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MEPs warn telecoms to play fair on net neutrality

Don’t throttle rival services unless you can justify it
Tue Mar 18 2014, 15:34

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT has warned internet service providers (ISPs) that it won't put up with net neutrality violations, however it has left them room for interpretation.

In response to revelations that services like Skype, which provides low cost calling, are being throttled, the MEPs backed rules that will prevent ISPs from degrading or blocking internet connections to rivals' services and applications, up to a point.

It did allow for some traffic management, however, explaining that high quality services like streaming media could get something of a fast lane if required, as long as it does not affect users' internet speeds. Alternatively, it said that if any services are deemed to require throttling, then this could be agreed under exceptional circumstances or court orders.

"With today's Industry Committee vote the European Parliament has taken one great step towards consolidating the telecommunications single market," said Pilar del Castillo Vera, the European People's Party MEP who heads the European Parliament's work on net neutrality issues.

"Moreover we have built in further safeguards for internet openness, by ensuring that users can run and provide applications and services of their choice as well as strengthening the internet as a key driver of competitiveness, economic growth, social development and innovation".

The proposed package will be put to the entire Parliament in a vote. The industry committee adopted the del Castillo report by 30 votes to 12, with 14 abstentions.

The majority of supporters also backed moves to lock roaming charges out of European nations. Again there is some leeway here, and the result is that the European Parliament should have to provide rules for "exceptional cases in which companies would be allowed to apply charges".

Pressure group La Quadrature du Net said that the vote supports proposals that are too weak.

"Despite improvements, the committee and its rapporteur, Pilar del Castillo Vera, bowed to the pressure of the telecom lobby, and major loopholes remain in the text," it said in a statement.

"If the internet as we know it is to be protected from the rent-seeking behaviour of big corporations who dominate the digital economy, these loopholes must be closed during the European Parliament vote in plenary session on 3 April."

The group warned that the committee's proposed legislation "allows telecom operators to make deals with internet services (e.g., Youtube or Netflix) to grant them prioritised delivery through so-called specialised services."

Marietje Schaake, member of European Parliament for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats tweeted that the package has "no sufficient safeguards". She added that there is "work to do before plenary vote".

Digital Agenda minister Neelie Kroes welcomed the affirmative vote and its amendments.

"This vote is great news and I would like to thank the rapporteur Pilar del Castillo and all the MEPs involved for all their hard work and cooperative spirit. Digital tools and telecoms networks enable productivity and performance in every area of our lives. And now we are one step closer," she said. µ


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