Two Dutch telcos fined for breaching net neutrality law

The Dutch watchdog has handed down its first fines, to Vodafone and KPN, for failing to uphold neutrality law.

For the first time ever, Dutch companies have been fined for violating net neutrality laws.

Two telcos were fined this week - KPN for €250,000 and Vodafone for €200,000 - by the Dutch watchdog, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM).

In the Netherlands, net neutrality - where ISPs must treat all data, applications, and services carried over their networks the same - is not optional. Dutch law states that all service providers are required to offer full net neutrality to all their customers.

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According to the ACM: "All of these regulations help create an open internet. Having an open internet is important in order to be able to distribute information freely, and to have more choice online."

ACM said it had fined KPN because its free wi-fi hotspots "blocked various services including several internet calling services. As a result, consumers were unable to use these services. Internet providers are prohibited from deciding what their customers can and cannot do online."

The practices at issue were discovered two years ago by Dutch VoIP company RingCredible, when it noticed that KPN had been blocking its services for several months, not just on its 3G network but on its hotspots as well.

The fine handed down to Vodafone relates to net neutrality as well, but to a different aspect. Vodafone did not prevent its users from using specific services on its network, but instead offered plans allowing customers to watch pay-TV channel HBO using an app, without the traffic generated by the app being deducted from their monthly plan.

Although this may seem like a positive development, ACM claims that in doing so, "Vodafone influenced its customers' online behavior, which is not allowed either. Regulation requires internet providers not to influence consumer behavior through blockades or tariffs."

Henk Don, an ACM board member, added: "Internet providers are not allowed to decide for consumers what they can do on the internet, and they are not allowed to influence their behavior either. All data must be transmitted under the same conditions. That is the idea behind net neutrality, and that is what we are enforcing in these cases. ACM thus prevents consumers from having less freedom of choice online."

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