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EU Net Neutrality Vote Disappoints Everyone

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, March 19 2014

McKayla is not impressed with the EU Net Neutrality law (Pete Souza / Wikipedia)

A draft law on net neutrality passed an European Parliament committee Tuesday 30 to 12, with 14 members abstaining. Although the draft law purports to protect net neutrality, it contains vague language that would allow ISPs to charge websites more for higher quality of service, provided it does not degrade other online services. This gives both industry groups and consumer watchdog groups something to complain about.

Internet providers say the strict regulations would degrade service overall and hinder development.

“The rules proposed by the European Parliament are very restrictive and will hamper innovation,” Luigi Gambardella, chairman of the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association, told the New York Times.

Consumer groups say the vague language would still allow for some to receive preferential treatment, undermining the goal of net neutrality.

From a description of the proposal:

Companies would however be allowed to differentiate their offers (for example by speed) and compete on enhanced quality of service. There is nothing unusual about this – postal services (express mail) and airlines (economy/business class) have done this for decades.

To meet end-users' demand for better service quality, content providers may agree deals with internet providers to assure a certain quality of service. Such offers will enable telecom operators to generate additional revenue streams from OTT actors, content providers as well as from consumers who are willing to pay for better or faster services. These revenues in turn, will enable operators to finance investments into network upgrades and expansion.

Specialised [sic]services must not lead to quality degradation of the "normal"/best efforts Internet.

The advocacy organization La Quadrature du Net has called the provisions above “major loopholes.”

La Quadrature du Net co-founder, Félix Tréguer said:

What is at stake in this regulation is no less than the fate of the Internet commons. Are we going to let big telecom operators and Internet giants dictate the terms of the digital economy or will lawmakers adopt strong binding principles making sure that the Internet remains a decentralized platform for freedom of communication and innovation, where citizens and new entrants can challenge entrenched players? This is the crucial question that will soon be addressed through the upcoming plenary vote, and one that citizens should ask to their elected representative in Brussels ahead of the upcoming EU elections.

The net neutrality proposal will be voted on by the whole European Parliament in early April.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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