back to article Brussels threatens to name ISPs with 'doubtful' market practices

The European Union's digital agenda commissioner warned today that she would consider prohibiting "the blocking of lawful services or applications" if some ISPs are found to have "ripped off" consumers on connection speeds. Neelie Kroes said that between now and end of 2011, member states will come under scrutiny from …


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  1. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Black Helicopters


    "I pulled you over because you were only going 3.5 MB/s on a 5MB/s connection. Could I see your license, insurance and computer registration please?"

  2. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Up


    At last, some value from taxes paid!

  3. DF118
    Thumb Up

    Gotta love Steely Neelie

    A conservative with both principles and balls. Not many of them around.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Yes but will they have the cajones?

    To take BT to task for all their shoddy network, last mile problems, lack of investment in infrastructure, secretly sniffing all customer data?

    I thought not.

    And VM, you'd better watch out as well -- you've pissed off a might vociferous group of IT folks with the BlooperFlub thus wrecking your installed base.

    Why Paris you may ask -- she's transparent and this will just be a.n.other EU Quango...

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I wonder

    if BT and Virgin will end up on her hit lost

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe she could bring back the death penalty for companies that don't know what "unlimited" means.

    And while we're on the subject of English, wtf does "tasked" mean?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "And while we're on the subject of English, wtf does "tasked" mean?"

      The Pentagon's fondness for converting nouns to verbs.

      I can just about handle tasked.

      I have a *real* problem with NASA's fondness for "moded" that's mode-ed, not modified, as in "The GPC switch is moded to manual."

  7. DT

    How about this for a solution....

    force ISPs to advertise and charge based upon the minimum speed, rather than the current BS of "UP TO ...."

    1. ZweiBlumen

      Minimum speed = 0kb/s???

      Good idea, but given contention ratio's at up to 50:1is it actually possible to guarantee ANY speed at all?

  8. Piloti
    Thumb Down

    This is very tight lbne she is treading.....

    Kroes said: "Mark my words: if measures to enhance competition are not enough to bring internet providers to offer real consumer choice, I am ready to prohibit the blocking of lawful services or applications. It's not OK for Skype and other such services to be throttled. That is anti-competitive. It's not OK to rip off consumers on connection speeds."

    What she is inferring is that services like Skype must be carried, gratis, by the ISP and said ISP must continue to support more and more bandwidth hungry sites and services, for next to diddly squat in returns.

    And here in lay the great dilemma around two tier internet etc, and some companies paying for their traffic to be given priority.

    I do have some sympathy with the ISP here I have to say, but equally I am not in favour of a two tier system.

    The problem I have with Kroes is that, once again, she seems to be shoving her enormous beak into things from which she should keep out. Net neutrality is a bit of a complicated minefield and there are some very good arguments on both sides. I find myself sliding around on this, not really sure where I sit. Kroes seems to have made her mind up and is now telling everybody else that need to agree with her, or she will revoke the licence.

    can Kroes do that ? I have to say, that would be a very interesting one to see in a court of Law.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      That word you keep using...

      No, what she's IMPLYING ISPs should carry the traffic their subscribers have paid for. Two fails in one sentence :-)

      Beyond that, I broadly agree with you.

      1. Piloti
        Thumb Down

        @"Captain"? BP

        No, I said infer and I meant infer.

        To imply is to indicate by suggestion rather than explicit reference.

        Where as Neellie says she will deduce from evidence and reasoning rather than from explicit statements. And that, as far the OED [Oxford English Dictionary : a big book that tells you the meaning of words] is concerned, is the definition of infer.

        It is a simple mistake for people to make, and you've made it again.

        Sorry old /chap/.

        1. James Micallef Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          You're correct about the use of 'infer'...

          ...but, I believe, wrong about your main argument: "What she is inferring is that services like Skype must be carried, gratis, by the ISP"

          No, she is not implying in any way that services be carried gratis - customers should pay for the bandwidth they consume. What she is saying is that if I, as an ISP, have sold my customer a package with a given bandwidth, then it is the customer's choice to use that bandwidth for whatever service they choose

          "and said ISP must continue to support more and more bandwidth hungry sites and services," well, duh! I expect my ISP to reinvest a good chunk of profits to improving their network, and with technology improvements I expect that the service will get faster and faster for a constant price paid by the consumer.

          The real problem is that ISPs are vastly overselling their bandwidth to an extent that they cannot deliver on their promised service delivery, and have to resort to throttle high-volume services to keep their networks up. This overselling also means that they don't generate enough money to reinvest in the networks. Consumers are partly to blame for expecting the (virtual) earth for 20 quid a month, but of course they expect this because of weaselly advertising on the ISP's part.

          Solutions? Advertising honesty (an oxymoron if there ever was one, which is why EU-level enforcement is needed), higher broadband prices to reflect the real value of the service (how much is true 'unlimited' worth?? I don't know but surely more than most people are currently paying ) and ISPs reinvesting those higher prices in their networks rather than pocketing the difference.

    2. Svein Skogen

      You're forgetting something.

      Skype has already paid for their connection to the internet. So has the user. If the service providers inbetween can't provide the bandwidth they are selling., they're not pricing it correctly, or they're selling stuff they have no intention of delivering (isn't that a con job?)


  9. Alain
    Thumb Up

    Oh yes M'am, please DO come see what's going on here in France

    We have the worst of the worst with Orange and SFR. Please do come kick their butts!

    For exemple Orange is throttling down traffic from Megaupload to a point it is completely unusable during peak hours, and they're strongly denying doing so.

    At the same time people using other ISPs are having no problem with MU.

  10. lIsRT

    abc and/or 123

    "What she is inferring is that services like Skype must be carried, gratis, by the ISP and said ISP must continue to support more and more bandwidth hungry sites and services, for next to diddly squat in returns."

    Good grief.

    Trying to fully express what I think of that post would probably result in an incoherent rant leading to justified moderation.

    I do not expect my ISP to "carry Skype gratis".

    I do not expect them to "support more and more bandwidth hungry sites and services".

    I do not expect them to do all this "for next to diddly squat in returns".

    I expect them to allow me to use the Skype program (and others) to send and receive up to 50GB of data packets in exchange for giving them £19.99 plus VAT per month.

    If an inferior ISP lets its marketroids write the publicised terms and conditions (which can only be profitable with underhand tactics like throttling certain types of packet and imposing secret caps on the amount of data transferred), then they deserve whatever Neelie can throw at them.

    Hopefully it will drive customers to those businesses who are actually honest about what they can deliver.

  11. E 2

    Brussels' heart is in the right place

    There are problems though.

    Whether ones' high speed connection is in fact provisioned at the rated speed is difficult to measure.

    In Canada the ISPs advertize speeds "up to" the advertized speed. The ISPs I've dealt with have a web app to measure the speed - it pumps data from a source in the head office to my computer using HTTP. This is fine.

    Whether an ISP is secretly rate limiting certain kinds of traffic (can we say Bittorrent?) is more difficult to measure. Again the Bittorrent example - how does one measure a torrent swarm's speed in a manner acceptable in court, much less prove whether the ISP has a (possibly undocumented) traffic tier policy?

    CA ISPs are not AFIAK regulated by laws wrt traffic prioritization or app level protocol traffic throttles. It is known that many of the larger ISPs want to rate limit certain kinds of traffic... it is not known if those ISPs comply with CRTC 'recommendations'.

  12. Arthur Dent

    Looks a bit incoherent to me

    It's fine by me if Kroess tries to enforce some honesty in advertising by ISPs. In fact if she does that so that we can have a sensible market for ISP services it will be an excellent thing. However a single figure for bit rate would not be a reasonable way of describing the service, since their is contention. It has to be somethink like a maximum figure, an mean figure, a median figure, and a minimum figure where the figures are to be measured over say a 1 second interval. And there has to be an equally good description of the upload speeds. However, her rhetoric seems to indicate that's she's been taken in by the ridiculous claims of the network neutrality advocates that the development of new network facilities which are charged differently will destroy the internet; so she may have the opposite effect to that she probably intends, and contribute to a contraction of network capacity as operators pull out because it becomes impossible for them to make a profit. I hope I am wrong on this, but the rhetoric of "neutrality" is there plain to see and if it prevails it will severly damage the internet.

    But even forcing the ISPs to state what they will deliver is fraught with technical difficulties. It would also be necessary to specify where the contracted bandwidth will reach - sitting here I have far more bandwidth and far lower latency to Madrid than I do to Delhi, and there is exactly nothing that my ISP (Telefonica) can do about that the bandwidth to Dehli - networks between here and there just can't handle it. So it's quite possible that the description of the service to be provided becomes far too complex for the average consumer (so many Mb/s to there, so many kb/s to there, and so on) unless the ISP goes for a lowest common denominator and says something like "I can sell you 100kb/s down and 100kb/s up because that's the most that can be achieved on the worst internet connection from here" even though it's vastly less that what I might get (and indeed need) on most of the sites that I visit - and then of course the ISP would be perfectly correct to throttle me down to 100kb/s always; and the ISP can't offer a 500kb/s service at any price if the rules are put together badly, because it will be "regulated" out of existence for failing to deliver what it offered because the connection to Chitral never achieves that. And all the people baying about having a single simple number that specifies what you get and the ISP being required to provide that number all the time wherever you are downloading from are heading straight for badly constructed rules.

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