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Euro Council of Ministers wants Happy World

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone was nice

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Although Google and Verizon's stitch-up rapprochement has spiked the issue of Net Neutrality in the USA, with the push for regulation stalling in Congress last week - somebody's forgotten to tell the EU's bureaucrats.

The Council of Ministers - aka Council of the European Union - which normally busies itself with high-minded declarations about "human rights" that everyone else ignores, has endorsed an internet in which everyone can get along, but where people can still make money. Which is nice.

The Committee says: "Users should have the greatest possible access to Internet-based content, applications and services of their choice, whether or not they are offered free of charge, using suitable devices of their choice."

It also declares that "a competitive and dynamic environment may encourage innovation, increasing network availability and performance, and lowering costs, and can promote the free circulation of a wide range of content and services on the Internet." Who'd have guessed?

But to keep everybody happy, the pledge also calls for "operators of electronic communication networks" to manage Internet traffic "in connection with ensuring quality of services, the development of new services, network stability and resilience, or combating cybercrime" … but only if "measures should be proportionate, appropriate, avoid unjustified discrimination and be reviewed periodically".

The Council has given its blessing to the Digital Agenda for Europe, published after much wrangling earlier this year. That's a bunch of similar aspirations and pledges, with a good helping of work for itself, eg "the empowerment of European citizens through increased digital literacy and competences".

Last week House Democrats in the US, where the movement for pre-emptive technical regulation of the internet was born, rejected calls to reclassify the packet-switched internet as a circuit-switched network, which would have given the FCC the power to dust down telco-style regulations.

It reserved the right of the FCC to end discrimination - something the FCC argues it's had all along - but was probably the last chance to push for Congress to write up new rules for the net. A Democrat majority in either house is unlikely after November.

The Council of Ministers performs some oversight duties, but largely confines itself to pledges. Its most famous Declaration came in 1989, calling for a halt to trade relations with China. You can see how well that worked. ®

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