Oettinger's Hearing: All for the Industry, Nothing for Citizens

Paris, 30 September 2014 — The European Union's “Digital Agenda” should not only be about digits and economy. It is also about rights and freedom. After several hours of hearing of Günther Oettinger, the designated EU Commissioner for the “Digital Economy and Society”, one question remains unanswered: what about the protection of fundamental rights in the digital environment?

Mr. Oettinger has showed during his confirmation hearing at the EU Parliament yesterday that he has no clue about why and how fundamental rights should be protected on the Internet. A good example is his blind support for the dangerous French bill against terrorism, which mandates extrajudicial censorship and surveillance. It makes clear that Oettinger could not care less about the protection of fundamental rights online.

As for questions on investment and competition issues, Oettinger was explicitely questioned on issues such as free software and Net Neutrality. Whilst he shamelessy left the first unanswered, his response to the second revealed a profoundly shocking stance from the designated Commissioner. Oettinger supported the dangerous proposal for a telecom regulation introduced by the EU Commission last year. He also backed the idea that Net Neutrality should be gradual, and dependent on how much a subscriber pays. By doing so, he explicitly advocated the advent a two-tiered Internet, relegating the rest of us to a slow lane.

“Oettinger's stance on Net Neutrality not only shows that he is ignorant of the crucial stakes at play, but also that he's very much inclined to pay lip service to the telecom lobby. But Net Neutrality is a founding architectural principle of the decentralized Internet, not a privilege to be commodified by Internet access providers. It is the condition for the protection of political rights online, and for the flourishing of a diverse and innovative digital economy. By explicitly opening the way to violations of Net Neutrality, Oettinger shows he is willing to sacrifice online innovation and freedom of communication to promote the agenda of dominant telecom operators” said Félix Tréguer, founding member of La Quadrature du Net.

“Oettinger's palish and vague will to make culture more accessible and copyright more suitable to the digital environment are empty words. In sum, the hearing confirms previous impressions that Oettinger is completely unaware of where the public interest lies in Internet policies. Members of the EU Parliament must show that they take their responsibilities seriously and revoke him” concluded Jean Cattan, member of the Strategic Council of La Quadrature du Net.