating and categorising the data, and intends to publish its findings during the second quarter of this year. This European overview will also feed into other BEREC work streams on the subject of net neutrality, one report on competition issues and one set of guidelines on minimum quality of service requirements, both of which BEREC intends to publish for public consultation this summer.

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