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Oscar Williams

News editor

EU commissioner tells FCC’s Ajit Pai: “We won’t accept throttling of European content”

The vice president of the European Commission has warned the US Federal Communications Commission’s Ajit Pai that he will be following developments in the US “very carefully” in light of the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules.

In an awkward panel discussion at Mobile World Congress on Monday evening, Andrus Ansip, who is also the commissioner for the digital single market, told Pai he did not believe that the throttling of internet content would become an everyday practice following the changes.

But he added: “We are following those developments very carefully and, of course, we are especially worried about European content in the United States, how this content will be treated, and we will not accept blocking, throttling or discrimination.”

Ansip told MWC’s gathering of mobile industry executives that there was a strong economic case for establishing a single set of net neutrality rules across the EU: “We already had net neutrality rules in the Netherlands, some elements in Slovenia, in Finland and in other countries. It’s much better for investors to have one set of rules for the whole European Union.”

Pai, meanwhile, used his opening remarks to lay out his strategy for positioning the US at the forefront of the 5G revolution. He vowed to open up more of the radio spectrum in auctions later this year and defended his work on repealing the net neutrality rules that the FCC itself introduced in 2015. “The US is making a shift from preemptive regulation to targeted enforcement,” he said. “We had a free internet for two decades up until 2015 and we will have a free and open internet going forward.”

The FCC repealed net neutrality rules in a vote divided along partisan lines in December, but the changes will not come into effect until 23 April. Writing for NS Tech ahead of the vote, Mozilla Foundation’s Ashley Boyd warned that repealing net neutrality in the US could hurt the internet everywhere:

The latest net neutrality drama may be playing out on U.S. soil, but it’s very much a global issue. If the open internet in the United States suffers a blow, citizens in London, Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, and elsewhere would feel the consequences.”