This month saw progress on the net neutrality front in Europe, with several parliaments raising the tone. We had just learnt that the Berlin city state’s coalition government had declared its support for the principle of network neutrality. Then, in a motion adopted on 17 November the Parliament of Luxembourg demanded that the principle of net neutrality should be (i) enshrined in national law and (ii) its respect promoted throughout the EU. Echoing the sentiments of their counterparts in France or the Netherlands, the Luxembourg ‘députés’ highlighted that (our translation):
“net neutrality is a founding principle of the Internet, which excludes discrimination with regards to source or origin or content of data packets, and guarantees a strictly equitable access to the Internet for users; the neutrality of the Internet is undoubtedly responsible for economic innovation, citizen and social participation, information pluralism, and diffusion of knowledge.”
They concluded that:
“considering that any exception to the principle of net neutrality must be defined by law and controlled by the regulator … that there are currently some network operators and ISPs who attempt to disrupt net neutrality for reasons of profit maximisation … [the Parliament] invites the Government to inscribe the principle of net neutrality in law.”
The same day, the European Parliament voted by a large majority a resolution to keep the Internet open and neutral. Members of the European Parliament called on the European Commission to monitor Internet traffic management practices, in particular to ensure that “Internet Service Providers do not block, discriminate against or impair the ability of any person to use or offer any service, content or application of their choice irrespective of source or target”. They also called on the European Commission to provide EU-wide guidelines to ensure that EU telecoms rules on net neutrality are properly applied and enforced. MEPs also asked the Commission to assess, within six months of the publication of a report on an investigation by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), whether further regulation is needed to ensure freedom of expression, freedom of access of information, freedom of choice for consumers and media pluralism.
Next, EU ministers plan to adopt conclusions on the open Internet and net neutrality in Europe at the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council on 13 December 2011. That will follow UK regulator Ofcom’s statement on net neutrality on 24th November where they made it clear that they would consider taking action if “the current blocking of services by mobile operators remained widespread and consistent”.
All this is encouraging. But there is a long way to go unless the authorities truly raise the pressure.
Users and Internet innovators, freedom of expression and citizen activists, and generally right-minded people including now, parliamentarians, are all asking for an open Internet; for the ability for people to do what they want on the Internet, not what they are being told or ‘allowed’ to do (across the EU, there are reports that VoIP but also IM, P2P, video, audio, software updates, and more are routinely discriminated against). We’ve had a lot of talk; now we need action to restore the freedom for any European to access all the information, content, apps and services of their choice on the Internet, without any artificial barriers.