Internet regulation: building consumer trust?

Today’s FT article by Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone, highlights the importance of regulation for all the players in the on-line ecosystem – those building the pipes and plumbing of network infrastructure, those creating compelling content and services and those who provide search, aggregation or other services.

His central thesis is that both regulators and market players should use building consumer trust as their guiding principle.

In concrete terms he suggests that trust will be built by ensuring that the internet has rules (which need to go beyond self-regulation) that ensure respect for:

  • ownership (especially of intellectual property);
  • privacy; and
  • human and social rights.

Digging into the next layer of detail, he supports the ability of national authorities to be able to direct infrastructure providers to block access to illegal content or services, provided that this is extended to providers of internet based communications services and that the costs are fairly allocated.  He also agrees on the importance of competition and non-discrimination for network access whilst arguing that price control for broadband access will not stimulate the investment in broadband infrastructure that governments want.

Ostensibly a reaction to recent comments made by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, at French convened pre-G8 internet summit (or eG8) that called for the internet to be free of regulation, in reality this exchange highlights that the net neutrality debate has really started to cross the Atlantic in earnest. The topic is now on the political agenda at the highest level, so it remains to be seen whether the Commission and national regulators will be able to maintain their so far balanced approach.