Speaking at an event by the German Ministry of Finance on March 5, EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger had this to say on the topic of net neutrality:

Net neutrality: Here we’ve got, particularly in Germany, Taliban-like developments. We have the Internet community, the Pirates on the move, it’s all about enforcing perfect uniformity. They talk about “the evil industry”. It’s not about the industry, it’s not about the CEO and his salary. If you want to have real time road safety, our lives are at stake, this has to have absolute priority with regards to quality and capacity.

Take a rural basic service hospital, which after a serious accident may have to serve as operating room, and the University clinic with a senior physician performs it – if this digital and electronic surgery is to be possible, it can only work with perfect connection quality and capacity for the transmission of the instructions given by the the senior surgeon working on the organs (lungs or heart or cardiovascular vessels) of the patient. We’ve got to be willing to pay a price for this. And you just can’t talk about perfect equality there.

Is it more important, that in the car – the six-year-old daughter sitting in the back on the right, downloading music, YouTube, and on the left the nine-year-old rascal doing some random games – is it more important that those two [have a] real-time [connection] or that the old man in front hears in real time that someone is approaching from the right?

I think downloading YouTube can wait a few seconds. I think we can let the game at some times be less than perfect on the screen. But road safety (a commercial service!), health (a commercial service!) and a few others come to my mind: They should be able to deviate from net neutrality, this Taliban-like issue.

On Monday I will be tabling the following written question to the European Commission in reaction to these remarks:

Subject: Net Neutrality, Telemedicine and Intelligent transportation systems

Net neutrality refers to a principle by which internet service providers must not discriminiate internet traffic through prioritisation, degradation or blocking. The Taliban (‏ طالبان‎) are a fundamentalist militant group responsible for the death of thousands of civilians. In a debate on March 5, 2015, Commissioner Günther Oettinger referred to the demand for net neutrality as “Taliban-like”.


  1. Can the Commission specifically name the exact name of products and their respective manufacturers which exist now in the European market and whose technical specifications rely on the absence of enforced net neutrality rules in the EU? Please list each and every product individually, please do not cluster products.
  2. Can the Commission name specifically every single hospital in the European Union and their specific telemedicine products and applications which rely on real time broadband internet connections whose technical specifications rely on the absence of enforced net neutrality rules in the EU? Please list each and every hospital, product and application, please do not cluster products and applications.
  3. Can the Commission name specifically every single intelligent transportation system such as a car-mounted impact warning system, car or transportation security device whose performance relies on real time internet access and whose technical specification relies on the absence of enforced net neutrality rules in the EU? Please list every manufacturer, product and application, please do not cluster products and applications.

First reported by Netzpolitik.org (in German)

To the extent possible under law, the creator has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.


  1. 1

    Danke Julia!
    Es wird niemals ein autonomes Auto auf der Straße geben, welches auf eine Internetverbindung angewiesen ist. Jede Latenz, jeder Ausfall des Internets wäre lebensgefährlich!
    Es werden geschlossene Systeme innerhalb des Autos sein (Sensoren, CPUs, Kameras).
    Das gleiche gilt für die Telemedizin.

  2. 2

    It should never be the internet provider who decides what is most important to you. Their incentives for prioritising traffic will be different from the user’s needs. Abandoning net neutrality will make business deals by the internet provider determine priority, killing competition and innovation. Hospitals will buy networking services for important applications, not Internet access.

  3. 3

    Basically a very good reaction.

    Of course, the car and tele medicine argument is complete bullshit, as critical services like that belong into own, autonomous networks, and not into the internet. Services for controlling atomic plants aren’t treated different for the same reason.

    I’m pondering if one could increase the exposure of the fact, that Oettinger’s talking points are nonsence, by adding a question to this parallel. Maybe something like:

    # “Please reason why you prefer sacrifying net neutrality for self-driving cars and tele medicine, instead of taking up the view, that critical services like that belong into own, autonomous networks, and not into the internet, just as it’s the case regarding services for controlling atomic plants.”

  4. 4

    The Minister of Finance should probably understand that Hospitals would get LESSER data service in a pay-to-play system. Emergency/Military priorities or Medical care could be legislated in and very, very few people would blink at such provisions. When the system is pay-to-play, though, as has been proposed, you get abuse (the Netflix extortion) and *society*-critical services bypassed in favor of advertisements from, say the Koch Brothers (at least here in the US). What is the quote? “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open ones mouth and remove all doubt.”

  5. 5

    EU is all about creating a free marketspace in Europe.

    Netneutrality is all about creating a free marketspace on the Internet.

    Why is EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger against the free market ? The fundament of which EU is build ?

  6. 6

    After thinking about your question I think you need to change strategy.

    Instead of asking for a list of all – which is impossible to answer and just make them angry – I suggest you just ask for a list of ONE of each.

    Then when you get it you can propose that if those have such high demand on the Internet – that they should not use the Internet – but instead use a private Intranet for their transmissions. Because relying on the internet for life threathening actions are a bad idea. They never know when DDoS attacks will stop the transmission and it will not be sent through anyway. If the transmission of data is about life or death – they should use private dedicated internet tubes for that.

    • The thing is, they won’t be able to come up with a single example on any of the lists, so it’s not going to be so hard for them to answer the questions.

  7. 7

    Danke fürs Kümmern! Und einfach unfassbar, was der Oettinger für Argumente auftischt.

  8. 8

    This is *exactly* the argument, but in the opposite way of being formulated here. ANY hospital, or ANY injured person, should be able to sufficiently communicate. About god damn time to update our connection speeds, if not even our surgeons can use them to work properly. This is reasoning the wrong way around!

  9. 9

    If EU should decide to ban agreements on prioritisation of data traffic suitable for next generation bandwidth-hungry services like 4KTV, demanding high QoS and at least 15-20 Mbps per stream, what will be the future business case for telco’s making long-term investments in all-fibre networks including rural areas? Despite the unlimited bandwidth of all-fiber access networks not demanding sophisticated managment and prioritization of data like on DSL and cable networks, the take-up of bandwidth-hungry services like 4KTV will accelerate the need for new and heavy investments also for all-fibre networks

  10. 10
    Michael J Stahl

    This is wrong on so many levels. First of, hospitals shouldn’t be using the internet for such important matters. Secondly, if they still were to use it they would most certainly need the netneutrality as they wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for the secure access needed in a pay-to-play system.

  11. 11

    We’ve got to be willing to pay a price for this –
    Or you can have it for free if you make law that make the internet provider need to keep decent quality/good quality for the internet, after all the reality is that they will just downgrade everyone internet and you will need to pay extra to keep it the same.

    what a alarmist piece of ….

  12. 12
    Rui Pacheco

    The man did not make much sense.

  13. 13

    Just to make sure I understand Oettinger’s point correctly:

    1. He argues that cars will require a constant data connection to somewhere to ensure safety.

    2. This connection needs to be wireless (wired cars make limited sense)

    3. This connection will be on the same wireless channels as YouTube (presumably: mobile phone / cell networks)

    4. This connection requires a certain quality of service, in bandwidth, latency or both.

    5. Thus “car services” should be prioritized before YouTube

    Add to this a number of physical requirements:

    6. It will be a shared medium (giving each car its own channel is prohibitive, and it’d need to be worldwide, since we don’t want cars to stop at the next border), so a single channel is used by multiple cars

    7. There will be an uncertain number of cars in each cell (or region, or however the medium is segmented)

    8. network coverage must be universal (say, at least the EU, and along every tiny road in the forest)

    With these, it’s quite likely that cars are competing among each other for connectivity in congested situations (and the situation grows worse superlinearly in shared medium networks because – simplifying a bit – when senders are on the same frequency at the same time, both signals are lost and need to be resent).
    Since in Oettinger’s world we don’t have net neutrality, quality car makers could buy higher priority for their customers than makers of cheaper cars – so lack of net neutrality kills the poor (who can’t afford a Porsche and its high priority network access).

    In fact, the solution is that cars will get along just fine without constant network access. But Oettinger probably imagines autonomous vehicles to operate by having a huge office complex full of employees somewhere, where each of them controls a single car remotely.

  14. 14
    Johan Heikkila

    It seems that the man is desperate and out of arguments when he has to “draw the Taliban-card”. Every person with technical knowledge about Internet knows that his arguments are without validity. How came such a person can be a Digital Commissioner in EU? He sounds totally incompetent for that position. I feel sorry for us in EU if such persons are set to make decisions for us. Luckily there are many in the Parliament that we can trust in. Thank you for your work!

  15. 15

    Oettinger is actually dangerous by not understanding the difference between real time networks and the Internet!!! He want’s to put realtime safety on the open internet… and just give it priority by breaking net neutrality!!! He is not even talking about added value to existing applications and services as the lobbyist put it. Just a way to destroy safety by opening it up on the internet… realtime!!! I am flabbergasted…

  16. 16

    Wann merken die Wähler endlich, dass die Politiker der CD/SPD nur Neuland kennen, und Neuland diese Sachen mit den F Wörten sind.

    Wir Piraten werden echt gebraucht.

  17. 17
    Aljoscha Pörtner

    It’s unbelievable how uninformed this politician is and how far away he is from being able to make decisions which has an impact on the life of everyone in the EU. But the most disgusting point is how devaluing he talks about people. About those who have legitimate views and try to enforce them in a democratic way, in discussion and claims. All those points supports my theory that he has no idea what democracy and service to the people in the EU is about. In his point of view we are all little “bengel”.