Chinese plans to rewrite the rules of the internet have been criticised by the European Commission, amid growing concerns the proposals could give too much power to state-owned providers.

Speaking on behalf of the Commission, Thierry Breton, EU commissioner for the single market, said the body was aware of a proposal put forward by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and firms including Huawei at the global agency, the International Telecommunications Union. The proposal is to develop new protocols governing the internet.

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In documents laying out the plans, the group said that new rules on how data is passed through the internet were needed to "bridge the gap between technological advancements of 2030 and protocols that will carry them".


The current protocol was unsuitable for the development of new digital applications, the group said.

However, recent weeks have seen critics warn that allowing a new standard on how the internet works could make it easier for governments to regulate what their citizens see on the internet.

Mr Breton, responding to the proposal, defended the existing rules, saying they had "demonstrated a high level of resilience, scalability and adaptability, enabling the growth of the global internet to date".

The protocol's "resilience and adaptability have been tested during the Covid-19 crisis," he said.

He said that the Commission was aware that internet protocols did need continuous improvement but that this should take place "primarily in the relevant Internet standards bodies, based on a decision-making process that is transparent, bottom-up and open to all stakeholders".

The comments come amid growing concern over China's role in the West, with countries including the UK moving towards tougher regulation of Chinese companies such as Huawei.

Although Boris Johnson initially gave Huawei the green light to be involved in building its 5G network earlier this year, telecoms operators are now expecting a U-Turn and a full ban on the network equipment supplier in the UK.

Government officials are understood to have already held talks with industry figures over the move.


So far, the EU has decided to adopt a more lenient approach, telling members to limit the role higher-risk vendors have in their networks, but not recommending they ban any companies.

The European Commission set out a "5G toolbox" of measures countries should take, with a report on how it was implemented in countries due at the end of June.

- Telegraph