European Parliament fights back hard on net neutrality

By EDRi · November 27, 2014

After EDRi published a leaked draft by the Italian EU Presidency
to weaken proposals on net neutrality, the European Parliament has hit back with a strongly-worded resolution (see paragraphs 8 and 14). The final version will be linked here when available). The resolution was adopted with 458 in favour and 173 against.

The resolution re-asserts the Parliament’s view that strong net neutrality rules are needed, both for the fundamental rights, for innovation and competition.

The resolution calls for “more legal certainty” for net neutrality and stresses that “all internet traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, irrespective of its sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application”.

“Treated equally” goes beyond a simple ban on blocking or throttling of services. It also covers, for example, price discrimination, where some online monopolies can be accessed without additional download charges, while users have to pay to access every other service.

Under price discrimination, the “internet” thereby becomes an impoverished shell pushing internet users into the hands of monopolies and excluding competitors. Unfortunately, price discrimination is increasingly common in Europe – to the detriment of freedom of communication and innovation.

In a separate development this week, Dutch Liberal Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marietje Schaake prepared a strongly pro net neutrality letter to be sent to the Council. In just a few hours, she gathered the signatures of 130 MEPs (nearly 20% of the Parliament) demanding clear net neutrality rules “to foster innovation and competition”.

The European Commission’s position remains unclear. It claims to be in favour of net neutrality, but behind closed doors in EU Council discussions, it remains steadfastly wedded to the notion that restricting an online service by price discrimination is not a limitation on net neutrality. We doubt if an online start-up that is being forced out of the market due to price discrimination rather than due to being throttled would appreciate the Commission’s secret nuance.

The anti-net neutrality lobby took a further hit this morning in the EU Council, as several countries expressed their opposition to the Italian Presidency’s attempts to undermine the legislative proposal.