Europe's political youth organizations demand strict net neutrality rules

EU member states are set to adopt a draft regulation on net neutrality later this week

European political youth organizations have demanded that European countries draft strict and clear net neutrality rules that prevent ISPs from discriminating against certain Internet traffic.

In order to keep the Internet open, all data on the Internet should be treated equally, 51 youth organizations said in a manifest sent to European ministers on Monday.

The ministers, gathered in the Council of the EU, are in the process of discussing a new EU telecom law as proposed by the European Commission and the European Parliament that contains clauses on net neutrality and roaming. The Parliament in April last year voted to enshrine net neutrality in EU law, so that all traffic would be treated equally and without discrimination. However, the Council is trying to get some traffic discrimination back into the draft.

This week, the Council's presidency plans to finalize the draft regulation which could be adopted by the EU countries as early as Wednesday. If the draft is adopted, the Council will start negotiations with the Parliament. Both law making bodies will probably work on a compromise.

The latest proposal by the Council presidency on net neutrality was published last Friday. While it requires that traffic management measures be non-discriminatory, it "does not preclude providers of Internet access services to implement traffic management measures which take into account objectively different quality of service requirements of certain traffic," such as high bandwidth traffic, it said. This could for instance include services like Netflix or YouTube.

However, the European youth parties "fiercely" opposed efforts from the Council to allow discrimination of Internet traffic. They called on the Council to preserve net neutrality as drafted by the Parliament. "We strongly urge the Council to define net neutrality clearly -- and without any loopholes -- in order to safeguard equality, facilitate fair competition and foster innovation," they said.

Youth parties from left to right, conservative to liberal backed the call. This big support shows that the youth of Europe is willing to raise their voice to keep the internet open, without censorship or privacy infringement from ISP, said Dirkjan Tijs, the president of the Dutch Young Democrats, the party that initiated the action, in an email. The Council cannot ignore such a strong statement, he said.

The Council has still some time to listen to the call from the youth parties. The proposed draft is not final and the Presidency of the Council is set to make some changes to the draft on Monday, a Council official said. However, given the long negotiations in the Council it is unlikely that those changes are going to be so significant that they will reflect the demands of the youth parties.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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