Sunday, 25 October 2015

Stop Europe adopting terrible Net Neutrality laws

Barbera van Schewick, a law professor at Stanford Law School writes here about the terrible net neutrality laws the EU parliament is due to vote for next Tuesday (27th October 2015).  It seems likely to be adopted.  As van Schewick points out, the proposal fails spectacularly to deliver any neutrality to the net.  Here’s the bottom line:

Unless it adopts amendments, the European Parliament’s net neutrality vote next Tuesday threatens the open Internet in Europe.

The ostensible purpose of the new law is to prevent ISPs from charging sites for faster speeds or from punishing sites by slowing them down.  This is sensible and good; ISPs are selling us access to networks they do not own and they shouldn’t get to decide how we access it.  The problem with the proposed law, according to van Schewick, there are four problems that cause it to fall well short of that goal:

    • Problem #1: The proposal allows ISPs to create fast lanes for companies that pay through the specialized services exception.
    • Problem #2: The proposal generally allows zero-rating and gives regulators very limited ability to police it, leaving users and companies without protection against all but the most egregious cases of favoritism.
    • Problem #3: The proposal allows class-based discrimination, i.e. ISPs can define classes and speed up or slow down traffic in those classes even if there is no congestion.
    • Problem #4: The proposal allows ISPs to prevent “impending” congestion. That makes it easier for them to slow down traffic anytime, not just during times of actual congestion.

      All is not (quite) lost, however, and we can still take action:

      Take action: Ask your representatives in the Parliament to adopt the necessary amendments. You can find all the necessary information and tools at

      Spread the word: Share this post and others on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else. Talk with your friends, colleagues, and family and ask them to take action. If you are a blogger or journalist, write about what is going on.

      van Schewick’s post explains what amendments are needed and why they’ll work.

      If a majority of the members who vote approves this flawed compromise next Tuesday, the rules are adopted and become law. Europe will have far weaker network neutrality rules than the US, and the European Internet would become less free and less open. By contrast, if a majority of the members approves amendments, the text goes back to the Council. The Council can then accept the amendments, and they become law. If the Council rejects the amendments, a joint committee consisting of representatives of the Parliament and the Council has six weeks to come up with a compromise. Any compromise would then have to be adopted by the Parliament and the Council.

      The future of the Internet in Europe is on the line. It’s up to all of us to save it.

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