Coalition letter: High quality connectivity and net neutrality go hand in hand

by Anja Kovacs

Not only in India is net neutrality getting regulatory attention. In the EU, for example, it is as well. This letter is an effort by a global coalition of civil society and user organisations to respond to the 5G Manifesto promoted by telecoms operators in the EU to water down the recently adopted EU Regulation on the open internet. In short, the EU’s telecom operators have stated that if strong net neutrality rules are passed, they will not support the development of the planned 5G infrastructure – which the EU institutions are so excited about. But as we argue in this letter, in the EU as elsewhere, 5G and net neutrality should go hand in hand! The letter urges lawmakers in the EU to ensure that rules to protect net neutrality adopted around the world – including in India, Chile and the US – should be upheld in the EU as well.

Dear Vice-President of the European Commission,

Dear Commissioner,

Dear ICT Ministers,

We encourage you to support the development and implementation of robust net neutrality rules alongside the deployment of high quality broadband and next-generation networks around the world.

The telecom industry has often warned of reluctance to invest in its own networks, when lobbying against proposed regulations that promote competition and protect internet users. In reality, telecommunications companies always realised the economic benefit of investing in their own networks and such negative assumptions are quickly disproven. Recently, a group of 17 telecommunications companies – with the support of equipment manufacturers that rely on them as a market for their products – published a 5G Manifesto” in which they threaten to withhold 5G investment unless regulators water down European Union rules on net neutrality and other rules, including provisions on network access and privacy.

These threats are unsubstantiated and not credible. It is clear that telecommunications companies will invest based on demand and competition, not just based on weak regulation. The current threats in the 5G manifesto” are also false insofar as they allege that net neutrality rules actually harm their financial returns. Extensive economic research on investment in several jurisdictions with strong net neutrality rules in place demonstrates that open internet safeguards do not harm their profits or diminish their investments.

Net neutrality is at the core of the internet’s functionality and is crucial in ensuring the protection of users’ rights to free expression and privacy online. Protecting the open nature of the internet is compatible with – if not an absolute prerequisite for – the availability and the development of the Internet of Things and the ever-increasing number of innovative products and services, such as connected cars and e‑health. In fact, the principles on which net neutrality is based, including innovation without a need to obtain permission, end-to-end connectivity, transparency, and non-discrimination, are essential for these innovative products and services. Since these products often rely on significant and constant bandwidth, regulation – rather than a free pass” rule or blind inattention – will be needed.

Net neutrality rules will ensure that the number of innovative internet-based services and applications will continue to increase. With global demand for faster and better access to the internet on the rise, internet access providers will continue to have a strong incentive to develop and invest in enhanced network capacity. This so-called virtuous circle” illustrates the long-term economic benefit for telecommunications companies to invest in infrastructure.

Users and, indeed, regulators and lawmakers should not have to endure hollow threats and blackmail everytime a new technical evolution appears. We now have open internet rules in place in a large number of countries around the world, including the European Union, Chile, the United States and India, and they must be applied. We urge you to clearly reiterate that the principles of open, competitive, innovative and neutral internet are not negotiable.

Clear and robust net neutrality and the deployment of high speed broadband must go hand in hand to respond to the technological challenges of the 21st century. We urge you to protect users’ rights to receive and impart information online without interference by telecommunications companies and resist the unsubstantiated demands posited in the 5G Manifesto.

We look forward to working together to safeguard an open, secure and fast internet.


Access Now, International

ACI-Participa, Honduras

AKVor​rat​.at — Working Group on Data Retention Austria

ARTICLE19, International

Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC), Argentina

Asociatia pentru Tehnologie si Internet (ApTI), Romania

Bits of Freedom, The Netherlands

Center for Cyber Security, Pakistan

Chaos Computer Club (CCC), Germany

Derechos Digitales, Latin America

Digitalcourage, Germany

European Digital Rights (EDRi), Europe

Espacio Público, Venezuela

Fight for the Future, International

Free Press Unlimited, The Netherlands

Föreningen för Digitala Fri-och Rättigheter (DFRI), Sweden

Fundación Acceso, Costa Rica

Initiative für Netzfreiheit, Austria

Internet Democracy Project, India

Internet Freedom Foundation, India

Internet Policy Observatory, Pakistan

IT for Change, India

IT-Political Association of Denmark


La Quadrature du Net, France

OpenMedia, International

Open Rights Group, United Kingdom

Public Knowledge, International

quintessenz, Austria

R3D, Mexico

SurSiendo, Comunicación y Cultura Digital, Mexico

TEDIC, Paraguay

Usuarios Digitales, Ecuador

The Unwanted Witness, Uganda

VE Inteligente, Venezuela

Xnet, Spain