Europe's Flimsy Net Neutrality Rules Go Live, Are Actually Worse Than No Rules At All

from the fully-throttled dept

While the date didn't receive much fanfare in the media, net neutrality rules formally took effect in the European Union as of April 30. The full rules were approved after a vote last October (pdf), though as we noted at the time, the rules don't actually do much of anything. That's quite by design; European ISP lobbyists spent years ensuring that while the rules sound great in a press release, they're so filled with loopholes as to be largely useless. In that sense they're much like the awful rules the U.S. (with help from AT&T, Verizon and Google) crafted in 2010, ultimately forcing the States to revisit the ugly political skirmish down the line.

To pass the lame-duck rules, lawmakers bundled them with some actually semi-useful wireless roaming fee reform proposals, then used the latter to sell the entire package. Despite the rules shortcomings, members of the European Parliament were quick to pat themselves on the back for a job well done and for being pioneers in the realm of net neutrality:
"This abolition of roaming surcharges has been long awaited by everybody: ordinary people, start-ups, SMEs and all kinds of organisations,” said the rapporteur, Pilar del Castillo before the vote. “Thanks to this agreement, Europe will also become the only region in world which legally guarantees open internet and net neutrality. The principle of net neutrality will be applied directly in the 28 member states. It also ensures that we will not have a two-speed internet."
In reality, the EU was rather late to the net neutrality game. And in fact the rules don't prohibit a "two-speed Internet," they actually encourage it. The rules contain numerous, onerous loopholes for things like "specialized services," "class-based discrimination," and fully allow practices like zero rating. The rules even include bizarre provisions allowing ISP throttling and discrimination provided ISPs simply claim it's to address phantom congestion that may or may not have even happened yet, something Sir Tim Berners-Lee complained about in an ignored missive written just before the rules were approved last fall:
"The proposal allows ISPs to prevent “impending” congestion. That means that ISPs can slow down traffic anytime, arguing that congestion was just about to happen. MEPs should vote to close this loophole. If adopted as currently written, these rules will threaten innovation, free speech and privacy, and compromise Europe’s ability to lead in the digital economy. To underpin continued economic growth and social progress, Europeans deserve the same strong net neutrality protections similar to those recently secured in the United States. As a European, and the inventor of the Web, I urge politicians to heed this call.
They didn't. In fact, just 50 MEPs out of the European Parliament's total of 751 could be bothered to attend a debate preceding the vote. They also ignored complaints from the likes of BitTorrent, EyeEm, Foursquare, Kickstarter, WordPress, Netflix, Reddit, Transferwise, Vimeo, and the EFF. And while many European politicians and telecom lobbyists like to believe the contentious debate is now behind them, once users in uncompetitive European broadband markets realize they're still unprotected, politicians will be forced to revisit the entire conversation all over again.

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  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 4:43am

    "just 50 MEPs out of the European Parliament's total of 751 could be bothered to attend a debate preceding the vote."

    Why go? They already cashed they checks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2016 @ 5:39am

    just another example of business running everything and the politicians being paid for pawns! the public, obviously, being the section that is adversely affected the greatest as well as being the greatest section totally ignored!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2016 @ 8:27am

      Re:

      The worst thing is that several former commissioners have had cases about bribes from industry representatives.

      Furthermore, I have heard mps from different groups mention something to the effect of: "sadly you need lobbyists to back your opinion here for it to have a chance of passing...". Thus indirectly implying that lobbyists run the show.

      I don't think all politicians are directly bought in the parliament, but they are running a lot of brown nose points and group discipline today, so if the lobbyists target the right people they may see things passed for cheaps.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2016 @ 7:07am

    You need to see how backbone traffic actually happens to make some of those beefs.

    Big BGP4 networks have constantly fluctuating congestion problems. Sometimes it's backhoe blight. Sometimes it is just rain, which is typical in tectonically active regions.

    Outages happen, and the network adjusts MOSTLY automatically. But there is still often a lot of tweaking necessary to maintain service levels. Further the outages don't have to be on your network, they can be on other networks and causes massive shifts in peering traffic instantly.

    "Phantom Congestion", is a thing. The network coalesces BEFORE you get the phone call about the backhoe. So it is something of a game of whack-a-mole, except with really big access lists and route maps. We are talking hundreds of lines of configuration being tweaked, often by hand.

    It is really VERY difficult to tell the difference between network management for network health, and network management for anti-trust purposes. Which is yet another reason why carriers need to be divorced from content providers. The reason the law can't distinguish between anti-trust practices and network management, is that the tools for doing both are basically the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 8:09am

      Re: You need to see how backbone traffic actually happens to make some of those beefs.

      It is really VERY difficult to tell the difference between network management for network health, and network management for anti-trust purposes. Which is yet another reason why carriers need to be divorced from content providers. The reason the law can't distinguish between anti-trust practices and network management, is that the tools for doing both are basically the same.

      This. THIS! I can't give you first word :(

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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