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Nothing says 'Taliban' quite like net neutrality, eh, EU Digi Commish?

Oetti utters yet another thing that makes you go hmmm...

Comment Gaffe-prone Gunther is at it again. This time the EU Digi-Commissioner Gunther H-dot Oettinger has described the enforcement of "uniform" net neutrality as "Taliban-like".

Unsurprisingly digital rights activists have not been pleased at being compared with a fundamentalist organisation judged by the UN to be responsible for the massacre of thousands in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, for a man who rarely smiles, Oettinger seemed pleased with his analogy while speaking at a German Ministry of Finance event last Thursday (video link in German).

"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,” he said.

“Net neutrality” is the phrase du jour in Brussels as national telco ministers finally came to an agreement on a draft law last Wednesday. Activists say the proposed law, as re-written by the EU's council of national ministers, leaves the door open for a two-tier internet.

Yet it does set out new rules on traffic management that ban blocking or slowing down specific content or applications, with a number of exceptions: for example, in situations where customers have requested spam blocking or to prevent cyber attacks. The draft also allows for “specialised services”.

Confusingly, Oettinger seems to think that net neutrality will put lives at risk.

“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,” he said, reverting to a favourite topic – cars.

He suggested a scenario where children might, er, use up bandwidth on games and YouTube that would otherwise be used to prevent an accident. Quite what products or services he is imagining is not clear – but his rhetoric certainly is.

“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 and health and a few others come to my mind: They should be able to deviate from net neutrality, this Taliban-like issue,” said Oettinger.

Oetti is known for being outspoken. He frequently gives public statements on issues that are not under his brief, recently calling Greece “a bull in a china shop” in its financial negotiations with Brussels. The Commission seemed keen to distance itself from Oettinger, describing his remarks as “his private opinion”.

One EU blog,, went so far as to say that “giving him [Oettinger] the digital portfolio in the European Commission may have been Juncker’s biggest political mistake so far.”

Sources in his department at DG CONNECT have told El Reg they are constantly on the alert for his latest gaffe and that managing the Commissioner’s communications is an exercise in fire-fighting. ®

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