In a landmark decision on the issue of fairness on the web, the European Parliament has ruled in favor Net Neutrality. All EU countries will be protected under this law, making it illegal for ISP’s to favor certain services over others.
When the issue of internet support and control came up in parliament last time, some shady moves were made. The committee in charge left glaringly obvious loopholes in the wording of their proposal that would allow ISP’s to begin classifying certain services as “specialized”. Once this was done, they could begin charging certain sites and services unfairly.
It was a coalition of Green, Left, Socialist and Liberal parties that stepped up and demanded reform to close off these potential avenues. The move paid off, and the law has officially been passed in favor of full Net Neutrality.
Thankfully, a majority of MEPs has seen sense today and voted to uphold the principle of net neutrality in the EU, Pirate Party chair Amelia Anderdotter said in a statement following the announcement.
The proposals by the Commission, which would essentially have given large providers the all-clear for discriminating against users as they see fit, have been revised. Today’s vote would explicitly provide for net neutrality and will hopefully ensure a level playing field for all online services and users, providing for a more open internet environment in which innovation is encouraged.
So, for the near future, at least, all internet traffic is to be treated as equal within all EU member countries. Which means they won’t be facing some of the issues currently happening in the US, where a recent Net Neutrality case went sour.
More than anything else, this creates a clear definition for the term “specialized services”, and what that means for ISP’s.
Specialised service” means an electronic communications service optimised for specific content, applications or services, or a combination thereof, provided over logically distinct capacity, relying on strict admission control, offering functionality requiring enhanced quality from end to end, and that is not marketed or usable as a substitute for internet access service.
The next amendment goes on to say that these services will not be a “detriment of the availability or quality of internet access services.”
So, there you go. Net Neutrality is alive and well in the EU. Congratulations, Europe! Hopefully North America takes note and soon follows in your footsteps. Although I have to admit my hopes aren’t high.