Online throttling and site-blocking to be outlawed in Europe under net neutrality plan

Online throttling and site-blocking to be outlawed in Europe under net neutrality plan

Summary: We will guarantee access to the full and open internet on every device, on every network, says the EU's digital chief.


ISPs will be barred from blocking or throttling customers' access to services that rival their own under new net neutrality rules that could soon be enforced across Europe.

The European Commission said that around 100 million Europeans face restrictions on their internet services because ISPs are reluctant give customers access to services which compete with their own offerings.

Plans to mandate net neutrality now being put forward by the EC's digital chief, Commission vice president Neelie Kroes, would prevent anti-competitive blocking of rival services.

Currently only the Netherlands and Slovenia have net neutrality guarantees but Kroes said she wants similar rights for the rest of Europe.

Net neutrality is an issue that Europe has been discussing for a number of years, with momentum gradually moving towards making it a standard across Europe.

Kroes said that some services such as Skype and WhatsApp are being deliberately degraded or blocked outright by some ISP "simply to avoid the competition".

"In my view, such ideas are on their way out. Most consumers see the richness and vibrancy of the full, unlimited internet and wouldn't want anything less," she said

Speaking in Brussels today, she added: "Equally, it's clear to me that many Europeans expect protection against such commercial tactics. And that is exactly the EU safeguard we will be providing. A safeguard for every European, on every device, on every network: a guarantee of access to the full and open internet, without any blocking or throttling of competing services."

A 2011 study by European regulators found that services are blocked or degraded, often without their knowledge, for around one in five fixed lines, and for more than one in three mobile users.

Kroes said this hurts consumers – because they don't get the service they paid for, and start-ups "because they lack certainty about whether their new bright ideas will get a fair chance to compete in the market".

Kroes acknowledged that ISPs have legitimate reasons to manage how internet traffic flows through their networks, for example to avoid congestion and so ensure quality, or to weed out spam, which she said was "something which has made a real positive difference, which I'd say most users find helpful, and are happy with".

Similarly, different users have different network needs — from merely sending a few emails to constantly watching video — and thus ISPs should be allowed to offer different internet access packages.

Kroes also said there should be more transparency, particularly in consumer broadband contracts, so people can understand what they are really buying. "We all deserve a clear promise before signing up — not a nasty surprise after. After all, when you buy a carton of milk, you don't expect it to be half-empty: the same goes for 50Mbps internet."

The next step is to work out whether the net neutrality plans should be put forward as a 'legal recommendation' or a 'regulation'.

If net neutrality is taken forward as a recommendation, it could be in place by December this year, while if it is made into a tougher regulation, it will take until Easter 2014 to pass both the European Parliament and European Council, and even then won't actually be law in each of the EU member states until 2015.

Topics: Networking, Broadband, Government, Legal, EU

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  • Why not ...

    ... fine the offenders now under the current laws ...
    ... then pass some new laws ...
    ... then fine them again?

    Then they know it's serious.
  • now they have to do it

    here in the US. but that wont happen to much money to be made.
  • 20 European CEOs ask European Commission to defend the open internet

    At the event this morning, Neelie Kroes was given an open letter signed by 20 European CEOs asking to defend the open internet. You can find the letter here
  • It's about time.....!!!!!!

    Living in various and different European countries throughout the year, I markedly find a big difference between many countries, particularly those that think they are 'smart'. I Hungary where I live most of the time they block Skype per definition. I get REALLY pissed off with the Telco's their....
    Hopefully this new law will put a stop to their 'capers'
  • Kid-friendly ISPs will be illegal

    So an ISP built for kids that blocks out certain content on the Internet would be made illegal under this plan.

    Government causes more problems than it fixes. Let consumers decide. If Verizon, for example, is throttling data to certain sites and their customers don't like it, they'll switch to a service that does. Verizon will have to change to compete.
    T Gregory
    • Its about giving the choice

      I think you may have mis-interpreted the message here.
      This isnt about making 'kid-friendly' ISPs illegal, this is about giving you (the consumer) the choice to choose if they block your content or not.

      From what I see here, if you want content blocked on your own connection, I'm sure you can ask your 'kid-friendly' ISP to turn that on. The ruling discussed here is referring to blocking parts of the internet without telling you which is what a lot of ISPs do currently.
      • The decision belongs with

        the company and the consumer. The problem is in most communities consumers face government mandated monopolies or at best a duopoly. That will be changing with better wireless technologies.
    • The world doesn't need kid frendly ISPs. That is what parents are for.

      Blocking content can and should be done at the consumer level. You don't want it, turn your own filter on. Problem solved. Censorship is never a solution, but itself a problem.

      Making kid friendly tools available to the consumer would be a great move for ISPs.
  • Great idea

    Take away a companies ability to monetize and control their network, that will increase build outs, add new competitors . . . said absolutely no one.
    • Competition

      The Internet is about that each company or person connected are paying their data/connection bill. In some cases someone they know or work for are paying the bill.

      The advantage of this system is that any company can start a service without signing 10000 contracts with different ISPs and telecoms....
    • The internet was designed to be an opened system.

      The big media companies and telcos wanted in on the ISP business. If they don't like the open internet business, they should get out of it, not close the internet for their own purposes. If any one gives up their local monopoly, (telco or cable company) I am sure two or three enterprising small businesses would gladly step up and fill the void.
  • Translation of Slovenian law

    We prepared unofficial translation of relevant articles in Slovenian law: