The internet must remain an open platform to ensure that it reaches its full potential for driving economic growth and innovation, according to the vice president for the Digital Agenda at the European Commission.
Neelie Kroes said at an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development event in Paris on Tuesday that any form of net neutrality based on censorship or self-interest from nations would have negative consequences.
"I know there are pressures - regulatory, political and economic - to 'fragment' the internet, often along national borders. Sometimes this results from legitimate concerns, like personal data protection, sometimes it's just plain censorship," she said.
"But the internet's most important characteristic is its universality: in principle, every node can communicate with every other. This has important implications for innovation, plurality, democratic values, cohesion and economic growth."
Kroes added that ensuring this remains the internet's status should be the concern of all internet stakeholders. She urged collaboration to address this concern, and fight cyber crime and keep data secure.
"We won't unlock the internet's potential until users can have confidence in it. That includes the protection of privacy, identity and personal data, online safety, fighting spam and cyber crime, and ensuring resilience and stability," she said.
Kroes explained that government bodies had to be involved in this process, given the wide-ranging impact of the internet on their populations.
"The fact is that the internet is of relevance and benefit for citizens, for the economy and for society. For that reason alone it is of interest to public policy makers," she said.
Kroes's calls will be welcomed by net neutrality campaigners who fear that governments and big business want to create a tiered internet over which they can guarantee the delivery of their traffic with network operators at the expense of small firms.
Kroes said in April that the EC will monitor for any signs of blocking or throttling of internet traffic, which may jeopardise net neutrality in the region.
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