On 8 July 2014, Italian MP Stefano Quintarelli submitted a law proposal which covers net neutrality, despite never mentioning those words. The draft law represents a positive input for network neutrality in Italy. This article explains why.

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Art. 3(1) of the proposed text (“Limitations to the management for traffic”) foresees that “ISPs (Internet Service Providers) cannot hinder, or throttle access to services and applications”. Exceptions are:

a. Traffic management;
b. Network security and integrity;
c. Undesired communications, (e.g. spam);
d. Any legislative measure or Court order.

On the one hand, some parts of the text could be improved. For instance, it is proposed that traffic management can be application-specific, meaning that “providers shall manage traffic depending on the category of services” (explanatory memorandum, p. 3, and art. 3(1)). An application-agnostic traffic management provision would be much better instead (see also EDRi’s explanation on traffic management).

On the other hand, good news is that the text seems to prohibit zero-rating practices: “ISPs shall not decide services rates depending on services or applications offered or used through Internet access service” (Art. 3(3)). It is also clearly stated under the explanatory memorandum that: “ISPs may not offer a services allowing access only to some services or applications while others are blocked or restricted by different rates. This means that access providers shall not offer services allowing access to a limited portion of the Internet”.

The law proposalis currently being discussed by the Italian Parliamentary Commission on Postal Services and Communications. The text aims to “increase citizens’ choice within the Internet, assuring that providers shall not influence it and shall not distort competition, thus going against civil rights”, Quintarelli says.

Now that Regulation 2120/2015 (on roaming and net neutrality) has been approved, one could reasonably wonder what future of the legislative proposal will be. As already observed, the future for net neutrality in Europe depends on BEREC’s (the committee of European telecoms regulators) interpretation of the Regulation. It is clear how BEREC will play a key role in the debates on net neutrality over the next months. If carried, the Italian law proposal shall be compliant to EU net neutrality rules, as resulting by the interpretation given by BEREC. In order to promote an unambiguous and clear approach to net neutrality to BEREC, it will be important to participate in its upcoming consultation planned for June 2016, and to take a firm stance against zero-rating and all forms of data discrimination.

Text of the legislative proposal “Disposizioni in materia di fornitura dei servizi della rete internet per la tutela della concorrenza e della libertà di accesso degli utenti” (in Italian)

Net Neutrality, something’s moving in Italy (07.05.2015) (in Italian)

Net neutrality, Quintarelli: “User shall be free to choose. Civil rights at stake” (08.05.2015) (in Italian)

EDRi-gram: EDRi’s first input on EU regulators’ net neutrality guidelines (13.01.2016)

(Contribution by Elisabetta Biasin, intern at EDRi)