Several internet providers across Europe offer you “free” access to some parts, but not all, of the internet. On the RespectMyNet.eu platform, users have reported several cases of this uncompetitive and discriminatory practice called “zero rating”. It is especially common for mobile data; Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not charge users for data used by specific services or applications on their phone, while imposing charges for all others.
Users have reported on RespectMyNet.eu that the Belgian ISP Mobistar (now rebranded as Orange) explicitly offers a mobile plan called “Dauphin” with the feature of “unlimited” (<10GB/month) access to Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, when you are browsing on Facebook or Twitter, using their official applications, you do not need to worry about your data cap. However, Mobistar is denying you a free choice, not respecting the internet’s nature of openness and innovation: If you use any other application that is not part of the package, you end up paying for your data.
Zero rating contributes to the monopolisation of the internet: it requires technical discrimination that is not necessary; it actively limits your freedom to impart, receive and seek information: To access other services, you are forced to pay for extra mobile data, while services selected by the internet provider are available for free or at a much lower cost. This is in clear violation of your rights according to the EU Regulation dealing with net neutrality (Article 3(1)).
On RespectMyNet.eu, you can find tools to monitor your internet access, to find out whether your internet provider is manipulating or restricting your traffic. For example, the free and open source tool called “neubot” conducts net neutrality tests for you. If neubot finds problems in your internet traffic, please report them via RespectMyNet!
RespectMyNet is a project launched by La Quadrature du Net, EDRi member Bits of Freedom and individual contributors in 2011. The project has grown, and it now includes other civil society organisations like EDRi and some of our members. RespectMyNet raises awareness about unequal treatment of internet traffic that undermines a free, open and competitive web. The platform is collecting your reports of ISPs not treating all data on the internet equally. We hope the platform will help the EU Regulators to sanction companies that violate net neutrality.
The Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) is currently preparing guidelines for the implementation of the Regulation on a Single Market for Electronic Communications, which includes provisions on net neutrality. You can help BEREC adopt strong guidelines guaranteeing net neutrality by responding the public consultation until 18 July.
Is your internet provider threatening net neutrality?
RespectMyNet: Mobistar (BE) Abonnements Dauphin/Dolfijn 12, 15 and 20
Mobile plan “Dauphin”
Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down measures concerning open internet access
(Contribution by Fabian Warislohner, EDRi intern)