Net Neutrality in Europe faces a test in the European Parliament today (Oct. 27) and the outcome could affect millions of Internet users within the European Union.
It failed the test.
The EU Parliament voted on a set of Internet use rules and regulations which on the surface proclaim Net Neutrality but critics, tech firms and Net Neutrality advocates say the rules are riddled with gaps and holes which, if adopted as written, will in fact allow a two-tiered Internet accessible at greater speeds if one has the money to pay for the faster speeds and another tier, at slower speeds, for everyone else.
Amendments were proposed to the rules to shore up true Net Neutrality and ensure open and fair Internet access to all Europeans but the Parliament rejected the amendments and adopted the rules as originally proposed.
The European battle over Net Neutrality is somewhat different than the battle which took place earlier this year in the U.S. – typically, perhaps, more European with subtle distinctions and nuances – because on the surface the proposed legislation supports an open Internet. The U.S. battle, by contrast, pitted major telecommunications companies who wanted the two-tiered system against an overwhelming public outcry for open and fair access.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation in the U.S. and the Save the Internet Coalition in the EU say these amendments to the proposed rules and regulations should have been adopted: (quoted from the European Save the Internet Coalition)
1. PREVENT NETWORK DISCRIMINATION – Large deep-pocketed companies should not be allowed to buy VIP tickets to prioritise their content over other traffic on the Internet.
What EU Parliamentarians need to do: Clarify the criteria defining specialised services to disallow discrimination on the network.
2. TREAT ALL TRAFFIC EQUALLY – All traffic on the internet should be treated equally, with both unencrypted and encrypted content delivered as fast as possible. What EU Parliamentarians need to do: Modify the provisions on traffic management to ensure equal treatment of traffic. Traffic management should be transparent, targeted and in accordance with the law.
3. FREEDOM TO BAN ZERO RATING – ISPs should not be allowed to become gatekeepers and charge companies for the delivery of their services. Anyone with a great idea should be able to reach Internet users without having to pay a toll. What EU Parliamentarians need to do: Add a provision to enable member states to ban the anti-competitive, discriminatory practices.
4. MANAGING NETWORK CONGESTION – ISPs should be allowed to manage traffic in cases of congestion, but only if it is actually taking place. What EU Parliamentarians need to do: Clarify the rules for managing congestion to prevent ISPs from interfering with the network for a discriminatory reason.
The amendments were being supported by a wide range of tech firms with ties and interests in Europe including Netflix, WordPress (Automattic), EyeEm, Etsy, Reddit, Tumblr and many others. The companies penned a letter over the weekend to Members of the European Parliament.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and a Brit, penned a piece at the World Wide Web Foundation supporting the amendments.
“When I designed the World Wide Web, I built it as an open platform to foster collaboration and innovation,” Berners-Lee posted. “The Web evolved into a powerful and ubiquitous platform because I was able to build it on an open network that treated all packets of information equally. This principle of net neutrality has kept the Internet a free and open space since its inception.
“If adopted as currently written, these rules will threaten innovation, free speech and privacy, and compromise Europe’s ability to lead in the digital economy.”