The European Union's New Net Neutrality 'Protections' Are A Joke
from the blind-and-beholden dept
After months of negotiations (read: ISP lawyer and lobbyist rewrites), the European Union has voted to approve new net neutrality rules (pdf) that for many nation states may be worse than having no net neutrality protections at all. As we’ve noted, the rules ignore zero rating, carve out massive loopholes for “specialized services,” “class-based discrimination,” and even include provisions allowing ISP throttling and discrimination provided it’s addressing phantom congestion that hasn’t even happened yet. In short, these rules effectively protect ISPs looking to creatively violate net neutrality, not European consumers.
European Parliament members completely ignored last-minute suggested amendments that would have closed these loopholes. They also completely ignored opposition to the rules by the likes of BitTorrent, EyeEm, Foursquare, Kickstarter, WordPress, Netflix, Reddit, Transferwise, Vimeo, the EFF and Tim Berners-Lee (who penned a lengthy blog post outlining his opposition to the rules). Similarly, only 50 MEPs out of the European Parliament’s total of 751 could be bothered to even attend a superficial “debate” preceding the approval vote.
These pathetic protections were accepted in part because they were sold as part of a Telecoms Single Market package that was to include significant abolition of steep European roaming fees on wireless networks. Many MEPs didn’t fight harder on net neutrality because they thought they were at least getting some decent wireless market reform. But as German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda notes, even the roaming provisions appear to have been notably gutted from the final offering:
“Despite all this, the regulation was passed unchanged by a majority in plenary today, a decision that may have been influenced by the public?s attention for the provision on the elimination of roaming surcharges that was included in the legislative package. Unfortunately, the Telecoms Single Market package doesn?t deliver in that respect either. The plan to place an end to roaming surcharges in Europe has been adopted pending a review of pricing and consumption patterns. Even if the review is completed by the 15 June 2017 deadline, roaming surcharges will only be suspended up to a ?fair use? limit beyond which they still apply and continue to hinder the breaking down of barriers within Europe.”
In other words, even the carrot on a stick used to lure European Parliament members into voting for bad net neutrality rules wound up being rotten. Of course, European ISPs shouldn’t pat themselves on the back just yet. The EU’s flimsy rules strongly resemble the original, pathetic net neutrality rules passed here in the States in 2010. Those rules, all but written by AT&T, Verizon and Google, were so obviously useless that consumer outrage forced the government to revisit an issue they honestly believed they’d put to bed. The U.S. now has notably tougher net neutrality rules than ever, assuming they aren’t dismantled by the courts.
As EU member residents realize their new net neutrality rules actually protect ISPs, you’ll likely see a strong push for the entire issue to be revisited down the road, much to the chagrin of ISP lawyers who believe they’ve just put the issue to bed.