Net neutrality and the open internet in Europe got a boost on Thursday when a key European Parliament committee voted to protect them.
The industry committee unanimously
adopted a resolution (PDF) backing the principles, which the parliament as a whole may now vote to adopt at a plenary session in November. The text
counts as advice to the European Commission, Council and governments
of member states. It points out the risks of departing from the
principles of net neutrality, and reminds the recipients that
regulators must be able to curtail anti-competitive behaviour.
or 'net' neutrality, which refers to the equality of internet-based
services, is becoming an increasingly crucial issue as more and
more people depend on the internet. Some telecoms operators have been known to
throttle or block services that compete with their own — VoIP is
the classic example — and net-neutrality advocates say this
should not be allowed.
Campaigners for net neutrality are also incensed by the desire on
the part of some operators to charge
content providers such as Google and the BBC for carrying their
services at a decent quality. Net-neutrality advocates say this would make it impossible for new players to easily and cheaply set up shop,
as has been the case so far.
According to the adopted resolution — passed by 35 votes to
none, with four abstentions — "potential challenges when
departing from network neutrality [include] anti-competitive behaviour,
blockage of innovation, restriction on freedom of expression, lack of
consumer awareness and infringement of privacy".
"The lack of net neutrality hurts both businesses, consumers and
society as a whole," it concludes.
It also emphasises that EU regulations aim to promote effective competition, "therefore any measure in the
area of net neutrality should, in addition to existing competition law,
provide tools to deal with any anti-competitive practices that may
emerge, as well as lead to investment and facility new innovative
The lack of net neutrality hurts both businesses, consumers and society as a whole.– Resolution
The European Parliament's industry committee said in its resolution that "any
solution proposed on the issue of net neutrality should ensure a
common European approach".
The campaigning group La Quadrature du Net welcomed
the committee vote. Its spokesman Jérémie Zimmermann noted
it is "a political commitment from the European Parliament in favour
of net neutrality, [aiming] to prevent telecom operators from
restricting internet access".
However, La Quad claimed separately
on Wednesday that the resolution's recognition that
"reasonable traffic management is required to ensure that the end
user's connectivity is not disrupted by network congestion" was a
"major loophole allowing operators to implement internet access
restrictions on the pretext of managing congestion".
"Mrs Kroes must break away from her wait-and-see approach and take
action to effectively protect competition, innovation as well as
citizens' freedom of expression and privacy online," Zimmermann added
The European Competitive Telecommunications Association (Ecta),
which represents the interests of small and new players in the
telecoms market, also welcomed the vote.
"The European Parliament today has confirmed that effective
competition is of paramount importance to guarantee that European
consumers benefit from freedom of choice on the internet. Ecta joins
the strong call of the Parliament to the European Commission and the
Member States to ensure the enforcement of the telecom regulations to
achieve this goal," the group said on Friday.
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