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Major telecoms promise 5G networks if EU cripples net neutrality

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A group of 20 major telcos including Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, Vodafone, and BT promise to launch 5G networks in every country in the European Union by 2020 — so long as governments decide to weaken net neutrality rules. The coalition's plans are outlined in its "5G Manifesto," a seven-page document that details how the companies will roll 5G out across the continent over the next few years. However, by warning against regulation that would ensure an open internet and encouraging nations to water rules down, the companies are effectively holding the new technology for ransom.

Telecoms threaten to hold 5G service ransom

According to the manifesto, the companies plan on designing a 5G Action Plan. That plan will allow them to demonstrate 5G's benefits in cars, health, public safety, smart city, and entertainment scenarios by 2018. The coalition is calling for the kind of investment from countries to allow for the infrastructure needed to launch 5G in all 28 of the EU Member States by 2020.

However, the companies are also pushing for what they call the "right regulatory environment," which would involve addressing the "dangers" that would come with open internet policies.

"The EU must reconcile the need for open Internet with pragmatic rules that foster innovation," reads the manifesto. "The telecom industry warns that current net neutrality guidelines, as put forward by BEREC [the Body of European Regulators], create significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment. Investments are therefore likely to be delayed unless regulators take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it."

"The EU must reconcile the need for open internet with pragmatic rules that foster innovation."

The EU already rejected amendments to legislation passed last fall that would have protected net neutrality in Europe. The laws currently feature loopholes that allow so-called "specialized services" like self-driving cars and medical operation to hop onto internet fast lanes. However, the rules do state that service providers should "treat all traffic equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference." Even with loopholes on the books, telecoms would see the rules rolled back even further for innovative services.

Early supporters of the manifesto include companies like Airbus, Siemens, and Phillips. The EU's Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Gunther Oettinger, praised the document, stating, "The manifesto is a valuable input for the 5G action plan that will be presented in September, together with the proposal for the review of the telecom regulatory framework." The commission is taking in feedback on the document from a public survey that's open until tomorrow.