The final countdown for net neutrality in the EU

By EDRi · October 21, 2015

On 27 October 2015, the European Parliament will vote on the Telecoms Single Market (TSM) regulation, which includes net neutrality rules. In just six days, the European Parliament will either decide to support amendments that give meaning to key provisions of the text or to decide not to decide on having clear net neutrality rules.

The Parliament now has the power to finish what it started last year. We urge the Parliament to adopt amendments to outlaw all forms of online discrimination

said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights.

Alternatively, citizens and online companies will have to wait a year or two for courts and regulators to decide whether violations of net neutrality will be permissible

he added.

There are amendments tabled to the draft regulation that would, if adopted, prevent network discrimination and ensure predictability and the protection of net neutrality:

  • Politicians claim to protect net neutrality by the current text. However, the draft regulation does not even mention net neutrality. An amendment is needed to fix this.
  • Specialised (“fast lane”) services are possible as long as they are “necessary”. However, necessary is redefined to cover situations where such preferential treatment would not be necessary.
  • The current text allows “traffic management” in cases of “impending” congestion, creating the potential for a significant loophole. If this text is not deleted, we will have to wait for regulators to decide if telecoms operators are will be allowed to abuse it or not.
  • Zero rating is the a widespread violation of net neutrality. It allows some services (like Facebook) to be accessed for free, while consumers have to pay data download charges for everything else, such as the European Parliament website. In the current text, zero rating could be interpreted as being permitted (or, bizarrely, the opposite). The European Parliament’s rapporteur, Ms Del Castillo, stated in the press conference following the conclusion of the trialogue agreement that this issue was not covered by the text. This needs to be made clear.
  • Traffic management is defined in the text with a very subjective criteria. The text contradicts itself profoundly – it is foreseen that it should always be possible to discriminate between different types of data, but also that such discrimination should be undertaken no longer than is “necessary”. This will have major impacts on privacy and innovation if not fixed.

To get these amendments adopted, an absolute majority of the Parliament has to vote in favour of each one of them. Together with our “Save the Internet” coalition partners, EDRi urges Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to vote in favour of these amendments, and encourages citizens to contact their MEPs through the Save the Internet platform via phone, e-mail and social media.

Read more:

Save The Internet campaign: The final countdown

Unclear “net neutrality” proposal returns to European Parliament – civil society groups call for action (06.10.2015)

Infographics: Net neutrality and encryption

Infographics: Net neutrality and zero rating

Infographics: Net neutrality and specialised services