The Dutch policymakers have done the right thing by introducing a law that will enshrine net neutrality also in the mobile sector. Other countries in Europe and elsewhere should follow their example.
The biggest implication of wireless net neutrality to mobile operators is that their toolkit to differentiate service bundles and monetize data traffic becomes suddenly much emptier. They can’t charge the subscriber a premium for carrying traffic for certain applications, and the same goes for requiring the providers of these applications to pay for guaranteed QoS.
I’d like to stress that it is very important that both fixed and mobile environments will be covered by net neutrality laws, for excluding the mobile could pretty much immobilize future innovations. A killer app that works only over Wi-Fi is like a sport car with flat tires. That would be a huge loss, given that the innovation of consumer applications has thus far been done by over-the-top players and not by operators: Skype and Whatsapp aren’t only cheaper than the carrier services they substitute, but also better.
It is understandable that the requirement of net neutrality may well push mobile operators to the wall and force them compromise their network investments, but it would be unwise to get carried away by that threat. The solution is simple: let’s face the facts and start treating their industry as a utility business, which is what it essentially has become.
In other utility sectors such as energy and water, overlapping infrastructures are considered waste of resources and the same approach should be gradually applied to mobile operators as well. MNOs should be permitted and encouraged to consolidate their networks into a mutually owned partnership (along the lines of what for instance Telenor and TeliaSonera have announced for their Danish ops) and compete merely as service providers.
This road ahead is not ideal, but I’d argue that it’s the one that results in the highest possible network investment under net neutrality, and thus in the highest possible level of consumer welfare.