EU vote for 'neutral' net plan draws sharp criticism

The European Parliament has approved vague rules for net neutrality, sweetening the text with a ban on mobile phone roaming surcharges

By rejecting amendments as it passed a bill on net neutrality, the European Parliament has all but ensured that in the European Union, the Internet will be neutral in name only, critics say.

While the effects of the "European Single Market for Electronic Communications" regulation on net neutrality are disputed, it will also mean that, from June 15, 2017, cellular operators can no longer charge a premium on voice or data traffic outside a subscriber's home country. Politicians have labelled the move "the end of roaming charges," although operators will still be able to charge customers they think are abusing the system by permanently roaming, using a SIM card from a low-cost country while living in a higher-cost country.

Members of the European Parliament voted Tuesday to adopt the regulation unamended. Since the text had already been agreed by the EU's other decision-making bodies, the Commission and the Council, it will take immediate effect and not receive a second reading in the Parliament.

Spanish MEP Pilar del Castillo, who proposed the text, said the regulation will make Europe "the only region in the world which legally guarantees open internet and net neutrality," and that will ensure the EU does not end up with a two-speed Internet. "It will be illegal to provide better access for a fee," she told Parliament before the debate.

But net neutrality proponents say the regulation is lacking in substance.

"The European Parliament had the choice to adopt amendments to clarify its vagueness in four key points: zero rating, specialized services, traffic management and congestion. However, it decided not to decide," said Maryant Fernandez Perez, advocacy manager for campaign group European Digital Rights (EDRi).

"The EU legislators just decided to leave it up to the regulators to decide if, how and when EU citizens will get net neutrality," she said via email.

Internet access providers will be allowed to block or slow delivery of content, applications and services from certain senders or to certain recipients if they deem it necessary to prevent network congestion, to combat cyber attacks, to comply with laws or to obey court orders. Such traffic management must be transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate, and may not last for longer than necessary. Exceptions also allow operators to charge for specialized services (such as the improved quality-of-service management needed for some applications), as long as it doesn't affect general Internet quality.

Many of those terms are undefined, leaving operators a great deal of latitude in how neutral their Internet service is.

Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake had wanted Parliament to adopt amendments giving a clearer definition of net neutrality. "This is a missed opportunity," she said, adding that Europe needs strong rules on the matter such as already exist in the Netherlands. "Especially now that the United States has net neutrality laws, ours should be top notch," she said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?