The European Commission on Thursday warned Europe’s telecoms providers against blocking content providers as they try to ease the strain on their networks caused by house-bound Europeans teleworking or video streaming due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The telecoms industry, from world number two mobile operator Vodafone to Deutsche Telekom, has in recent days reported a spike in data traffic on networks as thousands of people switched to home working or watch endless videos.
Telecoms providers can take measures to prevent gridlock for as long as necessary but must not block, slow down or prioritize traffic, the EU executive said, citing EU rules called open internet access or net neutrality rules.
“Operators are authorised to apply exceptional traffic management measures, inter alia, to prevent impending network congestion and to mitigate the effects of exceptional or temporary network congestion,” the commission said in a joint statement with the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).
Large tech companies and consumer groups are fervent supporters of net neutrality rules which prevent telecoms operators from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes.
The telecoms industry however has long campaigned for looser rules so they too can rake in lucrative revenues.
The EU warning to the sector came a day after EU industry chief Thierry Breton called on Netflix to downgrade the quality of its video for now to avoid network congestion, saying that companies and consumers have a joint responsibility to ensure that networks are able to cope with other key uses such as health and remote education.