On 20 November, Covington hosted its webinar looking at developments in Net Neutrality and Zero-rating from both a US and a European perspective. Our presenters included ex-FCC Bureau Chief, Partner Matt DelNero from our DC office, and ex-DG Competition Head of Unit, Partner Kevin Coates and Senior Associate Siobhan Kahmann from our Brussels office. The webinar was well attended, with participants from all major jurisdictions around the world.

Matt covered the wider area of Net Neutrality and its evolution in the US over the last fifteen to twenty years, including an overview of the rules currently in effect, which are slated to be repealed next month…

He then focused on the US Net Neutrality debate in 2017, and the Restoring Internet Freedom ‘Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ‘ issued in May this year – which received over 22 million comments. He discussed the principal arguments for and against the FCC’s proposal to overhaul the net neutrality framework in the US, and finished his part of the presentation with an overview of what’s next – providing some different scenarios to consider ahead of the FCC’s upcoming next move. (Just two days later, the FCC made the text of its draft order publicly available.)

Kevin and Siobhan then looked at the Net Neutrality debate from the European perspective. This included an overview of the Net Neutrality Regulation and the BEREC Guidelines, before focusing on zero-rating, a concept which has been the subject of much regulatory debate in the EU.

Zero-rating is an offer from a mobile operator where data used by certain apps or groups of apps will not be deducted as data usage from a customers’ cap – it is charged instead at zero, or free. The BEREC documents set out Guidelines as to what is acceptable and what is not. Notwithstanding the Guidelines, national European regulators have taken different approaches to applying the Net Neutrality rules. DG Competition is also following this area closely and commissioned a detailed Report on developments in Europe earlier this year.