Swedish public-service television just reported that the cabinet will put forward a law proposal tomorrow intended to put an end to the practice of selectively blocking certain Internet traffic — specifically, blocking IP phone calls on mobile phones.
The proposal (translated news here) is not legally waterproof; the first half of it is just the babbling of the European Telecoms Package talking about disclosure of limiting access to content. In clearer words, anybody blocking parts of the net must clearly and unambiguously say so. In even clearer words, the mobile operators can say “we screw you with the lights on”.
But the second half is more interesting, and apparently effective enough. It mandates that if the operators continue to block traffic, the Swedish Postal and Telecoms Authority (PTS) will have the authority to order traffic types unblocked by operators.
The effect in practice was almost immediate. Mobile operator 3 had previously compared using mobile internet to place voice calls to bypassing your electricity meter, effectively comparing it to stealing. (Now, where have we heard that before?) But under the gallows, they have a completely different mindset, and are now talking about how internet telephony will benefit both customers and them as a telco operator. That’s speedwaffling at its finest.
This kind of legislation is probably the best of both worlds. It’s not a forcing legislation that would have the negative effects of a mandated net neutrality, negative effects both predicted and unpredicted, but it’s still an effective legislation against obvious misuse of vertical bundling, as we have seen that the operators have already switched sides and are now preaching the wonders of net neutrality.