Blowers also raised the issue of Net neutrality — a major issue in the United States that has quietly been bubbling under the surface in the rest of the world. The debate centres on the concept of Internet service providers being able to tier their services, effectively allowing them to regulate the speed at which certain types of content can be accessed and enabling preferential treatment for certain content providers.
"The Commissioner thinks Net neutrality needs to be addressed," said Blowers, who claimed a lack of relevant regulation in America had led to the issue being so explosive there. "It is probably not sufficient to just talk about competition powers to deal with Net neutrality," he continued, before suggesting that, if tiered services were introduced in the UK and Europe, "there should be sufficient transparency in the market that consumers can make informed choices".
"There is nothing that requires a new tranch of powers to address that issue [at the moment]," Blowers added.
The subject of the EC’s ongoing assault on mobile roaming charges also came up, with Ilsa Godlovitch, head of regulatory affairs for the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA), saying the EC proposal to impose limits on retail pricing were "not necessarily a terrible thing" but stressing that this could only be done "if you do not undermine the regulators".
Godlovitch warned that such price controls would impact the whole telecoms market, through the move towards fixed-mobile convergence. She also claimed that two elements of the EC’s telecommunications proposals may need altering — a reference to "metallic" cables, which she said did not take account of the rise of fibre networks, and references to public telephone networks, which she said would "dead" after next generation networks were introduced.
The Department for Trade and Industry’s deputy director for EU ICT policy and regulation, Nigel Hickson, also weighed into the roaming debate, claiming that the Commission’s stance was "excellent in principle" but warning that "disadvantaged" pay-as-you-go users would be the biggest losers "if the level of retail regulation is wrong".