Yesterday the European Parliament gave its final approval to the Single Telecoms Market Regulation, bringing about changes to roaming charges, and introducing new rules on network neutrality.
A European Commission fact sheet called the vote “crucial for users and businesses”.
From the entry into force of the rules, blocking and throttling the internet will be illegal in the EU and users will be free to use their favourite apps no matter the offer they subscribe. …All traffic will be treated equally. This means, for example, that there can be no paid prioritisation of traffic in the internet access service. At the same time, equal treatment allows reasonable day-to-day traffic management according to justified technical requirements, and which must be independent of the origin or destination of the traffic and of any commercial considerations. Common rules on net neutrality mean that internet access providers cannot pick winners or losers on the internet, or decide which content and services are available.
However, the rules have come under attack from net neutrality campaigners, including web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, who called the rules “weak and confusing”.
Critics are upset because they allow for zero rating – the commercial practice of exempting certain applications for users’ monthly bandwidth limits – and “specialised services”, which the Commission explains as “services which are different from, and are provided in addition to, the open internet access services”.
The new EU net neutrality rules will guarantee the open internet and enable the provision of specialised or innovative services on condition that they do not harm the open internet access. These are services like IPTV, high-definition videoconferencing or healthcare services like telesurgery. They use the internet protocol and the same access network but require a significant improvement in quality or the possibility to guarantee some technical requirements to their end-users that cannot be ensured in the best-effort open internet.
The Regulation’s net neutrality provisions will come into force in Member States from April 2016.