Yesterday in the The Hague, the Dutch Parliament voted for amendments aimed at preventing mobile operators from blocking, or charging extra for, their customers’ use of independent applications like Skype on their mobile phones.
To most people, this sounds like a re-statement of common sense: if a consumer purchases a mobile Internet access plan, he or she should be able to decide which content and applications to access, without being arbitrarily hindered or charged twice to access particular content and applications. In the curious world of the European mobile operator, however, this is not common sense at all.
Mobile operators in the Netherlands began blocking and double charging for certain network independent content and apps. The Dutch Economics Minister, Maxime Verhagen, rightly deemed this behaviour intolerable and Parliament struck a significant blow for consumer rights with the passing of the amendments yesterday.
As the groundswell of public and political support for open access to the Internet grows, expect to see governments across Europe fall into line with the Dutch. We – Skype – will continue to press the case for the legal codification of such consumer protections in Brussels and EU Member State capitals. In the meantime, to the Dutch we say “Heel goed gedaan!”