At the recent G8 meeting in Paris, Mark Zuckerberg told French president Nicolas Sarkozy, hosting the event, the internet needs light-touch regulation to free businesses to innovate. But, in keeping with the European Commission’s current approach, Sarkozy is keener on a kind of responsible legislation that protects consumers and culture from privacy, competition and other abuses.
Now Sarkozy has found an ally in Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) CEO Vittorio Colao, who has written a letter to The Financial Times saying:
“Mr Zuckerberg argues that there are already many self-governing mechanisms for building and maintaining trust (Ebay, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and Wikipedia are all good examples). But the media report every day on threats or infringements of individual rights, often of the most vulnerable in society. So Mr Sarkozy is really right to argue that realising the full potential of the internet will also require an effective legal framework and that self-regulation will not be enough.
“In areas such as piracy of music and video content, a solution is being found, where new copyright laws require the public authorities to direct network operators such as Vodafone to block access to illegal services or platforms. Extending this to areas such as privacy, citizens’ security and consumer protection would offer a powerful incentive for all companies to comply with national laws.”
Of course, carriers like Vodafone have themselves been facing something of a regulation crunch in Europe, where the European Commission has introduced and steadily reduced price caps on termination charges and cross-border data browsing rates that have knocked billions of telcos’ profits.
Now, faced with growing data demands on their networks, they are also lobbying for charging services like Facebook, who use their networks, to start charging for network access. So Colao’s support of regulation in a parallel industry won’t go down at all badly in Brussels and Strasbourg.