EU adopts bad net neutrality laws

The idea that data should be ferried from place to place as quickly as possible, regardless of what it is, is how most people assume the internet works.

That’s the essence of net neutrality.

Yesterday the EU voted through a report on the `European single market for electronic communications`.  Most headlines centred on the proposed scrapping of mobile roaming charges including the press release from the DUP.

However the future of how the internet works in Europe was also in the report and the parliament voted to reject various amendments aimed at protecting the open internet.

Academics, NGO`s & Technology firms such as Netflix, Soundcloud & Kickstarter released an open letter opposing the current proposals and supporting the amendments.

The Web foundation issued a statement statement “loopholes in the rules as passed now mean we could see the introduction of paid fast-lanes for Internet traffic.”

Barbara van Schewick is a leading net neutrality expert, a Professor at Stanford Law School, the Director of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society has an extensive rundown of why she feels the amendments should have been adopted.

The founder of the internet Sir Tim Berners-Lee released a statement urging the EU not to pass the current proposals ( Net Neutrality in Europe: A Statement From Sir Tim Berners-Lee ) stating:

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.

 

Those four loopholes identified by Berners Lee are:

Fast lanes: The “specialized services” exception is too broadly defined. The amendment was introduced for critical services such as remote medical procedures, but the current wording could allow ISPs to fit all sorts of other services into it, effectively creating a “two tier” internet.
Zero-rating: This would let ISPs select services that do not count against their customers’ monthly bandwidth limits and so potentially distort the market and limit innovation. The obvious incentive of a service not counting against bandwidth limits would be to limit competition, critics argue.
Class-based throttling: Currently the rules would allow ISPs to define certain classes or content and speed up or slow down traffic in those classes. Critics argue that not only would this almost guarantee the slower transfer of encrypted traffic (since it can’t be read and hence classed), but it would be used to limit competition.
Network congestion: ISPs would be allowed to slow traffic down in order to prevent “impending congestion.” But the term “impending” is too subjective, critics say, and leaves the door open for ISPs to slow traffic at any time claiming that they expect congestion soon.

An accompanying Save the Internet website was launched by Sir Tim.

Marietje Schaake a Member of the European Parliament for the Dutch Democratic Party with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe says “too much attention was given to the interests of national telecom companies and too little to those of internet users and the economy of the future.” (Full statement here.)

The Greens / European Free Alliance statement announced “The new e-communications rules adopted today are being sold as a victory for consumers but this is a sham.” EFA / SNP MEP Ian Hudghton also released a statement “The establishment of a two-tiered Internet, which is now no longer a level playing field, is a flawed decision that does not ensure and safeguard a neutral treatment of internet traffic.”

Similarly Sinn Fein voted for the amendments. “As well as delaying the abolition of mobile phone roaming charges to 2017 the ambiguity regarding net neutrality clearly show the influence of corporate lobbyists. Ahead of this plenary session I, along with my Sinn Féin and GUE/NGL colleague’s co-signed amendments precisely to reinstall the crucial definitions to ensure that net neutrality was settled in primary legislation. This principle is vital to protecting consumers’ access to high quality internet and mobile services over ISP’s increased profits. This was an opportunity for MEP’s to stand up to put the rights of citizens before those of corporations.”

UKIP MEP Roger Helmer tabled an amendment to kill the package, claiming that eliminating roaming charges will drive up bills overall, penalising those who do not travel.  Whilst Scottish UKIP MEP David Coburn has said their will be consequences to interfering in the free market.

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  • Kevin Breslin

    Thank goodness the EU isn’t as undemocratic as UKIP says it is and bad laws like this can be reversed. And thank goodness a democratic institution can be held accountable to these decisions rather than some government’s non-elected team of negotiators making deals in private claiming to be speaking on our behalf.

    The fact we saw Eurosceptic Lords fly in to vote against Tax credits when they don’t even pay tax and Eurosceptics like Michael Ashcroft try to blackmail the government to control the army tells me the devil I do not know can be a whole lot worse. People like these would urinate on net neutrality on a second upon a Brexit.