IT IS PANIC STATIONS across the Atlantic as the good people of America wake up to the threat to net neutrality in Europe.
A sage lawyer, Barbara van Schewick, is warning about a vote in the European Parliament next week designed to preserve net neutrality, saying that it is likely to fall in such a way that reflects badly on trade and communications.
Van Schewick, who is professor of law and director of Stanford Law School's Centre for Internet and Society, said that parliament members have a few days to get their heads in order and adopt what she called "key amendments".
"A compromise proposal up for vote next Tuesday contains major problems that threaten the open internet in Europe. Contrary to some claims, the proposal is weaker than net neutrality rules in the US. European citizens deserve the same free and open internet that Americans can enjoy," she said.
"The good news is that members of the European Parliament will introduce amendments that would fix these problems. For the amendments to be adopted, the majority of the members (376 of the 751) need to vote for the amendments."
The proposals do look like net neutrality winners, and include the tackling of potential problems including fast lanes for paid-for, prioritised traffic.
The lawyer also wants to see regulators given more ability to police prioritisation; not letting ISPs define classes and speed up or slow down traffic in those classes; and
not let ISPs take advantage of 'impending' congestion to slow down traffic anytime, not just during times of actual congestion.
"The proposal bans internet service providers from blocking or slowing down websites, or charging sites extra fees to reach people faster, i.e. creating 'fast lanes' online. This is good . Companies that provide gateways to the internet shouldn't interfere with our ability to access what we want online," van Schewick added.
"But the current proposal contains four significant problems that still allow ISPs to engage in bad behaviour that would harm internet users, businesses and speakers in Europe."
These include paid-for preferred services along with the possibility for congestion solutions that could be used to throttle user connections.
Van Schewick urged anyone who can to ask the European Parliament to adopt amendments that ensure an "open internet" and to resist those that attempt any form of throttling. µ
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