Report Says EU ISPs Are Happily Ignoring Net Neutrality Rules

from the ill-communication dept

A few years ago, the European Union passed some fairly decent net neutrality rules that went notably further than the FCC’s 2015 rules we just discarded here in the States. They not only prohibited ISPs from unjustly blocking, throttling, or restricting access to services the ISP may compete with, they imposed some basic protections governing zero rating — a practice ISPs here in the US have increasingly been using anti-competitively.

The problem for the EU is that after the European Union’s Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) crafted the guidelines, it was up to individual countries to interpret and enforce them, something that apparently hasn’t been going all that well. According to a new coalition of 45 academics, nonprofits, and private companies, European ISPs are routinely tap dancing around the restrictions. Under the current rules, European ISPs are allowed to inspect and shape traffic using “deep packet inspection” (DPI) tech, but only if it’s to optimize the network. They can’t utilize DPI to track user activity for money making purposes. But the group says in a letter to European authorities they’re doing so anyway in violation of the rules:

“IAS providers are increasingly using DPI technology for the purpose of traffic management and the differentiated pricing of specific applications or services (e.g. zero-rating) as part of their product design. DPI allows IAS providers to identify and distinguish traffic in their networks in order to identify traffic of specific applications or services for the purpose such as billing them differently throttling or prioritising them over other traffic.

Here in the States, ISPs routinely use deep packet inspection to track your online browsing behavior (often down to the millisecond) then monetize that data. In some instances, ISPs like AT&T have actually tried to charge consumers extra if they wanted to opt out of such surveillance. And while DPI can also be used to single out and manage specific types of traffic, actually confirming whether an ISP is using DPI for commercial tracking purposes requires some diligence on the part of regulators. It’s a diligence that’s lacking in most countries, the coalition notes:

“The nature of DPI necessitates telecom expertise as well as expertise in data protection issues. Yet, we observe a lack of cooperation between national regulatory authorities for electronic communications and regulatory authorities for data protection on this issue, both in the decisions put forward on these products as well as cooperation on joint opinions on the question in general.”

Granted, ISPs have always tried to hind behind ambiguous claims of “congestion” to justify anti-competitive behavior. At the same time, ISPs have also increasingly used such technologies to erect arbitrary barriers letting them charge users specifically by types of usage, opening the doors to ISPs that have tried to charge users more money if they’d like to actually use video, gaming, or streaming services without them being throttled by default. It’s what lets Verizon sell “unlimited” data plans that ban 4K video and throttle HD video unless you’re willing to shell out yet more money.

The coalition notes that at least 186 EU ISPs are now ignoring the net neutrality restrictions without penalty, highlighting how net neutrality rules don’t mean much if regulators aren’t willing to enforce them. And while some might argue that none of this matters, letting ISPs dictate which traffic reaches you based on how much you’re willing to pay is a fairly ugly precedent it shouldn’t be too difficult to see the longer term issues with. Especially when there’s neither healthy competition nor balanced regulatory oversight in place to rein in ISPs’ worst impulses.

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Comments on “Report Says EU ISPs Are Happily Ignoring Net Neutrality Rules”

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Anonymous Coward says:

most EU governments are interested in only allowing big companies to make even bigger profits and none of those governments are in the least bit interested in the people they are supposed to represent! all this crap has come about and to the surface since the ‘financial crisis’ where every country was basically forced into elections and whatever party was in power was then replaced by conservative based governments! that has caused 15+years of nothing but trouble for the ordinary people with lower wages and lessening services as well as higher costs. all of which add up to greater profits for companies but, more importantly, greater increases in personal fortunes for the already mega rich!

Anonymous Coward says:

Here’s what I don’t get: if everyone is using TLS 1.2+ like they should be, how is DPI still being effective? This points to either broken in-transit encryption, or the ISPs depending not on DPI at the core of this, but instead on a combination of DPI and DNS sniffing. And in the second case, it’s time for everyone using Chrome and Firefox to enable DNS over HTTPS.

At that point, all that ISPs should know is where to route your data queries.

Sure, they could still do destination fingerprinting (if you go to a certain website, you’ll be pulling data from a very unique set of IPs for different parts of the site), but DPI should be a thing of the past, other than for really rough binning due to torrent packet ratios looking very different from HTTP ratios looking very different from VoIP ratios.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Absurd laws are meant to be broken

Net Neutrality has little to do with the economy.

Those who oppose net neutrality seem to be in favor of letting business do whatever they please, this may indirectly pump up the economy temporarily but the economy will make corrections and it will not be fun for anyone including your favorite copyright trolls.

You are correct in that stupid laws are ignored by the general public, copyright is one of them. Copyright was initially intended to apply toward those who were making money off the infringement and were accommodated by the civil court system.

Now, the copyright trolls want to go after those least capable of defending themselves in order to pursue their get rich quick schemes and you think government should not protect them from the beast that they helped create?

ECA (profile) says:


I love those people that declare, "China make crap products".
Its those people that dont understand that the Corp inthe USA had to OK, the building of the product before it was shipped tot he USA, with the corp name on it.

I love those that Say, the USA has to compete, and we still have Corps that are so diversified that 3-7(?) of them own almost every grocery store in the USA. That almost every store is owned, in by one of the Conglomerates.. and if 1 isnt selling Cotton clothing, Neither are the others, and most of the pricing is the same, between everyone of them for the Plastic clothes you are buying.

I love the people who dont know the history, of Where the corps went, and why.. Because Japan, ROC, China, and most of Asia do. And they have had the same problems WE STILL HAVE.. Japan Quit major manufacturing because they like the fish off the coast lines..ROC is the same…China is finding out the problem after they spent 6 months cleaning up a Town for the Olympics.
union Carbide had a major incident years ago in India, and I still dont think they cleaned it up.
Love the Capitalist ideals, make things as cheap as possible, Pay as little as possible, Make you pay over and over for something with SIMPLE TECH or hardware(hate DVD/BR players that die in 1 year 1 month), Then the Manufacturers, dont charge for Cleaning up the Chemicals they use and create, and transfer the COST to the Corp that wants it made..Because Cheap plastic bags cant be reused much, and they have to buy more and more..
Love it that China came to the USA to get all the OLD cars out of junk yards, because in the OLD days WE DEMANDED QUALITY.. And now they are selling it back to us, 1 piece at a time..

Our president is demanding we Compete, and says WE CAN..but dont get the hint that the Materials costs alone, would bankrupt any company trying to make the same products int he USA at 10 times the material prices.

And you think the Internet is bad?? where do you think they got most of the ideas..from a nation that saved a Bunch of banks, that were playing with monopoly money.

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