Günther Oettinger, the new EU Commissioner for Digital Economy, said in a recent interview just days after he took his new job, that ISPs need longer customer lock-ins to increase investments. Unlike his predecessor, Neelie Kroes, who fought to give EU a strong net neutrality law, much lower roaming fees, and many other consumer protections, it seems Mr. Oettinger is more preoccupied with ISPs making more money.
Despite his claim that longer lock-in would lead to more investments, which could be what the ISPs told him, in the history of business the opposite has usually been true. When a company has complete lock-in (monopoly), that company has no incentive to expand unless people are tired of it after many years of abuses and demand its government to force the monopoly to change.
On the other hand, when there is almost no lock-in, and there's much competition in the market, companies are forced to constantly invest. No company truly wants to invest in upgrades for its systems because it's the right thing to do; they usually do it because the competition forces them to try to keep up. This constant battle of "one-upping" each other leads to better services and lower prices for customers. Lock-in leads to poorer and poorer services over time, along with increased prices. People living in the U.S. probably know this best.
Oettinger said similar lock-in happens in the energy industry. (Oettinger was the EU Commissioner of Energy until two weeks ago, when a new EU Parliament and Commission mandate began.) It's interesting that he compared this proposal to how things work in the energy sector, because that sector is actually one where upgrades happen very slowly, and prices tend to rise over time, not fall, as it happens in most other industries where competition is strong and lock-in is weak.
If this is the kind of proposal Oettinger is going to make during his mandate, EU citizens should keep a very close eye on him. Otherwise, they risk losing much of the consumer-friendly changes to the Internet that Neelie Kroes managed to achieve during her mandate.