Nokia knocks Net neutrality: Self-driving cars 'won't get the service you need'

Nokia's CEO has argued that certain futuristic technologies will need to be prioritised, flying in the face of recent victories for net neutrality.

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Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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A self-driving car, yesterday. Google

Nokia's chief executive has raised concerns about Net neutrality because he thinks futuristic technologies like self-driving cars will be held back by a totally open system.

Speaking at industry gathering Mobile World Congress, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri looked to the future of the company following the sale of its mobile device business to Microsoft and subsequent restructuring. Suri reckons Nokia is "at the forefront" of the burgeoning automated car industry thanks to its mapping division Here. Here licenses maps to many automotive manufacturers as cars become more connected, and is positioning itself to play a large part when self-driving cars hit the road.

"There are some services that simply require a different level of connectivity," says Suri. He believes there are some networks that "you can't do in a best-effort network," naming driverless cars and health care communications with doctors and hospitals connecting to patients. "You need this differentiated quality of service," he said.

Suri emphasises that self-driving cars need to talk over wireless networks fast enough to make decisions with the split-second timing required on the roads. "You cannot prevent collisions if the data that can prevent them is still making its way through the network", said Suri, discussing Nokia's drive toward instantaneous low-latency communication across the network.

Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic over the Internet should be treated equally. The US government enshrined that principle in law this month.

But Suri is concerned that net neutrality may "appear good for the consumer in the short-term but not the long-term." He thinks that when uses such as driverless cars aren't prioritised, "you're not going to get the service you need, and that's not going to be good for the consumer in the long term."

"We have to take a long view on net neutrality," he said.

Watch this: What the FCC Net neutrality rules will mean for Internet users

After a long and storied history making paper, rubber and the odd phone, Nokia is 150 years old in 2015. Suri said the company has "chosen to look forward with hope and look forward with optimism to the extraordinary potential of our technological future."