It Seems We Have a Neutral Net! #success
The European Parliament accepted the Digital Agenda that was originally promoted by Vice President Neelie Kroes. This Digital Agenda includes net neutrality within the European Union and puts an end to roaming charges for mobile services in other European countries by the end of 2015.
In the original proposal, net neutrality was not as clearly defined as it currently is. The original proposal had a section about “specialised services” which could get prioritised access i.e. the opposite of net neutrality. This section was one of the main points for critique as it provides the possibility for the creation of an elite internet, which would be a disadvantage for smaller services. This would have been possible due to deals the providers could have made with content providers. Luckily, it has been amended by the members of the European Parliament. The amendment was backed by a coalition of centre-left and liberal deputies.
In the modified proposal “specialised services” are still mentioned but may only be used if there is no other such service on the normal internet. This would, for example, apply to healthcare services that require a faster internet connection, but it is forbidden for providers to charge more for the usage of already existing services. While this solution is still far from being perfect, it is at least a step in the right direction.
Thankfully, a majority of MEPs have seen sense today and voted to uphold the principle of net neutrality in the EU. The proposals by the Commission, which would essentially have given large providers the all-clear for discriminating against users as they see fit, have been revised. Today’s vote would explicitly provide for net neutrality and will hopefully ensure a level playing field for all online services and users, providing for a more open internet environment in which innovation is encouraged.
We now hope EU governments in Council will endorse this approach. Information online should not be subject to discrimination, blocking or interference by internet access providers. This is what net neutrality implies: guaranteeing an open and free internet, where everyone can have access and contribute to the same online information. Clearly, today’s vote is important but we will have to remain vigilant to ensure any future threats to net neutrality can be headed off.
Amelia Andersdotter, MEP for the Swedish Pirate Party and Greens/EFA e-communications spokesperson
As for the earlier mentioned, the existing roaming charges are only allowed in the European Union until the 15 December 2015. After this date all users will be charged the same amount as if they were in their home country. This, of course, is criticised by the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association but on the other hand certainly in the interest of the consumer.
The Digital Agenda has now to be accepted by the Council of the European Union where lobbyists can still have a negative influence.
Featured image: CC-BY, Kendrick Erickson